Most people have the misconception that stair lifts are attached to the wall behind them – not realising that the stair lift is actually attached to the stairs.  When the stair lift has been removed and the carpet brushed you would not know that it had been there at all.


Stair lifts can be rented if you are not sure you will need one in the long term – or if you need one as an interim measure before you have further alterations undertaken to your house (e.g. bedroom and bathroom moved downstairs).

 Medical Conditions

  • Stair lifts are not suitable for people with uncontrolled epilepsy; those who suffer from blackouts; people who have vertigo or suffer from dizziness; people who are scared of heights.
  • They may not be suitable for people with deteriorating conditions due to the cost implications.
  • It is important to measure both the width of the staircase and the length of your thigh bone – if you have very long thigh bones you might knock your knees against the banister. Also it is important to know if you can tuck your feet under you whilst sitting – if you are not able to then your legs will be outstretched and your toes might knock against the banister.
  • Stair lifts have weight limits – it is important to know if the stair lift you are purchasing can carry your weight. Bariatric users (anyone over 23 stone) should be assessed by an OT before installing a stair lift as they are likely to have difficulty sitting on the stair and many will not support their weight.
  • Some stair lifts have arms that connect to the leg rest – when you lower the arm rest down you lower the leg rest at the same time – these are good for people who cannot bend forward.


There are two types of stair lifts: straight-staircase stair lifts and curved-staircase stair lifts (including dog-legged stairs, L-shaped stairs, U-shaped stairs).

Most stair lifts do not go beyond the last step of the stair – unless you specifically request them to do so. When getting to the top of the stairs the user has to swivel the chair to face the landing.  In this position the stair lift prevents the user from falling backwards down the stairs (acting as a barrier).

Swivel Mechanisms

There are two main types of mechanism:

Manual: the user presses a lever in order to swivel the chair at the top of the stairs – the user has to then use their body and feet to turn themselves to face the landing and get out of the chair.

Electric: the user has to continue pressing the button once the chair has reached the top – this turns the chair to automatically face the landing.  Stair lifts that have an electric swivel mechanism have higher seats – if the user if very short as they may not be able to easily get onto the seat.


We recommend that people use the seatbelt that comes with the stair lift – there have been many accidents when people have not done so.

A stair lift should not be used by children unless it has been specifically fitted for them; children have been known to suffer severe injuries when playing with stair lifts.

All stair lifts are designed to go beyond the staircase at the bottom of the stairs – if your stairs are close to your front door then you may need a hinge track.   A hinge track will send the stair lift back up the stairs once the user has dismounted and then automatically fold the track up, ensuring that it does not block the main fire escape.

If your stair case is not straight we strongly recommend that you do not install a straight stair lift to cover just part of the stairs (i.e. installing one that covers most of the stairs but does not cover the last couple of stairs at the top after a dog-leg turn). If you are struggling to negotiate the stairs at the moment your ability could deteriorate in the future – and getting up just one or two steps could become difficult. To meet your new needs you would need to buy a completely new stair lift!



  1. You mention that is someone’s thigh bone is too long it might be a problem but Age UK (Handicare) has said that they cannot fit a stairlift for my mother as her back to knee measurement is 1 cm too short. Although my mother has lost height, she is not particularly short for her age group and this would suggest a large cohort of older people are unable to have a stairlift. Is this true?

    Many thanks

    1. Hi Julia,
      Thanks for your comment, and I’m sorry to hear that you’ve had problems obtaining a stair lift for your mother.

      As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, we can’t offer advice on your particular situation as we don’t know enough about it.

      However, based on what you have told us I’d highly recommend talking to another stair lift company, as I don’t think what you’ve been told is necessarily correct.

      Hope this helps, and good luck in getting this sorted out.

      Design for Independence.

  2. I have a 26” inside leg, and my heels cannot reach the floor plate of my Elegance chair, just my toes Handicare freecurve Van Gogh, the installer says that this is the only chair available for the hall space, 89cm wide. Seems stupid to me, I was measured, and assumed I would get the appropriate seat. I am 5’6” there must be many people shorter than me.

  3. I actually rise you helping me learn more about a stair lift. I trust my mom wants to read this article subsequently my dad has an injury and cannot walk accurately. This will help them with their mobility concerns at the house.

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