Architectural Record BE - Building Enclosure

Vertical Wheelchair Lifts: Specifying for Safety, Accessibility and Building Needs

This course is no longer active
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Sponsored by Ascension, a Division of AGM
Karin Tetlow
Continuing Education

Learning Objectives - After this course, you should be able to:

  1. Identify requirements outlined in the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG ) as they relate to vertical wheelchair lifts.
  2. Identify features relating to safety, visibility and autonomy in vertical wheelchair lift design.
  3. Assess vertical wheelchair lift products in terms of accessibility, portability and durability.
  4. Specify a vertical wheelchair lift that best meets client, user and building staff needs.



The wide variety of wheelchair lifts on the market for meeting ADA requirements present a challenge to specifiers because of the wide range of available design features addressing safety, durability and aesthetic needs.

Of the multitude of federal, state and local regulations relating to the design, construction, and alteration of buildings, perhaps none have had a greater impact than those required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. Early on, architects puzzled over compliance and at least one signature building was brought up short when it was discovered that an entry lobby with steps required the last minute addition of a vertical wheelchair lift.

Since then, seminars, special bulletins and web-accessible government sources have helped clarify accessibility regulations and their impact on design for new construction and alterations. But an understanding of the equipment and products needed to meet both those requirements and the demands of building use are not so widely appreciated. This is especially true of vertical wheelchair lifts. Since there are a number of vertical wheelchair lifts on the market, a knowledge of applicability to ADA compliance, design features plus the demands and uses of each building is critical.

ADA requires that each service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity in a public accommodation or commercial facility, when viewed in its entirety, be readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities. Guidelines to new construction and alterations projects covered by titles II (state and local government services) and III (public accommodations and commercial facilities) of the ADA are spelled out in ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities (ADAAG) (

Portable vertical wheelchair lift with no machine tower placed to access a school stage

Photo: Ascension


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