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older man rides stairlift while young girl observes

Stairlift Safety with Children and Pets

In an ideal world, buildings would be designed with multiple levels of mobility in mind, providing ramps and elevators to help the mobility-impaired navigate easily between different floors and levels.  In reality, many spaces have been constructed for the able-bodied, including houses and other residential buildings.  Stairlifts can be a great solution for maintaining your independence if you have a disability or as you age, but if you live with small children or have pets, you may be wondering how introducing this equipment will affect them.  Furthermore, you may have concerns about their safety around the stairlift; after all, both kids and animals can be very curious about new things.  In this post, we will discuss some of the safety features built into stairlifts to prevent accidents, as well as mention some additional measures you can take to keep all members of your household safe.

older man sits on outdoor stairlift and holds little girl's hand

Stairlift Safety Features

Like any machine, stairlifts can cause harm if not used as intended – and most cats and dogs are not likely to have read the manual!  Fortunately, there are certain safety features that come standard with most stairlift models that can decrease the likelihood of a child or pet being injured.

  • Obstruction Sensors: Similar to automatic emergency braking in newer cars, these sensors will detect any obstruction in the path of a moving stairlift and stop the lift to avoid collision.  If a curious cat or grandchild gets too close when the lift is being used, it will sense their presence and stop.  Some models are also equipped with pressure-sensitive sensors around the chair’s footrest and carriage.  These are designed to avoid pinching or compressing anything that might be under the chair, whether that’s a shoe or a pet.
  • Key Switches: Requiring the use of a key to operate the stairlift can help avoid accidents if kids play near the lift or a person/pet unintentionally brush against the on/off switch. 
  • Foldable Seat: Folding the chair portion of the lift between uses can help prevent people or animals from tripping over it when going up or down the stairs.

woman sits on stairlift; young girl and older man stand beside her at bottom of steps

Additional Stairlift Safety Measures

You are likely familiar with the Benjamin Franklin quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”  It’s generally good advice to avoid an accident altogether rather than deal with its aftermath, and chairlift injuries are no exception.  Here are some precautions and considerations for keeping your human and four-legged family safe around your mobility aid:

  • No Unsupervised Use: While you don’t want little ones to be so scared of the lift that they refuse to use the stairs, you should also make it clear to any children in the house that it is a tool, not a toy.  To that end, kids should not ride on or otherwise operate the stairlift without careful adult supervision.
  • Avoid Clutter: Despite the sensors mentioned above, machines are reflections of the people who make them – aka, even the best ones aren’t perfect.  Sensors can occasionally fail, and some objects might be small enough to be undetectable by the sensors.  For these reasons, keep the areas around the stairlift and the lift track free from potential obstructions.
  • Follow the Directions: All of us are guilty of at one time or another scrolling quickly through – or ignoring altogether – those pesky “Terms and Conditions” sections of a software installation or an online purchase.  However, this is one case where you really ought to read and heed the fine print.  Stairlifts are an investment, and for both the safety of your household and the longevity of the lift, it should be used as directed.  Universal recommendations include always employing the seatbelt and not overloading the unit – aka, do not exceed the lift’s weight limit.  Read the accompanying manual and contact the PA Stair Lifts staff for additional guidelines.

spiderman quote

Final Thoughts

Like Uncle Ben told Peter Parker, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  This can be a great way of explaining the lift to small superhero fans: it’s a powerful machine for helping people who have difficulty with stairs to get from one floor to another, but it ought to be used responsibly.  By following the suggestions in this post, you can enhance your mobility with the peace of mind any juvenile or animal household residents/visitors will be safe and sound.

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