Shopping online is a wonderful modern convenience. It makes our lives easier, but it’s important to research the available options. Whether you are purchasing furniture, booking a trip or browsing stairway chair lifts, you must do your homework to avoid being deceived. The appearance of saving money up-front often leads to spending more in the end.
There are now many companies that sell stairway chair lifts and other accessibility equipment direct to customers, through Craigslist, eBay, or their own website. A skilled amateur might be able to install a chair lift on a straight stairway. However, there are more difficult applications, such as curved or outdoor stairways. Also, the lower price of purchasing the equipment direct comes with the risk of issues with shipping, equipment, installation and service. The cheap initial price masks the risks of these problems that increase the total cost for the customer.
The biggest problem we have seen is that folks try to save money and buy a lift online only to find out it won’t fit on the stair or doesn’t meet the need for which it was purchased. These customers have little or no support from the company who sold them the chair lift. The manufacturer who built the equipment can try to help, but without a local authorized representative, they can only give advice over the phone and send out parts.
When self-installed chair lifts need complex repairs that the owner cannot make, he or she has to find a full-service accessibility contractor nearby. The distributor in the area may not support that equipment or have parts on hand. The cost for the service work could be significant, up to and including starting all over again with a new lift installed by the local accessibility contractor.
The Accessibility Equipment Manufacturer’s Association (AEMA), cautions customers against purchasing accessibility lifts online. Their main concerns are for the safety of the installer and the user, and the conformance to safety standards and codes. Their position can be read here.
There are important safety standards governing manufacture and installation of stairway chair lifts: ASME A18.1 and NFPA 70 and ASME A17.5/CSA B44.1. Trained distributors are familiar with these standards and are trained and authorized by the manufacturers they represent to install and maintain the equipment. They carry parts in stock and have fully equipped vehicles to handle any installation challenge. Trained and licensed technicians can work fast and get the stairway chair lift up and running in a matter of hours because they do this every day.
Quality accessibility contractors also are experienced with many manufacturers. They can advise customers to choose high quality equipment from a manufacturer with a great track record and long history of production who therefore offers the best value and the best features. It is worth it to spend the money up-front and hire a trained, certified and experienced accessibility contractor nearby to sell, install, and service the stairway chair lift. The local dealer will also back up the manufacturer’s warranty. Customers can relax knowing that experienced professionals will guide them through the process of purchasing and installing the lift, and they will provide expert support when the lift needs service.
Doug Boydston founded Handi-Lift, Inc. with his parents in 1975 and became President of the company in 1990. Mr. Boydston is a Past President of National Association of Elevator Contractors and past chairman of the Accessibility Committee of NAEC. He is a member of NAEC and the Accessibility Equipment Manufacturers Association. Mr. Boydston is also active in codes at the local, State and National levels and is Chair of the main committee of the ASME A18.1 Safety Standard for Platform Lifts and Stairway Chairlifts.
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