Adapting a living space to overcome architectural barriers

Updated: Nov 8, 2020

Adapting a living space to overcome architectural barriers such as steps and staircases can be achieved with the installation of a platform lift. To help Occupational Therapists understand the different types of lift products available and the ease of installation, we have provided this useful guide.

Reaching short distances (up to 1.25 metres)

Most Occupational Therapists will have experienced the issue of creating accessibility within a small living space. In situations where a ramp will not fit or takes up too much living space, you could consider an open residential platform lift solution.

These types of lifts can overcome a change in floor level without having to make any structural alterations to a home. The other benefit of this type of product is that you enter one side, then exit the other side which means the person in the wheelchair is always facing the right direction without having to turn it around.

The open residential platform lift is fixed to a level floor and requires a power supply for the control unit. The platform lift is typically battery motorised and operated by a remote control, push buttons or a control panel.

Another popular solution is the FlexStep space-saving 2-in-1 platform lift solution. It provides both stairs and a stairlift even in the tightest of spaces. At a touch of a button, the FlexStep transforms from a flight of stairs to a platform lift. The Flexstep attracted a big crowd at a recent OTAC exhibition; Occupational Therapists liked the versatility of the product and that it is cost-effective.

Both types of lifts can be installed internally or externally, and customers can choose from a variety of materials and finishes to complement their interior design or architecture.

Travelling to a different floor

If there is a difference in levels of more than 2 metres, then a residential platform lift with a shaft or a contained cabin is required.

Through the floor lifts can be positioned virtually anywhere within a home as they have a self-supporting structure. They offer ease of installation as no major structural alterations are required. They can only travel to the next floor – for example, the living room to the room above.

The Platform Lift Company specialises in residential platform lifts, which can be installed either internally or externally. Again, this type of lift doesn’t require major structural alterations as it comes with its own shaft which can even be steel in any RAL colour, stainless steel or glazed to create a feeling of space within a room.

Installation is as simple as creating an aperture in a floor, building the lift shaft and creating a shallow pit (as little as 50mm). Alternatively, a ramp can be fitted to the front of the shaft on the ground floor level instead of creating a pit. Residential platform lifts can travel up to 12 metres.

If budget isn’t an issue then a cabin style residential platform lift is the ultimate choice and offers a similar experience to a passenger lift. The design possibilities are endless as a customer can choose their desired material and colour for the shaft and cabin. This is truly a high-end luxury product.

Screw and nut or hydraulic

Another consideration for Occupational Therapists to be aware of is that there are two main types of lifting mechanisms for cabin style platform lifts; hydraulic or a screw and nut system. Both types of platform lifts travel at 0.15 m/s. Hydraulic platform lifts are quieter and occupy less space within a property for the lift shaft; this is because the pump box or machine room is housed separately outside.

A screw and nut platform lift is motor driven. The shaft does require slightly more space because the lifting mechanism sits adjacent to the first level door, but remember there is no need for an additional machine room. The other huge advantage is that this type of lift only requires a 50mm pit, therefore minimal building work. A screw and nut platform lift can be installed within a two-day period in some cases.

The installation of platform lift could help a person stay within their own home as they can access different rooms without having to drastically change their environment. This kind of adaptation also maximises living space and gives patients more flexibility to join friends and family without the barrier of steps or stairs.

One last piece of advice when it comes to maintenance is to make sure your platform lift benefits from servicing at least twice a year.

For more information visit


The Occupational Therapy Hub

  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Instagram - White Circle
  • Twitter - White Circle
  • LinkedIn - White Circle

Copyright © 2021 The OT Hub Ltd

Information and recommendations on The Occupational Therapy Hub are shared by the global community. Whilst we review all pages, we cannot guarantee the accuracy of information provided. Content within the platform does not constitute medical advice. Get in touch.