Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Disability Now Stair Lift Question

This month's Disability Now magazine has this question posed by a reader. One of the replies was written by me in response to a request from the sub editor. In my opinion all of the answers make good points and should be considered when buying a stair lift.

Last month's question

"I need a stairlift and I have looked at various makes, but they all seem similar. I'm so confused and can't decide which one to buy. Can anyone recommend a good product, preferably from a company with a good after sales service and that doesn't use pressure selling techniques?"

Your answers:

I can't really recommend any one company or stairlift product as everyone has different needs and requirements. The stairlift company should recommend the correct solution once these individual needs have been established at the survey stage.

Advice that we tell visitors to follow is quite simple. Look for the basic safety features that should really be standard on all stairlifts, i.e. Swivel seat, D.C. power, Call / send devices. These sort of features should be really be included in the basic cost of a new stairlift and probably in most reconditioned stairlifts that are available today, (unless they are very old).

Try and get at least two or three quotes, making it clear that when you arrange your appointment you will not be making a decision at this time.

If you live alone, ask a neighbour or relative to sit in with you during your stairlift survey. If any extra option or "add-ons" are required, ask why they are needed and how would it benefit you.

When deciding which stairlift to choose, it is not always wise to pick the cheapest quotation. You should also consider the after-sales service and the warranty package that the companies provide.

Most importantly Ð choose the correct solution for your needs.

Roy Williams Ð Stairlift Surveyor

Arc produces over 80 information booklets, including Stairlifts and Homelifts, which is an excellent guide to the issues which need to be considered when making such adaptations to the home. The booklet is written by medical professionals and includes useful contacts for people to get professional advice on grants for equipment or conversions.

Buying a stairlift is a daunting task these days. If you need a straight stairlift then (generally speaking) there is not a huge difference in quality.

Curved stairlifts on the other hand are far more complicated and some are definitely better than others.

I would be reluctant to recommend a particular stairlift without seeing your staircase and discussing your needs but I can offer you advice on how to make sure you get the right lift.

There are several manufacturers and many more independent companies that supply lifts from a range of manufacturers. There are good and bad companies among these. The industry has become very competitive over the last few years and there are a number of unscrupulous traders now operating - even some of the big manufacturers have a poor record for after-sales service and pushy salesman, as well as charging an exceedingly high price for their lifts.
However, with a few sensible precautions you can get a really good deal. It is a good idea to ask your local authority who they use - they will be happy to provide a list for you and this should ensure that you avoid rogue traders.

Try a manufacturer and a local independent supplier to get a comparison. Always get three or more quotes - this is time consuming and intrusive but is really the only way to feel confident that you are making the right choice.

Never agree to purchase the lift while the salesman is with you. A reputable company will respect your decision. If the salesman starts to pester you, or offers you a discount if you buy now, be very sceptical.

Ask about maintenance costs - will the company still look after your lift if you don't sign up to an expensive contract?

Find out if the company has engineers local to you and if they attend out-of-hours callouts. Also, if they are independent suppliers, check with the manufacturer to ensure that they are authorised dealers. If they aren't, they will not have access to spare parts and will not have had the correct training.

Once you have all of the quotations in writing take your time to make a decision and make sure that you read the small print. If you are confused about any detail, speak to someone from the company and ask for their response in writing if necessary. These precautions should ensure that you get a suitable lift at a fair price.

Good luck! Christian Dunnage Director Dolphin Mobility Ltd

Help with funding a stairlift is sometimes available from the local council through a Disabled Facilities Grant so, before proceeding with a private purchase, it's worthwhile contacting your council's social services department to find out whether they can help.

If you buy privately, engineers will need to do a home visit before they can give you a price for the stairlift and its installation.

They'll need to look at the staircase itself, and the immedediate environment, eg landings, overhangs and the siting of doorways and windows.

You should get quotes from at least three companies and compare them, find out what their guarantee covers, their servicing and maintenance costs, and how long it will take them to supply fit the stairlift..

Stairlifts will have subtle variations, but you need to be sure that you can transfer on and off the seat safely, that your legs are supported by the footplate and that you can manage the controls.

You may have a Disabled Living Centre near you where you can see and try out a range of stairlifts (addresses are on the
Assist UK website)

You may prefer to buy from a company that belongs to a trade association such as the
Lift and Escalator Industry Association or the British Healthcare Trades Association.

You can also contact your local home improvement agency and ask if they can give you any advice (addresses can be found on the
Foundations website.

The DLF has a factsheet on their
website on choosing equipment to get up and down stairs, that includes advice on stairlifts.

Lucy Andrews