A wheelchair lift, also known as a platform lift, is a powered device designed to raise a wheelchair and its occupant in order to overcome a step or similar vertical barrier.
A number of legal regimes in various countries regulate the use of wheelchair lifts, setting forth standards for the devices and requiring certain kinds of businesses to make parking lots accessible to vehicles bearing the devices. In some instances, accessibility standards have been achieved in legal settlements. For example, in the 2005 case of Dilworth, et al. v. City of Detroit, NO. 2:04- cv-73152 (E.D. Mich. 2005), the defendant city conceded that the Americans With Disabilities Act and its supporting legislation required the city "to maintain the wheelchair lifts on its buses in operative condition; promptly repair wheelchair lifts if they are damaged or out of order; establish a system of regular and frequent maintenance checks of wheelchair lifts; remove a vehicle from service if the lift is inoperative (with limited exceptions); provide alternative transportation when the lift doesn't work and the next accessible bus is more than 30 minutes away."
While some wheelchair-accessible vans use a powered lift to assist the occupant in boarding, a wheelchair ramp is usually less expensive for this purpose and is often installed on minivans. Full-size vans, however, require use of a platform lift. There are two types of platform lifts installed on wheelchair-accessible vans: single-arm and dual-arm. Single arm wheelchair lifts are only used in side-entry applications. They take up less interior space and leave the passenger entry open; however, they have less lifting capacity than dual-arm lifts. Most dual-arm wheelchair lifts have a lift capacity up to 800 pounds. These lifts consume more interior space and block the side entry and, for these reasons, are often mounted in the back of the vehicle for rear-entry applications.
As mandated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), wheelchair-accessible vans with wheelchair lifts are equipped with a safety lift interlock. Designed to prevent operation of the wheelchair van or wheelchair lift in unsafe situations, the safety interlock will sound an alarm if an unsafe condition exists (e.g., the vehicle attempts to move while the lift is deployed) or prevent the vehicle from shifting into drive while the wheelchair lift is in operation.
Recent innovations have allowed for the development of wheelchair lifts which assist people in entering truck cabs, so that they may drive or operate heavy equipment. Wheelchair lifts can also be used to move an unoccupied scooter into a vehicle.
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