When moving between floors is an issue for disabled people, the first solution usually considered is a stairlift or passenger lift and there is no shortage of companies out there in the market ready to assist. But one mobility equipment firm is striving to offer the market an alternative to traditional solutions.
Stanley Handling has been providing commercial handling solutions for nearly 70 years and has recently made the jump into the mobility aid sector following its acquisition of Movability. From its factory in Bologna, Italy, it has designed and manufactured two new stairclimbing products which it hopes will offer retailers an opportunity to cut into the stairlift sector.
Critics and indeed stairlift providers may question the need for mobility products which are designed to replace traditional stairlifts. But Alistair Munro, sales manager for Stanley, makes some convincing arguments for the new solutions after recently demonstrating them at the Naidex show.
The main drive of his argument is that public buildings, inside and out, rarely accommodate for accessibility with stairlifts and even ones that do are not immune to unreliability. “Imagine you’re in a public space and there’s a power cut and all of a sudden lifts and stairlifts are down and you’re stuck. We’ve heard of people having to call the fire brigade and these issues are becoming more common. There are real challenges out there and people don’t always consider it in their building or product designs.”
According to Munro, the time, cost and disruption of installing a stairlift or lift in public buildings, especially if they are old or listed, puts building owners off from investments in accessibility. This in turn makes Stanley’s new stairclimbers an attractive prospect for people who want more freedom and are not expecting their local buildings to make accessibility adjustments any time soon.
Furthermore, airports and boarding airplanes often pose challenges for disabled people and the stairclimbers claim to be able to tackle both with ease. But it’s not just public places where stairclimbers are an appealing solution. For Munro, stairlifts can present a trip hazard for more able-bodied people in homes and can take up a lot of room in stairwells.
As a battery powered wheelchair stairclimber, the Jolly is designed to minimise disruption while maximising comfort for the user. It comprises a rubberised caterpillar track that will not scratch surfaces, according to the firm. It is compatible with any type of wheelchair, including motorised wheelchairs. The idea is that a user is effectively able to take their own lift with them wherever they go.
“There are real challenges out there and people don’t always consider it in their buildings or product designs”
Able to operate around tight turns and at steep gradients, the Jolly allows a user to remain in their own wheelchair rather than having to be transferred between equipment. While it is worth considering that the Jolly has to be operated with assistance from a carer, Munro insists that around two hours of training is ample time for an operator to become comfortable and competent at assisting the user.
Meanwhile, the Tolo powered wheelchair and stairclimber solution features three wheels that rotate to climb steps. Munro explains: “The wheels can break at any point so the user can feel assured. There’s absolutely no effort required to move this chair up with the occupant. This machine in particular is very good round turns and can even handle a gentle spiral. It makes mincemeat of stairs.”
While Stanley is hoping its stairclimbers will help retailers challenge the stairlift market, it has also designed what it calls a ‘cutting edge wheelchair propulsion system’, which has a more universal appeal to wheelchair users.
The NuDrive Air is essentially two levers which slap onto the side of a wheelchair wheel to offer leverage. The claim is that it reduces the force needed to propel a wheelchair by 40%. Munro outlines how retailers can offer an affordable solution that encourages people to move from motorised wheelchairs to something which offers them exercise. Compatible with virtually any size wheelchair, the device puts users in a better ergonomic position.
“You’re basically gently rowing yourself rather than forcing yourself and reaching down to the wheels themselves. There’s less strain on the back, neck and shoulders,” Munro describes.
This trio of mobility aids is part of Stanley’s latest efforts to muscle further into the market and offer its retail partners around the UK compelling, problem-solving products.
Installers and providers of stairlifts and passenger lifts will argue that more conventional solutions have such a tight grip on the sector that they are unlikely to cede ground.
However, retailers and providers looking to add another string to their bow, or embrace new innovations in this growing field, will feel that Stanley’s offering is worth a closer look.