A family member suffering from Motor Neurone Disease (MND or ALS) and needing transport between two floors in a small house. The impairment is equivalent to tetraplegia (complete loss of muscular function, inability to sit upright and need for specialised hoisting) and results in the requirement to transport the individual either directly in the wheelchair or in a hoist sling.
The commercial solution on the UK market is a through-floor lift carrying the wheelchair, which causes unacceptable loss of space (a room on each floor) and interventions to the property structure. In other countries a 'ceiling lift' is sold, but cost is expected to be very high (several tens of thousand Euro).
A DIY lift construction inspired by the chairlifts of skiing resorts and made mostly out of wood.
The stairs to be negotiated have one 90-degree bend at the top landing and a sufficiently spacious lower landing. The ceiling height exceeds 2.3m (7ft 6in). This lends itself to constructing a rectilinear suspension track to transport the individual in the hoisting sling between two wheelchairs, one positioned at the lower landing and the other wheeled onto a simple platform at the top.
The support structure consists of five gantries attached to the floors and the stairwell (Figure 1). A winch provides both hoisting from and to the chairs and translation along the track (Figure 2 left-hand side). The critical components permitting to realise this solution with just off-the-shelf parts and wood are the trucks and wheels of a skateboard. A carriage, very much like an upside-down skateboard, runs on an L-shaped track suspended from the gantries (Figure 2 right-hand side).
The design philosophy hinged on three principles:
Note that a fourth critical principle is being applied: Since the device has been in service it is closely monitored and regularly inspected.
Thus the lift could be built on a 450GBP materials budget and in short time using only DIY hand tools (hand saw, jig saw, hacksaw, drill, drill press, files, wood chisel, hammer, screw driver, level and measuring tape).