Wheelchair Lift Glossary
AC OperationRequiring Alternating Current (AC) to function. The power supply for most buildings is AC; this term can be somewhat misleading with wheelchair lifts as a lift may require connection to an AC power supply, have an AC motor, yet have Direct Current (DC) controls.
Access RampA ramp necessary for some wheelchair lifts, to get wheelchair users up to a platform that is higher than floor level. Many jurisdictions now require that the gate at an access ramp must have a power operator for ease of entry.
AccessibilityIn ADA-related discussions, a term that refers to provisions for equal access by persons with disabilities.
Accessible Path of TravelA continuous, unobstructed route to and from an area. This route must accommodate travel and use by persons with disabilities, and may include phones, restrooms, drinking fountains, etc. (Refer to code sections for complete requirements)
ADAAn Acronym for, “Americans with Disabilities Act” (enacted by the United States Congress in 1992)
ADA Compliance Governing/Jurisdiction AuthorityA public body that is responsible for confirming ADA compliance. More than one authority may have jurisdiction in some locations. As such, typical authorities include the state elevator division, architectural access board, fire marshal, state insurance department, etc. Check with your local Planning and Development department for more information.
ADA CompliantMeeting the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act
ADA Lift (ADA-Compliant Lift)A lift which meets ADA requirements, and whose use is limited to persons with disabilities.
ADA Ramp (ADA-Compliant Ramp)A ramp that complies with ADA guidelines for use by persons with disabilities.
ADAAGAcronym for “Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility Guidelines” (established by the United States Access Board)
Americans with Disabilities ActFederal legislation, signed into law in 1990, meant to guarantee people with disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in mainstream American life.
Americans with Disabilities Act Accessibility GuidelinesA set of enforceable standards, established by the United States Access Board, which defines specific design criteria for making accommodations in public places as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Architectural BarrierAny aspect in the design of a facility that limits the access and mobility of disabled persons.
Barrier-FreeAccessible to persons with disabilities.
Building Safety CodeRequirements that specify minimum standards for building construction and occupancy, primarily to protect public health, safety, and welfare.
Chain-Hydraulic DriveA platform lift drive system where one or more hydraulic cylinders indirectly provides a lifting force through a chain.
Clear WidthThe minimum width required for a lift to be safely installed, typically consisting of the exterior platform width plus side operating clearances. The term also commonly refers to the width of the lift platform available for the user (see “Platform Clear Dimensions”).
ClearancesDimensions that allow sufficient space for safety, maneuvering, or access to controls
Constant-Pressure Operating SwitchA switch that must be held down to maintain contact. A platform lift will stop as soon as pressure on the switch is released.
DC OperationRequiring Direct Current (DC) to function; this term can be somewhat misleading with wheelchair lifts as the power supply for most buildings is AC, so even lifts that have a DC motor and DC controls will likely be designed for connection to an AC power supply.
Direct Acting Hydraulic DriveA platform lift drive system where one or more hydraulic cylinders are connected directly to the platform to provide lifting power.
Dock PlateA metal plate that folds down to create a smooth transition between a portable lift and the upper landing.
DrivetrainThe mechanical system that raises the platform of a wheelchair lift.
Egress RouteAn unobstructed path available for persons to leave a building.
ElevatorA full elevator is a lifting device appropriate for use by the general public and capable of a wide range of uses, such as: transporting cargo, large groups of people, etc.
Enclosed Platform liftA platform lift that is entirely inside a shaft or hoistway, with no moving parts in areas that are accessible to the general public.
Exterior Platform DimensionsNot to be confused with “platform clear dimensions,” exterior platform dimensions constitute the floor space (or “footprint”) that a wheelchair lift occupies.
Hand Crank DriveA platform lift drive system that is operated by having a person outside the lift turn a crank. Since this drive system requires an attendant instead of allowing for independent use as required by the ADA, it is considered non-ADA compliant.
Handicap RampAn inclined surface that is intended for use by persons with disabilities, often (but not necessarily) ADA compliant.
Hydraulic Hand PumpA hand operated hydraulic pump used to raise and lower the lift without power.
Inclined Platform Lift (IPL)A platform lift which moves a user diagonally upward – usually attached to a wall or rail beside a stair. Not to be confused with a “stairway chairlift,” which has a place for a person to sit, but which cannot accommodate a user in a wheelchair.
Independent UseUse of a device by a person under their own power without assistance from other people
InspectorA Representative of a government agency, who has the authority to determine whether or not a particular lift installation meets code requirements.
Installation PitA depression in the floor or pad where a lift will be mounted, necessary for installing some lifts in order to eliminate the need for an access ramp (pits are typically from 3″ to 6″ deep).
LiftA device designed to raise people over obstacles or any distance
Lift DealerA company that sells lifts, usually only specific brands for which the dealer is authorized by the manufacturer. A dealer is often licensed as an installer, and sells installed lifts as a complete package.
Lift DistributorA company that buys lifts or lift components from the manufacturer, to resell to the general public.
Lift InstallerA company that puts a lift in its location, usually including assembling the lift components, anchoring in place, and connecting a power source. A specific license to install lifts is required by some jurisdictions; the installer may also manage the permitting and inspection of the lift
Lift ManufacturerA company with a factory/production facility, where it makes lifts and lift components.
LULA (Limited Use, Limited Access) ElevatorA light duty elevator that may be used in homes, or in public facilities where its use is restricted to persons with disabilities.
Machine TowerA tall side enclosure that houses the drivetrain on most vertical platform lifts; lifts without towers are sometimes referred to as “towerless.”
Manual CrankA device that allows a non-hydraulic lift to be lowered manually in the event of a power failure (not to be confused with a “hand crank” drive system).
Manual Lowering ValveA device that allows a hydraulic lift to be lowered manually in the event of a power failure.
Operating PermitA document that verifies a lift in a specific location has been approved for use by the general public.
Permanent Wheelchair LiftA platform lift that is designed to be anchored to permanent parts of a venue’s structure, and permanently tied into the venue’s electrical system. Permits required are usually similar to elevator permits.
PermitA document issued by a governing body, granting approval to install a platform lift in a particular application. The lift will still need to be inspected and granted an operating certificate before it can legally be used by the public
Pinch PointA danger presented by two surfaces in a close proximity that may pinch or crush as the gap between them closes
Platform Clear DimensionsNot to be confused with “exterior platform dimensions,” platform clear dimensions constitute the area inside a wheelchair lift that allows sufficient unimpeded space for safety, maneuvering, or access to controls.
Platform GateA protective gate that is attached to the lift platform, and therefore travels up and down with the lift platform.
Platform LiftA lift intended to be used by persons with disabilities, primarily wheelchair users. Platform lifts for use in public facilities must be ADA compliant
Portable Wheelchair LiftA platform lift that is self contained, and not permanently attached to the venue’s structure. Often this type of lift is exempt from permanent lift permitting requirements.
Power-Operated GateA gate that opens under its own power at the touch of a button, and that closes automatically as well, often with a built-in delay and other safety features.
Primary Function AreaAn area that supports a main activity for which the facility is intended.
Roped Hydraulic DriveA platform lift drive system where one or more hydraulic cylinders indirectly provides lifting force through a rope and pulley system.
Screw DriveA platform lift drive system that employs a large, turning acme-screw or ball-screw to provide lifting power.
Self-Closing GateA gate that closes by itself. Some gates may need to be opened manually, yet be self closing by a spring or piston mechanism.
Shearing HazardA danger presented by a moving piece of equipment that is too close to a stationary surface. Near a platform lift, shearing hazards may be created by overhangs, open railings, metal panels, edges of a wall, etc.
ShroudA term sometimes used to refer to the machine tower of a lift.
Stage GuardA device used to prevent wheelchair users from rolling off the front of a stage when recalling a lift that is on the lower level. The stage guard attaches to the upper platform gate of the lift, and is required to be 6″ higher than the edge of the stage when the lift is at the lower level.
Under-Platform Safety PanA plate or series of plates connected to sensors, covering the underside of a lift platform, that stop the lift during downward motion of the platform if an object is encountered.
Unenclosed Platform LiftA platform lift not surrounded by a shaft or hoistway.
VariancePermission from the local code authority (usually in writing) to deviate from specific code requirements, in response to a specific request.
Vertical Platform Lift (VPL)A platform lift whose lifting motion is straight up and down as apposed to side to side or diagonally.
Wheelchair LiftSee “platform lift.” Wheelchair lift is a common term for platform lift, which is the industry-standard term.
Worm Gear DriveA platform lift drive system that employs a tooth gear and screw-like cylinders are connected directly to the platform to provide lifting power.