12th November 2018
Sean O'Sullivan, Managing Director of the Platform Lift Company, gives retailers some top tips about installing a platform lift to improve accessibility within a store.
On the 13th November 2018, Purple Tuesday, the UK's first accessible shopping day, invites retailers to join in with raising awareness about the needs of disabled consumers and promote inclusive shopping. Every participant must make at least one long-term commitment aimed at improving the experience for their disabled customers going forward.
This is a great initiative, since the Platform Lift Company was formed over 15 years ago we have worked with several retailers – both independent and chains – to install platform lifts as a way of improving access between floors. These lifts are stylish and have a cabin structure, so it feels more like a passenger lift. The control buttons are easy to use, and the lift moves effortlessly and smoothly.
For retailers who are considering a platform lift to improve the experience for their disabled customers, here are the top five things to consider.
Room for improvement
Perhaps the biggest consideration when installing a cabin style platform lift within a retail environment is whether there is enough room. Not only does the lift need to fit, there needs to be at least 1500mm by 1500mm of space in front of the lift at every level for a person in a wheelchair to enter and exit. Doors need to have a clear opening width of 800mm. Part M of the building regulations also specify that the lift car within a commercial environment must be a minimum of 1400mm deep by 1100mm wide.
Within a retail environment selling space is precious but so are customers. According to the last report produced by the organisation Purple Tuesday, The Purple Pound is worth £249 billion a year. Therefore, giving up selling space to install a platform lift could improve sales and send out a positive message for inclusive shopping.
Getting the right look
Long gone are the days when we think of a platform lift as an unsightly device hidden away in a corner - today's vertical platform lifts are chic, fashionable, state of the art and on full show. In fact, it is hard to tell the difference between them and a passenger lift. The most popular design within retail is a platform lift with a glass shaft. The transparency of this material helps to create a feeling of space and enhances the users experience; a glass shaft also blends in seamlessly with an interior design.
It is also possible to choose from a range of RAL colours to match a brand or a bespoke finish. The textures and materials of the walls and floors, including the lighting, can all be tailored to suit the environment. You can even go as far as having Swarovski elements for a luxury feel.
Choosing the right mechanism
There are two main types of lifting mechanisms for cabin style platform lifts, hydraulic or a screw and nut system. Hydraulic platform lifts are quieter and occupy less space within a building for the lift shaft because the pump box or machine room is housed separately. However, these types of lifts can only reach heights of 9 meters and the performance of the oil as a hydraulic fluid varies with temperature, so an efficient machine-room control system is necessary. Oil may also leak into the ground at the base of the elevator and cause pollution in ground water.
A screw and nut platform lift doesn't have a motor but can now reach heights of up to 15 metres. The shaft does require more space because the lifting mechanism sits adjacent to the first level door, but remember there is no need for an additional machine room. The other huge advantage is that they only require a 50mm pit, therefore minimal building work - a screw and nut platform lift can be installed within a two day period in some cases.
A safe journey
Platform lifts come under the machine directive which means the user is in control of the lift throughout its travel by applying continuous pressure to the operational buttons. A screw and nut platform lift is, in fact, one of the safest forms of platform lifts because you need to push the button to drive it up and down. Another safety feature to consider is having battery backup, this comes as standard with screw and nut lifts but is optional with hydraulic lifts. It is also possible to have fire rated doors and surrounds.
Attention to detail
As well as improving accessibility within a store a platform lift can play a huge part in making disabled customers feel welcome and part of the overall brand experience. For example, modern day platform lifts can be easily interfaced with a multimedia in-house system, so you can play music in the lift. You can also have LED lighting to create a desired ambience or to match a brand identity.
With this design flexibility, advancement in technology and ease of installation, the platform lift is now a major part of a retail store. If improving access is part of your long-term commitment in supporting Purple Tuesday, then please call us to book in a complimentary accessibility survey.