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Powered Grab Bar Offers Alternative to Chairlifts

Powered Grab Bar Offers Alternative to Chairlifts

Portland, OR-Elevators and chair lifts are important innovations for people who need help climbing stairs. But they're often too expensive and obtrusive for home use. And sometimes chairlifts represent overkill. Many people who need support going up and down stairs may still possess some leg mobility and upper-body strength.

The Stair Assist Bar and Guide Rail System offers a viable option for persons with a disability that requires them to have some additional support on stairs. Easy to use, the system takes up less space than a chairlift and reportedly costs .25 to .50 as much as conventional chairlifts. An added benefit: It employs neither rotating gears nor noisy levers.

To use the system, you hold onto a lightweight bar that runs along a guide rail mounted on the wall. After you activate simple controls with thumb or palm pressure, you are gently pulled along the stairway. Powered by a single-speed dc motor, the bar supports you throughout the climb or descent.

Use of the Stair Assist Bar and Guide Rail System is intuitive. "This is particularly important for people living with serious physical limitations," says David Knaub, a senior mechanical engineer at Ziba Design, the system's creator. "It gives users a feeling of independence and safety."

Weighing only six pounds, the Power Bar can support a 250-lb person, even at its tip. Its magnesium frame and a carbon-fiber-reinforced epoxy handle produce this strength-to-weight advantage. "The fibers are specifically oriented to maximize the handle's load-bearing capacity while minimizing its wall thickness," explains Knaub.

Made of heavy-duty, 12-gauge rolled steel, the 1.4-inch-deep Guide Rail has an internal positive-locking chain, so the Bar does not slip. The Power Bar is inserted into the Guide Rail via an enlarged entry-and-exit opening on the 8.5-inch-high track. According to the designers, the collar that surrounds the juncture of the handle into the Power Bar provides a resting place for a hand or arm. For safety's sake, the Power Bar stops advancing automatically at either end of the Guide Rail.

Design simplification is a priority, says Knaub. The Power Bar consists of only a few major components: a 4 x 8 x 5.5-inch die-cast magnesium frame, a single-speed electric motor, an instant self-locking worm gear braking system, forward and reverse buttons, and a 12V nickel-cadmium battery.

Ease of use is the key benefit. "You simply insert the Power Bar into the Guide Rail, then press the forward button on the Bar to go. Release the button and the Power Bar's positive-locking system stops it instantly and securely," says Jerry Findley, president of the manufacturing company, Stair Assist Corp., Beaverton, OR.

Other Applications
  • Materials handling

  • Physical therapy

Rechargeable batteries located inside the handle reduce its overall size for easy handling. Battery power permits 15 to 20 round trips between charges.

Additional details, design...Contact David Knaub, Ziba Design, 305 NW 21st Ave., Portland, OR 97209, (503) 223-9606.

Additional details, Stair Assist...Contact Jerry Findley, Stair Assist Corp., 7737 SW Cirrus Dr., Beaverton, OR 97005, (503) 526-8900.

TAGS: Medical
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