Say ‘Sesame’ and Steps Disappear!

With the steps retracted, this wheelchair user rides the lift to the front door.

With the steps retracted, this wheelchair user rides the lift to the front door.

Imagine pushing up to a building where you’re face to face with a flight of concrete steps at the front door and no accessible entrance in sight. Then, with a push of a button, a section of the staircase slides back and is replaced by a wheelchair lift. Once you get to the top, you press a button that replaces the lift with the stairs until it’s time to leave. Congratulations, you have just used the Allgood Trio Sesame Steps, an access innovation developed in Great Britain, which is gaining attention on this side of the pond thanks to social media. Check it out:

I’m no engineer, so I’ll let the experts explain the “magic” of this technologically advanced system: “Tailored to each individual entrance, the retractable stair lift platform is installed beneath the existing stairs. Once activated, the system retracts the existing stairs to reveal the lift that can be programmed to work automatically or at the touch of a button. The result is a concealed stair lift that is easy to use, retains the existing aesthetic of the building while not taking up space when not in use.”

Sounds like a good alternative for architecturally historic buildings that claim to be “grandfathered out” of access regulations, and for buildings that are difficult to ramp or where appearance is a bigger concern than wheelchair accessibility. We’ve all been to places like those.

Technologically advanced or not, there are some concerns about the system. First, the wheeler can’t summon the lift upon arrival at the bottom of the stairs; someone up top has to start the process. Who do you summon — a random person entering the building at the same time? Where’s the button? When you exit the building, who replaces lift with stairs? It’s seems a tad complicated, and more importantly, a poke in the eye of independence.

Also, we who live in cold and snowy parts of the U.S. are doubtful that the lift would appear when the temperature is 5 degrees below zero, and the steps are piled with snow.

Still, innovation is a good thing and this one shows some promise.

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