Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Disability Now Question

Another excellent article from Disability Now. This question from a reader relates to people who aret starting to find the stairs difficult to use.

Your questions on equipment, answered by Lucy Andrews. This month, a reader whose relative is scared of falling when using steps asks for advice

March 2005
Q: "I have a relative who, with effort, is able to get up and down the stairs, but at times is scared of falling. I don't feel she needs a stairlift, but rather something to support her. Can you advise me on what's available?"

Many people feel vulnerable on the stairs, particularly when they are standing at the top looking down. There are some simple rules that will help you reduce risk: make sure that the staircase is well lit, the carpet is firmly fixed and in good condition, and that footwear fits well.

You can also look at how you use stairs. It may be safer to take one step at a time, particularly if one side of the body is stronger, and lead up with the good leg, but down with the weaker leg so that the stronger one is doing the harder work of lifting your body weight (going up) and lowering (going down).

Most staircases have a bannister rail on one side. A second rail provides extra assistance and encourages you to remain square and symmetrical on the stairs. Hand railing can be bought from DIY stores; or modular rail systems are available in white plastic from Cefndy Healthcare (tel: 01745 351787,, and in wood from Keep Able (from £110, tel: 08705 202122,

Turns in the staircase can be particularly hazardous as the stair width is often reduced on one side. The Newel Rail attaches to two sides of the newel post to give a continuous handhold as you move round the bend. It is available in two diameters from Homecraft Ability One (from £10.80). Homecraft also supply U grips, which come in sets of three and clamp onto the bannister rail to give an alternative grip on top of the rail (from £15.60, tel: 01623 757555,

There are two devices that provide a horizontal handhold across the stairs: the and the Stair-bar. The Stairaid is available from E Greenwood and comprises a steel handrail that replaces the existing banister rail, and a perpendicular rail that can be moved along the hand rail. When the user pulls on the rail, a friction grip prevents movement, giving a stable support (left, from £650, including installation, tel: 01274 571578).

The Stair-bar from Nuvations is similar in that the support rail is in front of the user, but the rail is moved up through a series of stepped channels that are fixed onto the wall on one side of the staircase and above the bannister rail on the other (tel: 07000 560732, Both devices can be used to go up and down the stairs. The Stairaid can also be fixed outside.

For individual advice contact the DLF's helpline on 0845 130 9177 or email us at A local Disabled Living Centre can also offer help. Addresses are on the Assistive Technology Advice Centres Council's website (previously called the Disabled Living Centres Council) at

Lucy Andrews is a senior advisor at the DLF.

If you've got a question you'd like Lucy Andrews to answer, email or by post at the usual address.

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