I am posting this in response to a PM I had from gwa asking how I can get on and off a stair lift when I am such a… how shall I put it?… physical wreck and total waste of good oxygen, (my words, not gwa's!). I had completely missed that there were new posts on this thread.
It goes like this: although my legs won't bear weight, when straightened I have a very useful muscle spasm which will lock them for a few seconds. I also have a modicum of use in my left arm.
There is a piece of equipment called a Rotastand in this country, which consists of a turntable to stand on and an adjustable height handle – the idea being that more able bodied people can pull themselves to a standing position, be rotated, and sit down again, thus transferring from one piece of equipment to another.
With my left arm, locked knees, and two carers the size of mountain gorillas, I can manage this transfer. Although I have no sitting balance, (in other words, when sitting the upper half of my body will just fall all over the place like a rag doll), with careful positioning, the seatbelt, some duct tape and a staple gun I can make the journey downstairs safely, and then use the same procedure to transfer to a wheelchair.
I'm sure the same would be possible using a hoist and if you look around the web or in an OT catalogue you'll find a vast range of equipment for almost any situation. Trouble is, you won't find any reasonably priced equipment. Luckily most of mine was provided by the local authority.
Elin, when talking about battery powered stair lifts, the battery is most commonly used as a backup in the event of a power failure – it is kept permanently fully charged until needed – I haven't seen any where the battery is the sole power source.
Usually the power and switching gear is located underneath the stairs, so bulk shouldn't be an issue, but the designs are very flexible to accommodate any unusual requirements you may have.
Mine is a very old design and the track is a massive steel girder which is very bulky and heavy, but also very solid and reliable. Many modern varieties use a tubular steel track which is raised off the floor, lighter and less obtrusive but I have heard that they are slightly less reliable – I don't know if the old, heavy ones are still around.
I suppose the supplier was probably correct to say that you need to be able to stand up and sit down in order to use a stairlift, after all, the process is basically getting into and out of a chair, but it's not set in stone that you have to be able to do this on your own. There is another piece of equipment called a Standaid which is a powered hoist that lowers you gently into a sitting position. There are many ways for a disabled person to get, (or be got), into a chair, and only you can decide what feels right. I had to fight some long running battles with the community occupational therapist to convince her that I would be OK, and I've been absolutely fine for many years now.
A through-floor elevator, (that's what they're called here… is there a kind which doesn't go through floors?), is certainly an option to consider but again, only you can decide which is right. For me, the joystick is a must, but the lift can easily be operated by carers. The impossible thing is to try and predict what you are going to need in the future – for instance, I was right handed but at the time I bought the lift it didn't matter what side the joystick was on. It just happened to be located on the left when it arrived, and "luckily" it was my right hand I lost use of.
I hope this helps,