How to get a wheelchair up stairs

Seniors need wheelchairs for various reasons.

Some have had debilitating injuries to their legs/spine, making unaided movement painful.

Others have severe mobility limitations due to health conditions such as arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and countless other issues.

In some cases, seniors need wheelchairs because of decreased balance- balance and gait disorders are a major cause of falls in older people.

Now, if you or a loved one uses a wheelchair to move around, you may want to know how to get a wheelchair up stairs.

This short article will show you how to get a wheelchair up stairs safely and quickly.

How to get a wheelchair up stairs

Of course, the question of how to get a wheelchair up stairs arises only for buildings that have not been designed with handicap access.

So, how do you navigate the stairs if you want to access one of these wheelchair unfriendly buildings?

Well, there are two primary approaches you can take.

Here are your options:

Option 1- Use wheelchair ramps to get a wheelchair up short stairs

Portable ramps work quite well for most short stairs especially where the incline is not that steep

Let’s face it: you certainly need an extended ramp for more stairs and a steeper drop.

In any case, if you consider what would happen in case of a fall accident, you’ll agree that such ramps are only practical for a couple of steps.

Just call your favorite medical supplies store and find out if they stock a ramp (or Buy it from Amazon).

You can also rent one at a more reasonable cost.

Most come with instructions and all you have to do is follow them.

Tip: Track wheelchair ramps function best for wheelchairs with wheels that take a particular design. This is because this kind of ramp aligns itself perfectly to the wheels while extending itself to form a solid path for your wheelchair.


For safety, mind the following:

  • Have a helper- When using a standard ramp, have at least one able-bodied individual present. Their role is typically to steady the temporary ramp and guide whoever is in the chair up the ramp. 
  • Check that the ramp is strongly secured before climbing– It’s important to test if the ramp is safely secured before using it. I don’t want to imagine what would happen if the ramp slips while being used!
  • Be extremely careful- Be careful throughout to avoid trouble. From mounting the ramp to the actual use, you want to be super keen and not be hasty.

Option 2- Have two helpers help you get a wheelchair up longer stairs

Although alternative ideas of getting up higher stairs exist (e.g. using customized ramps), having two caring buddies help you ascend the stairs is probably more convenient and undoubtedly cheaper.

If you’re like most people, you could be wondering why not invite just one caregiver to help.

Answer: You see, 2 people with sufficient muscle strength balance the weight of your wheelchair better reducing the risk of you falling (folks have tipped over and/or fallen forward on their face when aided by a single helper).

Step by step procedure


Make sure you’re seated properly…

First, you must be seated comfortably.

In addition, check that your entire body has fitted in the chair. Also put on a seatbelt.

Step 1- Taking position

Your pair of helpers must take the correct position before starting the transfer.

Here is how they should be positioned:

Helper 1- To stand on the stairs at a safe point. He then proceeds to hold the handles (at the back of your wheelchair’s backrest).

Helper 2- The other friend should position himself right behind the wheelchair, again at the most appropriate point. He/she holds onto the frame of your wheelchair.


The backrest must be pointing towards your stairs for helper 1- now standing right behind you- to comfortably and safely lift and bring you up the stairs. 

Likewise, helper 2 should be face-to-face with the user before the operation commences.

Step 2- Getting ready

Since we want a flawless job, the two-person team should next do as described below:

Helper 1- To place one of their feet on the first step above the user. He should put the remaining foot a step above the foot that’s already in position.

Both helper 1 and 2- While holding the wheelchair in the positions previously advised and working in tandem, proceed to tilt the chair backward slowly. The idea is to identify a point where the chair is suitably balanced. They should sustain this angle when found (The front wheels will, obviously, be hoisted into the air at this point).

Step 3- How to get a wheelchair up stairs the right way

Here is how to start to carry the wheelchair up stairs correctly:

  • Both the two assistants to first bend their knees as necessary while holding onto their positions and ensuring that the wheelchair is still tilted at a stable angle.
  • Next, they should raise their legs up to the next step while simultaneously lifting the wheelchair and rolling it up this next step (along with the occupant).
  • Now they should stabilize themselves, find a new balance point then repeat the process. The process should be replicated until they come up the topmost step.
  • Lastly, clear any obstacles and gently lower the wheelchair to the ground.


A couple of things to remember during this operation:

  • Don’t ignore the seatbelt– If you’d rather have two caregivers bring you up, we cannot emphasize enough the need to use a seat belt to safely secure you to the chair during the climb.
  • Good grip can be the difference– The helpers should ensure they have an excellent grip at all times when lifting the chair up.  A weak grip could gravely endanger the person being helped.
  • Keep an eye on the footrests– Watch and remove them if you feel that they might hinder your smooth progression up the stairs.

There could other methods to climb up a wheelchair up stairs but the two means we have explained here are perhaps the easiest and friendliest.

Try them and remember to observe the various precautions.

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