Post #917: Floor-to-chair aid, user focus

Posted on December 14, 2020

This is the final set of refinements for my floor-to-chair aid staircase.  I’ll build a new set of stairs incorporating all the changes when the materials arrive later this week.

The upshot of this posting is that the only configuration you can build out of readily-available parts is a staircase with four 4.5″ steps.  And that it might be a good idea to carpet those steps.

As planned, the entire setup, including carpet and pushup bars, should cost about $55, and should take just over three hours to build.  The footprint of the stairs will now be 48″ x 32″

Details follow.

User considerations

The prior set of refinements (Post #914) was focused on the engineering.  That was about manufacturing a strong and durable staircase, with least effort, out of readily-available cardboard and hardboard.

This post is focused on the end user, and refines the plans accordingly.  The two main changes are the following:

  • The only design worth doing is the one with four 4.5″ steps.
  • The steps should probably be carpeted.

In short, I’ve come back to making a cardboard copy of my original design (Post #886).  Four 4.5″ stairs, carpeted.

The rest of the design changes are as before.  So the stairs will consist of:

  • 20 identical 16″ x 12″ x 4″ boxes.
  • 12 are taped together empty.
  • 8 are filled with cardboard reinforcements and topped with hardboard.  Those are the step surfaces.
  • These are all taped securely together to form a staircase.
  • Then (probably) carpeted.

The cardboard reinforcements will be cut from scrap cardboard, using a jig for accuracy, as described in (Post #914).  I’ll use white duct tape for the final tape-up, in an attempt to make it look a little less like a set of cardboard boxes.

The rest of this post explains why this is the final version.   And why there’s only one staircase configuration that’s feasible using stock parts.

1  Pushup bars are the limiting factor.

I watched several hours of YouTube videos on floor-to-chair transitions yesterday.  That, along with videos of methods wheelchair users have for getting up (say) a carpeted staircase.  Near as I can tell, nobody uses the stairs-plus-pushup-bar method developed by Shelley Ebert.

And yet, by report, that method works fine for her.  With 4.5″ steps.

Turns out, a (perhaps the) limiting factor is the size of pushup bars.  Near as I can tell, there is no set of pushup bars on the market today that could be used as an aid for climbing a standard carpeted staircase.

Let me first describe how this works.

  • Sit on the floor with your back to the first step, with push-up bars on the floor, on either side of you.
  • Grab the pushup bars, straighten your arms to raise your bottom off the floor, and set your bottom on the first step.
  • Scoot to the back of the first step and repeat.

To do that easily, the pushup bars have to be higher than the step height.  But there are no pushup bars on the market that are high enough to clear a standard stair rise (about 8″ on carpeted stairs) and actually fit into the footprint of the stair (about 10″ deep).

Looking further, the availability of pushup bars of the right size effectively limits this to the 4.5″ step configuration.  I can readily find cheap bar sets that are 6″ tall (e.g., this one).  Those should work with a 4.5″ step height.  But anything taller than that is rare, and when found, is too large to fit on the stair tread.  I can’t make the stairs any taller and still be able to find pushup bars that would work with them unless I want to try modifying the pushup bars for greater height.

2:  Lower stairs make this usable by more people anyway.

The higher the stairs, the more effort it takes to lift yourself up one stair.

After watching all those YouTube videos, what I mostly noticed is that the people illustrating floor-to-chair transitions were all young and fit.  Even then, those transitions clearly appeared to be difficult.  And there were many different techniques, which I think was partly driven by the diversity of injuries.

On balance, after all of that, my conclusion is that I should make the steps that requires the least strength to use.  That opens them up to a broader audience, at the cost of making them somewhat bigger.  So, once again, that argues for the 4.5″ step height.

3:  Potential for skin injury argues for carpeting the staircase.

A lot of the YouTube videos mentioned the potential for skin injuries during these transitions.

Up to now, I had been focused on providing a slick stair surface for maneuverability.  But instead, it may be more important to provide at least minimal padding of all surfaces.  A corner of a cardboard box might not be a hazard to me, but I can see where it might be a hazard to somebody.

Home Depot sells $10 carpet remnants that are about the right size, but those will have to be glued in place (there’s really nothing to attach them to with physical fasteners).  That limits the easy recyclability of these.  But I think that will probably make them more user-friendly.