These Stairs Make the Case for Wheelchair Mobility

Having lived and worked with people who use wheelchairs, I know that there are a number of logistical challenges that are unique to them. It can be hard to maneuver them up inclines or in tricky locations. Even when ramps are present, things don’t always go smoothly. (Hello ice!)

Unless it’s a part of your life, you probably barely notice what these issues are. Perhaps this innovative invention will catch your attention. Among the things that can pose a mobility obstacle for wheelchairs are stairs. Stairs without alternatives are the worst. That’s where Sesame Access has stepped in.

In this video, we see a nice building with some rather lovely architecture. Pedestrians make their way to their destinations, cruising by or up the small staircase. Do not be fooled! The stairs are concealing an engineering secret that’s not so obvious. Beneath that stony veneer is a mechanical system that makes the stairs retractable and includes a lift platform.

A disabled woman rolls up in her wheelchair and pushes the square handicap button, summoning an operator to retract the stairs. She’s able to work the lift on her own using a few buttons. Without having to worry about navigating the entrance, she’s in there.

Called Sesame, it’s designed to create a safe, convenient, and accessible way for wheelchair users to enter buildings. What a fitting name! As you watch the video you will see how the stairs convert into a wheelchair lift like something out of a movie. It’s an amazing and attractive design that stealthily blends in with the structure while providing major assistance for those who need it.

According to the UK-based company’s website, the invention was inspired by the original engineer’s – Charlie Lyons – friend. Said friend’s wife was wheelchair-bound and often had issues with accessing certain spaces. So Charlie stepped up to the challenge and along with his son, created the first prototype. Sesame Access was open for business, with the first Sesame installed in London in 1996.
Today, these cool apparatuses can be found throughout the UK and other parts of Europe, including at Sotheby’s in Paris. Clients have included Apple, BBC, and Oxford University. There’s even one at Kensington Palace!
For older buildings needing to upgrade their accessibility options for disabled visitors, the Sesame has been beneficial. Though not shown the in the video, these can be crafted to be operated directly and independently by the wheelchair user or another person.
One of the upsides is that pedestrians can still access the stairs to gain entrance. Having to seek out a separate entry point for handicapped users can be a pain if it’s located at some distance. With this system, it’s a one-stop shop.
Also interesting is how these can be camouflaged to meld into concrete or marble. Nifty! Watch the video to see how the Sesame opens and how wheelchair users can take on a flight of stairs with ease.

What do you think of the Sesame system? Have you seen one of these in use? Do you encounter problems trying to maneuver a wheelchair in and out of buildings? Share with us in the comments!