WILLIAMSBURG — While fighting cancer, Shae Murphy’s mother-in-law reached a point where going in and out of her home was not manageable.
Going up and down the steps of her home was becoming increasingly more difficult for her, and it was up to Murphy to find a cost-effective solution.
“We looked at ramps, wheelchair lifts, stair chairs, and all of them were very expensive for the 40-or-so inches that she needed to go up,” Murphy said.
After finding a manufacturer in Florida who built affordable indoor/outdoor wheelchair lifts that worked well for his mother-in-law, Murphy soon started his own company with a name that does not mince words: Affordable Wheelchair Lifts.
Less than four years later, Murphy’s Williamsburg-based company employs more than 30 people and reaches customers all around the globe, including Australia and Europe.
Manufactured in Lynchburg, the wheelchair lifts can elevate up to approximately 24 feet of lift, depending upon the model that the customer chooses, with 500 pounds or more platform lifting capacity.
“We get the raw material in, and we cut it, weld it, paint it, assemble it and ship it,” Murphy said.
The platform lift, described as a miniature home elevator, provides walker, scooter and wheelchair users an alternative to exterior or interior steps without a need for extended ramps.
“Some people want to get out of their house to got to doctors appointments once every two weeks, and some people get out of the house every day to go to work. And if you’re in a wheelchair, steps can be like a brick wall,” Murphy said. “Even one step is a big deal. A lot of times with one step, you can fit a ramp in there. But in my mother-in-law’s case, she needed 40 inches. And she had a one car garage, and it would have taken up the entire garage, and then stretched out toward the street. It was just not a practical solution. And other lifts were significantly more expensive than what we could do.”
The lifts starts at $2,795 and can be customized and upgraded. On the company’s website, Murphy provides resources for those who may need financial assistance in covering the expenses of the lift (which can be found by clicking here).
Murphy said that the wheelchair lifts are not only safe and reliable, but that they allow customers to remain in their homes and still maintain a social life.
“People say ‘It’s helped me get out of the house and enjoy life. It’s helped me stay in my home rather than move,'” Murphy said.
The need for affordable lifts or ramps is one that agencies like the Peninsula Agency on Aging (PAA) see daily.
“There is that need there for seniors,” PAA’s Vice President of Care Coordination Diane Hartley said. “It helps them not feel so isolated.”
Hartley said that PAA typically assists seniors in need of ADA-compliant lifts and ramps by referring them to Housing Partnerships that can help them.
Rebecca Vinroot, director of James City County’s Department of Social Services said that wheelchair lifts and ramps “improve an individual’s independence and overall social well-being.”
Agencies like PAA and the Department of Social Services typically refer individuals in need of affordable ramps or wheelchair lifts to Housing Partnerships.
In addition to seniors or individuals with disabilities, Murphy’s company also sees customers in need of wheelchair lifts for other uses, such as hay lofts or aging dogs.
Affordable Wheelchair Lifts is also, according to Murphy, the world leader in pet pig lifts.
“There’s a family in West Virginia who have two pet pigs whose bedroom is on the second floor, and the owners want the pigs to be able to come down and spend time with the family,” Murphy said. “The pigs are okay with going up the steps, but they’re so short that it’s hard for them to go down. They get on the lift and come down and then go upstairs when it’s time for bed.”
In addition to selling new lifts, Affordable Wheelchair Lifts will also help customers resell their used lifts when they no longer need them.
“When our customers are through with their lifts, either the person has recovered from surgery or they’ve moved into a retirement home, or maybe they’ve passed away, which unfortunately does happen, we can help the person sell the used lift,” he said “We have hundreds of people contacting us every week, certainly every month, looking for new and used lifts that are affordable.”
For more information, please visit the website for the Affordable Wheelchair Lifts or call (757) 524-3420.