5 Easy Steps to Get a Wheelchair Up a Flight of Stairs

Written by Liliane
Last Updated :

Are you wondering how to get a wheelchair up a flight of stairs?

If you’ve ever been a caregiver to wheelchair users, you know how difficult it can be to maneuver steps.

A standard wheelchair is heavy on its own, and a person sitting on it only adds to the weight.

It is not an easy task, but we are here to guide you on how to do it safely, regardless of the type of wheelchair the person is using.

READ MORE: Folding Power Wheelchair Reviews

Check the types of wheelchairs that climb stairs in the video below.

Preparing the Wheelchair to be Transported Up a Flight of Stairs

For a disabled person or an elderly person, ascending and descending stairs with a wheelchair is always a headache.

This is because a standard staircase is an architectural barrier for anyone with mobility issues to the extent that it can even prevent them from leaving or entering their homes.

If you don’t have a stair climber or a wheelchair lift, you will have to figure out how you are going upstairs in a wheelchair without risking the safety of the person in your care.

Wheelchairs are generally heavy, so lifting the chair up the stairs is a two-person job where the stronger person goes up the stairs first.

But before you do it, you need to prepare the wheelchair for the climb up the flight of stairs.

Remove Any Extra Weight

As I said earlier, wheelchairs are heavy on their own and the last thing you want is to have to carry even more weight when you can avoid it.

So, start by removing any excess weight, such as water bottles, umbrellas, or even bags. Even these seemingly light things add up.

The less weight you have to carry, the easier it will be. The only weight you should carry is that of the wheelchair and the person in it.

Switch to Manual Mode If Using a Power Chair

If the person is using a power wheelchair, you need to switch it to manual mode.

Accidental use of the joystick and powering on while taking the chair up the stairs could lead to all manner of issues.

Without intending it, you might end up injuring yourself, the wheelchair user, and the person helping you.

READ MORE: DIY Threshold Ramp

Keep the Tires Inflated

Some wheelchairs come with inflatable tires. Since you want to lower the weight of the wheelchair as much as possible, you might think that deflating the tires will do it. But don’t do that!

Deflating the tires will make your job even harder. The reduced pressure will increase the friction when you are going up the stairs.

Increased friction means only one thing – more effort will be required to push the chair up the stairs and you don’t want that.

Fasten the Seatbelt

Some wheelchair models have seatbelts for safe maneuvering. If the wheelchair in question has one, make sure that it is fastened around the wheelchair user.

This is just to add to the person’s safety in case anything happens as you are going up. You don’t want to aggravate the situation even further for them.

Use Anti-Skid Tape

As you look out for the safety of the wheelchair user, you also need to consider your own safety and that of your attendant.

Stairs can be tricky to maneuver especially when you are carrying a lot of weight and slipping is likely to occur.

To prevent that you must use anti-skid tape on the steps of the staircase.

How to Get a Wheelchair Up a Flight of Stairs

And now to the most important section – how to get someone in a wheelchair up the stairs.

Step 1 – Backup the chair to the staircase

With the help of your assistant(s), back the chair up the stairs. The strongest person should be the one behind the wheelchair while the other assistant is in front.

Step 2 – The stronger person’s foot should be a step above

This is to get them ready to lift the wheelchair by the handles. Before that happens though, you need to make sure that the handle grips are firmly secured.

At this point, the other helper should be standing in front of the chair holding on to the frame just above the chair’s front wheels. One thing you need to ensure is that nobody is holding on to any removable parts.

Step 3 – Tilt the chair backward

Tilt the wheelchair backward so as to find a balance tilt point. This should be a two-person job making sure that the rear wheels of the wheelchair are on the ground.

Step 4 – Lift then roll the chair up the first step

You and your helper should now lift the wheelchair such that the rear wheels rest on the next step and do the same for the other following steps.

After every step, stop and find the balance point before moving on to the next step.

Step 5 – Keep the chair tilted when you reach the top

When you reach the last step and are finally at the top of the staircase, keep the chair tilted backward until the front wheels have touched the top step before gently lowering the wheelchair so that all four wheels touch the ground.

And that’s how to get the wheelchair up step by step even on a curved staircase.

Check this video for a quick recap:

CHECK OUT: The Most Comfortable Wheelchair

How to Make Stairs Handicap Accessible

Not all buildings are wheelchair accessible, and most of the time, you have to devise clever ways to get a wheelchair up the stairs.

A wheelchair is the best way a disabled person can have some form of independence.

Staircases are however a hindrance and it might mean not getting out or in the house if nobody is there to assist.

If you are taking care of a person with mobility issues, there are ways you can make the stairs at home handicap accessible to give them a bit of independence even when you are not there.

Installing Temporary Chair Ramps

Are you looking for ways to get a wheelchair up a ramp? If the flight of stairs at home is short, a wheelchair ramp can work.

There are even portable ramps that you can get them for when they go visiting friends and family.

The only thing about using a temporary ramp is that it can only be used with a powerful electric wheelchair.

The landing space also needs to be large enough to maneuver the chair easily.

Installing Divide Tracks and Ramps

This is a more permanent solution and something that will ensure that the wheelchair user can always go up and down the stairs even when nobody is at home.

It involves installing permanent ramps on the flight of stairs, which might end up affecting the aesthetics of the home.

The ramp will, however, improve mobility and make your life easier as a caregiver.

Installing a Wheelchair Lift

This a platform designed to carry the wheelchair up the stairs. The wheelchair is packed inside the platform with the user still seated on it and then your job as a caregiver is to operate it to move the wheelchair up the stairs.

Wheelchair lifts are usually installed in commercial buildings but you can install one at home.

A wheelchair lift for use on straight chairs costs around $3000 with the cost increasing if you are buying one for curved stairs.

Installing a wheelchair lift can cost as much as $1000 or more, depending on the modifications needed.

Installing Handrails on the Staircase Sides

The safety of the wheelchair user is vital which is why regardless of the wheelchair transfer method you are using; you will need to install handrails that they can hold on to as the chair goes up and down the stairs.

The handrails are even more important when you are manually transporting the wheelchair up the stairs with another helper.

Getting Up Stairs Using Wheelchair FAQs

Can I Use A Wheelchair Ramp over Stairs?

When going down a ramp, the wheelchair needs to descend backward and an attendant needs to be there to guide the wheelchair from behind. One thing you should never do, however, is to descend or ascend more than three stairs using a ramp.

Can I Use an Electric Wheelchair to Climb Stairs?

Some electric chair models can safely climb stairs. These wheelchairs are self-balancing and go up and down staircases smoothly. If you are taking care of a person using such a wheelchair, while they can easily descend stairs on their own you should still be there in case anything goes wrong.

How Do I Make My Wheelchair Stairs Accessible?

The best way to make a wheelchair stair accessible is by installing a wheelchair ramp or lift. The other way is by removing any excess weight and having two people lift it. There are wheelchairs that climb stairs, however, that are designed for this purpose thanks to sturdy rubber tracks.


We’ve already covered in-depth how to get a wheelchair up a flight of stairs. If you are a caregiver, however, you can still give that person more freedom of mobility by making their home handicap accessible by helping install such things as wheelchair lifts and ramps.


a lady thinking how to get a wheelchair up a flight of stairs

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About Author

Lilian Wamaitha is a passionate writer and avid cyclist with over 4 years of experience in blogging. As a lifelong learner, she is driven by her curiosity to discover and learn new things. This curiosity and passion eventually sparked a love for the senior writing niche. She has written countless articles to help seniors find their footing in this world through healthy and holistic living. She’s passionate about seeing the seniors in society live a more fulfilling life to the end. Follow her on LINKEDIN. Read her LATEST POSTS. Learn more about her HERE.

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