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StairLab can be outfitted with several different environmental features, including a fully instrumented staircase. The stair treads are interchangeable to test different surfaces, e.g. materials, markings, colour, etc. Force plates are embedded into the steps and load cells are built into the handrails, thus allowing for the measurement of ground forces and hand forces, respectively.

The Research: StairLab will allow scientists to study and precisely measure the movement and body mechanics of walking up and down stairs. This will help lead scientists to understand why and how people fall on stairs — a leading cause of injury and hospitalization particularly among seniors - and how falls can be prevented, from the development of better stair designs and handrails, to new mobility devices. An emphasis is being placed on developing evidence for improved building codes and construction standards to increase safety and usability of stairs.

StairLab will also be used to help researchers understand stair behaviour under normal circumstances and during a fall. Understanding stair behaviour allows researchers to develop personalized rehabilitation programs for people at risk of falling and general guidelines for the public.

Quick Facts:

  • Between 1997 and 2009, hospitalized injuries on home stairs increased at a rate of 6 per cent every year in the US. In Canada it is estimated that 3,800 people are hospitalized in Ontario each year as a result of a stair fall.
  • In Canada, the combined social and health care costs of falls occurring on stairs alone have been estimated at $8.8 billion a year.