Newport Beach Installs ‘Human Lift’ to Support Disabled Boater

Newport Beach has installed the first publicly accessible human lift to assist disabled sailors at the base of the gangway into Marina Park.

NEWPORT BEACH- On May 12, Newport Beach City officials gathered to view a demonstration of the new human lift installed in the Newport Harbor; the lift is a collaborative effort between the harbor and recreation departments.

The lift is a portable machine that is placed into a cylindrical opening at the base of the gangway in Marina Park and can be used by disabled sailors to transfer into their sailboats, kayaks, and other watercraft.

The lift requires two people to operate, and members of the harbor department have already been trained to use it. The sailor wears a life vest before being fitted into a sling attached to the lift. Then, they will be lifted from their wheelchair or apparatus and swung out slowly over the water, guided by one of the two people operating the lift before they are lowered down into their vessel.

The project was brought forward after several requests were made to include a publicly accessible lift in the harbor for disabled sailors.

“[There were] three separate requests from the city and constituents and a fourth request from OC Parks,” said City Harbormaster Paul Blank “…And we are off to the races, doing some design work, doing some investigation on what products exist and can be fitted to this facility.”

After extensive research, it was decided that a Reliant 450 lift from Invacare Corp. was the best option. Swift Slip Dock Builders, a company already contracted with the city, made modifications, including removing the lift from a mounted rolling fork and modifying the base by welding a cylindric attachment to the bottom, which fits into the modification made to the dock.

“It is normally attached to this rolling fork, and you can just roll it where you want to go,” said Blank. “But for use here on the docks, there was no way to adequately secure the wheels and prevent it from rolling or tipping, so we had the base of it modified for that cylinder. and then there is a receptacle that was built into the dock in a specific location.”

The dock was modified with a covered opening, like a large hole, where the base of the lift is secured to the dock’s structure. The hole is covered back up again until the lift is needed.

There were several reasons to modify the equipment to make the lift more stationary and portable.

“An important component of this is we didn’t want something permanently mounted on the docks,” said Blank. “For several reasons, but the top two…There is heavy demand for all the real estate down on the docks, and we didn’t want to give up 16 square feet of it for a purpose that might only lightly be used. And secondly, you can see that the device itself can be considered an attractive nuisance, and when the facility is closed, we don’t necessarily close off access to the docks, and we really need to limit the city’s liability from people misusing it.”

Blank said that now the initial modifications have been made, if the lift needs to be used in additional spots on the dock it is an easy process to have other parts of the dock modified for use.

The lift is stored in the harbor department office and is available upon request; ideally, there should be a 24-hour notice before using the lift, but Blank is pretty confident that they can get it out within 30 minutes.

The lift is available for public use upon request from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. every day. To request use of the lift, visitors can call the harbor department at 949-270-8159 or email


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