Title:
Stairs assistance device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A stairs assistance device is provided for assisting persons attempting to ascend or descend a staircase. The device is configured to be mounted on an existing staircase handrail and includes, inter alia, a handgrip and a drive member for advancing the device upwardly or downwardly along the handrail.



Inventors:
Usherovich, Boris (Staten Island, NY, US)
Application Number:
11/281570
Publication Date:
11/02/2006
Filing Date:
11/17/2005
Primary Class:
International Classes:
E04F11/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
AMIRI, NAHID
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CARTER, DELUCA & FARRELL LLP (MELVILLE, NY, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A stairs assistance device comprising: a body defining a recess configured to slidably receive a handrail, the body supporting a grip portion and at least one drive member positioned to engage the handrail, and a motor operably connected to the drive member in relation to the handrail to effect movement of the body along the handrail.

2. A stairs assistance device according to claim 1, further including at least one guide member, wherein the at least one guide member is supported on the body at a position to retain the body on a handrail.

3. A stairs assistance device according to claim 2, wherein the at least one guide member includes first and second guide members.

4. A stairs assistance device according to claim 3, wherein each of the guide members includes a roller positioned to engage a handrail.

5. A stairs assistance device according to claim 1, wherein the at least one drive member includes a drive roller positioned to engage a handrail.

6. A stairs assistance device according to claim 1, wherein the motor is a reversible motor.

7. A stairs assistance device according to claim 6, wherein the motor is battery powered and the battery is supported by the body.

8. A stairs assistance device according to claim 7, wherein the battery is rechargeable.

9. A stairs assistance device according to claim 6, further including at least one switch on the body positioned adjacent the grip portion for selectively actuating the motor in one of a forward and reverse direction.

10. A stairs assistance device according to claim 9, wherein the at least one switch includes first and second switches.

11. A stairs assistance device according to claim 1, wherein the body includes a forward portion and a rear portion, the forward portion being pivotally secured to the rear portion.

12. A stairs assistance device according to claim 1, further including an anti-rollback device, the anti-rollback device being positioned to engage a handrail to prevent the device from accidentally rolling down the handrail.

13. A stairs assistance device according to claim 12, wherein the anti-rollback device includes a latch member including a slip resistant portion positioned to engage the handrail.

14. A stairs assistance device according to claim 13, further including a biasing member for urging the slip resistant portion into contact with the handrail.

15. A stairs assistance device according to claim 14, further including a solenoid operably connected to the latch member, the solenoid being actuable to move the slip-resistant portion of the latch member out of contact with the handrail.

16. A stairs assistance device according to claim 15, wherein the latch member is pivotally secured a body of the anti-rollback device.

17. A stairs assistance device according to claim 1, wherein the external surface of the drive member is formed of compressible material such that, upon engagement with the handrail a surface contact area between the hand rail and the at least one drive member is increased.

18. A stairs assistance device according to claim 17, wherein the at least one drive member includes a compressible ball.

Description:

BACKGROUND

1. Technical Field The present disclosure relates to a device for assisting disabled or elderly people ascend or descend a staircase. More specifically, the present disclosure relates to a device which can be fitted onto an existing handrail of a staircase to assist a person ascending or descending the staircase.

2. Background

The use of elevators or lifts to transport the elderly or disabled up or down a staircase are well known. Such lifts or elevators typically include a platform upon which a person, with or without a wheelchair, is supported. Such lifts or elevators are expensive, require professional installation and may be obtrusive within ones home. Although elevators and/or lifts are necessary for those incapable of walking or supporting their own weight, such a complex heavy duty system may not be required for those merely needing some degree of assistance in traversing a staircase.

Accordingly, for those merely requiring some assistance in traversing a staircase, a low cost, easily installable, less obtrusive device for assisting a person in traversing a staircase would be desireable.

SUMMARY

A stairs assistance device is disclosed which includes a body defining a handgrip and a recess dimensioned and configured to slidably receive a staircase handrail. The body supports at least one drive member, which may be in the form of a drive roller, and a motor for driving the drive member. In one embodiment, the device includes at least one guide member which is positioned to guide the device along the handrail and retain the device on the handrail. One or more guide members and/or drive members may be provided, e.g., two or three. Both the at least one drive member and the at least one guide member are positioned to engage the handrail to facilitate movement of the device along the handrail.

In one embodiment, the motor is reversible and the device includes at least one switch for selectively operating the motor in a forward or rearward direction to effect movement of the device either up a handrail or down a handrail. Preferably, the device includes a pair of switches which are positioned adjacent the handgrip.

In one embodiment, the body includes a rear body portion and a forward body portion which are pivotally connected. The pivotal connection facilitates movement of the device along non-linear handrails.

In one embodiment, the motor is battery powered. The batteries can be supported on the device and can be rechargeable. A battery charger can be supported at a top and/or bottom of the handrail to facilitate automatic recharging of the battery when the device is at the top and/or bottom of the handrail.

In another embodiment, the device includes a two way control button for operating the motor in the forward and reverse directions. The handgrip is configured for left hand and right hand use.

In yet another embodiment, the device includes an anti-rollback device for preventing accidental movement of the device down a handrail.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

Various embodiments of the presently disclosed stairs assistance device are disclosed herein with reference to the drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 is a side view of one embodiment of the presently disclosed stairs assistance device positioned on a handrail;

FIG. 2 is a transverse cross-sectional view through a portion of the body of the stairs assistance device shown in FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is a side view of another embodiment of the presently disclosed stairs assistance device positioned on a handrail;

FIG. 4 is a transverse cross-sectional view through a portion of the body of the stairs assistance device shown in FIG. 3;

FIG. 5 is a schematic view of the stairs assistance device and handrail with a battery charger positioned at one end of the handrail;

FIG. 6 is a side perspective view of another embodiment of the presently disclosed stairs assistance device positioned on a handrail;

FIG. 7 is a transverse schematic view of the stairs assistance device shown in FIG. 6;

FIG. 8 is a side view of yet another embodiment of the presently disclosed stairs assistance device positioned on a handrail shown during left hand operation;

FIG. 9 is a side view of the stairs assistance device shown in FIG. 8 during right hand operation; and

FIG. 10 is a schematic drawing of an anti-rollback device usable with any of the presently disclosed stairs assistance devices.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

Embodiments of the presently disclosed staircase assistance device will now be described in detail with reference to the drawings in which like numerals designate identical or corresponding elements in each of the several views.

FIG. 1 illustrates a first embodiment of the presently disclosed stairs assistance device shown generally as 10. Stairs assistance device 10 includes a handgrip assembly 12 adapted to be mounted on an existing handrail 14 of a staircase (not shown). Handgrip assembly 12 includes a body 16 having a grip portion 18, at least one drive member or roller 20, and one or more guide members or rollers 22. A battery powered motor assembly 24 is provided to drive driven roller 20.

Referring also to FIG. 2, in one embodiment, body 16 is configured to be mounted on a handrail 14 having an oval or circular cross-section. Body 16 includes forward and rear portions 16a and 16b having substantially U-shaped configurations which are interconnected by grip portion 18. A recess 23 (FIG. 2) defined by forward and rear U-shaped portions 16a and 16b is dimensioned to receive handrail 14. At least one of forward and rear portions 16a and 16b supports driven roller 20 in a position to engage a top surface of handrail 14. In one preferred embodiment, a driven roller 20 is supported on both forward and rear portions 16a and 16b.

Guide rollers 22 are positioned to extend across a bottom of recess 22 of forward and rear portions 16a and 16b and engage a bottom surface of handrail 14. Guide rollers 22 prevent stairs assistance device 10 from becoming disengaged from handrail 14. Stops (not shown) may be provided on each end of handrail 14 to prevent device 10 from rolling off the ends of handrail 14.

Motor assembly 24 is a battery driven reversible motor which is preferably driven by a rechargeable battery. A pair of switches 30a and 30b are mounted on body 16 to facilitate operation of device 10 in two directions, i.e., up the staircase and down the staircase. Switch 30a, which is preferably labeled “UP” is positioned adjacent one end of grip portion 18 and is actuable by pressing or sliding the switch to operate driven roller 20 to advance device 10 up handrail 14. Switch 30b is positioned on an opposite side of grip portion 18 to operate driven roller 20 to move device 10 down handrail 14. In one embodiment, switches 30a and 30b are of the type which must be continually depressed to operate the driven roller. The exact location of switches 30a and 30b and the particular configuration of the body of device 10 may be selectively altered to provide a more ergonomic device which can be operated easily with a single hand and mounted to any handrail configuration.

FIGS. 3-5 illustrate a second embodiment of the presently disclosed stairs assistance device shown generally as 100. Stairs assistance device 100 is similar to stairs assistance device 10 in that it includes a body 116 having a grip portion 118, at least one driven roller 120, at least one guide roller 122 and a battery powered motor assembly 124. Body 116 includes forward and rear portions 116a and 116b which are pivotally secured together about a pivot member 117. Pivot member 117 allows device 100 to move around bends or curves in handrail 114. Body 116 defines a U-shaped recess 122 dimensioned and configured to receive a handrail 114. As illustrated, driven roller(s) 120 and guide roller(s) 122 are positioned to engage a handrail 114 having an irregular shape. Preferably, driven roller 120 is positioned to engage a top surface of handrail 114 and guide rollers 122 are positioned within concavities 115 formed in the sidewalls of handrail 114. Guide rollers 122 function to guide stairs assistance device 110 along handrail 114 and to prevent disengagement of stairs assistance device 110 from handrail 114. Alternately, the positions of guide rollers 122 and driven roller(s) 120 can be reversed or changed without departing from the scope of the invention.

As illustrated in FIG. 5, a battery charger 150 may be provided on one or both ends of handrail 114. Stairs assistance device 110 includes contacts 152 which engage battery charger 150 whenever stairs assistance device 110 is positioned at either or both ends of handrail 114. Stair assistance device 110 also includes switches 130a and 130b for operating motor assembly 124 and driven roller 120 to move stairs assistance device 100 either up a staircase or down a staircase.

FIG. 6 illustrates another embodiment of the presently disclosed stairs assistance device shown generally as 200. Stairs assistance device 200 is similar to devices 10 and 100 but also includes a grip portion 218 which can be grasped by both hands of a person using stairs assistance device 200. It is noted that grip portion 218 (or grip portions 18 and 118) may include non-slip or textured surfaces 260 to prevent a user's hand from slipping off the grip portion.

FIGS. 7-9 illustrate yet another embodiment of the presently disclosed stairs assistance device shown generally as 300. Stairs assistance device 300 is mounted on a handrail 314 which is supported by a baluster 315. Stairs assistance device 300 includes a housing 312 having a cover 316 and a handle 318. A two way control button 330 is provided adjacent handle 318 and is actuable to operate a motor 324.

Motor 324 drives stairs assistance device 300 via a transmission 332 and a friction pulley or drive member 334. In one embodiment, friction pulley or drive member 334 is formed from a soft and/or flexible material, e.g., rubber, polyethylene, or porous or spongy material, etc., which may be solid or hollow. A concave stabilizer guide member 336 is provided to guide assistance device 300 along rail 314. An adjuster device 340 supports stabilizer member 336 and urges stabilizer member into rail 314. By doing so, drive member 334 is pulled into frictional engagement with rail 314. As shown, this may cause partial deformation of drive member 334. This deformation increases the contact area of drive member 334 with handrail 314. Although not shown, two or more stabilizer members 336 and drive members 334 may be provided to assure good reliable contact between handrail 314 and stairs assistance device 300. Further, an adjustable side support roller 344 may be provided to increase the stability of device 300.

Stairs assistance device 300 may also include a rechargeable battery 350. Battery 350 may be removable to facilitate recharging. Alternately, as discussed above with respect to device 100, a battery charger may be provided on each end of rail 314.

As illustrated in FIGS. 8 and 9, control button 330 is ergonomically positioned adjacent a top portion of handle 318 to facilitate operation of button 330 by the thumb 360 of an operator 370. Actuation of button 330 from left to right, as illustrated in FIG. 8, causes stairs assistance device 300 to move to the right along rail 314. Actuation of button 330 from right to left, as illustrated in FIG. 9, causes stairs assistance device 300 to move to the left along rail 314. In one embodiment, control button 330 will only operate motor 324 only when control button 330 is held in one of its two actuated positions. In another embodiment, the speed of the motor, and, thus, the speed of device 300 along rail 314, can be controlled by varying the pressure applied to control button 330, i.e., increased actuation pressure increases the speed of device 300 along rail 314.

FIG. 10 illustrates a schematic drawing of an anti-rollback device 400 which can be incorporated into any of the presently disclosed stairs assistance devices to prevent the stairs assistance devices from accidentally rolling down a handrail (“accidental rollback”). Accidental rollback may occur as a result of an uneven or worn handrail or a worn roller. Anti-rollback device 400 includes a latch module 403, a latch member 401 and a solenoid 406. A first end 401a of latch 401 is pivotally supported to a body of latch module 403 about a pivot member 404. A second end 401b of latch member 401 includes a slip resistant pad 402 positioned to engage a surface of handrail 14. Pad 402 may be formed of rubber or the like and is secured to latch member 401 using any known fastening technique, e.g., molding, adhesives, screws, etc. Alternately, latch member 401 can be formed with an integral slip resistant surface. A biasing member, e.g., spring 405 is positioned between an inner wall of module 403 and latch member 401 in tension to urge latch member 401 to a position in which pad 402 engages handrail 14. A solenoid 406 or the like is attached to latch member 401 directly or via a link 410 and is actuable to urge latch member 401 to a position in which pad 402 is moved off of handrail 14.

In use, when a user is moving up a staircase, latch member 401 is maintained in sliding contact with an exterior surface of handrail 14. If for any reason stairs assistance device 10 begins to slide downwardly along handrail 14 during upward operation of stairs assistance device 10, pad 402 wedges against handrail 14 to prevent downward movement of stairs assistance device 10 along handrail 14.

When stairs assistance device 10 is operated to move down a staircase handrail 14, solenoid 406 is actuated to disengage pad 402 from handrail 14 to allow device 10 to move down the handrail. In one embodiment, solenoid 406 is powered in response to operation of switch 30b which actuates motor assembly 24 for driving driven roller 20 (See FIGS. 1 and 2). As such, when switch 30b is released, whether accidentally or intentionally, solenoid 406 is de-energized and releases latch member 401. When latch member 401 is released by solenoid 406, spring 405 pivots latch member 401 to move pad 402 into engagement with handrail 14 to prevent further downward movement of device 10 along handrail 14.

In one embodiment, solenoid 406 is connected in parallel with motor assembly 24. A diode 407 is provided to allow energizing of solenoid 406 only when device 10 is operated to move down a handrail.

Anti-rollback device 400 can be formed independently of the presently disclosed stairs assistance devices and secured to a side, front or rear thereof using known securement techniques. Alternately, anti-rollback device 400 can be integrally formed with any one or all of the presently disclosed stairs assistance devices.

It will be understood that various modifications may be made to the embodiments disclosed herein. For example, the body of the stairs assistance device may be reconfigured to engage any handrail configuration. Also, although not disclosed herein, gearing or a gear arrangement will have to be provided to connect the motor assembly to the driven roller or rollers. Many different gear arrangements suitable for use in this device will be obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art. Further, the materials used to form this device may be selected from plastics, metals or any other materials meeting the requisite strength requirements. Therefore, the above description should not be construed as limiting, but merely as exemplifications of embodiments. Those skilled in the art will envision other modifications within the scope and spirit of the claims appended hereto.