Title:
Folding Armrest Tray for Wheelchairs
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A table assembly mounted on a wheelchair using a friction hinge. A housing containing the table is mounted along the side of the chair arm. The table assembly has a table surface moveable between two in-use positions, the first position extends across the front of the chair and the other extends laterally to the side of the chair. The table surface may be stowed in the housing alongside the chair, inside the brake and the drive wheel or beneath the arm. The assembly is releasably connected to the chair so it is readily removed and replaced.



Inventors:
Sundarrao, Stephen (Tampa, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/871454
Publication Date:
10/16/2008
Filing Date:
10/12/2007
Assignee:
UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA (Tampa, FL, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
108/116
International Classes:
A47B37/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20090314187Portable Work TableDecember, 2009Miller
20070039523Jigsaw puzzle tableFebruary, 2007Helzer et al.
20040011259Space saving, pivotal, transportable, work table/bench and supportsJanuary, 2004Meadows
20070107639Pallet having corrugated components and modular method of making sameMay, 2007Dixon
20010011517Formed bodyAugust, 2001Brakemann
20070204769Pallet And Method For Manufacturing The SameSeptember, 2007Wong et al.
20050150433Foldable table for notebook computerJuly, 2005Lo
20070056482Foldable table with waste receptaclesMarch, 2007Robinson et al.
20030177961Foldable shipping shelfSeptember, 2003Wang
20080148522Glide Device and Article of Furniture Incorporating the SameJune, 2008Beshore
20020074304Storage unitsJune, 2002Hardy



Primary Examiner:
AYRES, TIMOTHY MICHAEL
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Smith & Hopen (private clients) (Oldsmar, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An articulating mechanism for use with a portable table, laptop or communication device comprising: an assembly anchor; a rotating support, pivotally connected to the assembly anchor between a first position and a second position; a base plate pivotally connected to the rotating support, the base plate adapted to pivot between a first position and second position; a table support pivotally connected to the base plate, the table support adapted to pivot between a first position and a second position; and a table connected to the table support.

2. The table of claim 1, further comprising: a housing adapted to encompass the table when it is in a stowed position.

3. The table of claim 2, wherein the housing is adapted to be affixed to the side of a wheelchair.

4. The table of claim 1 wherein the table is releasably connected to the table support.

5. The table of claim 1 wherein the table is slidingly connected to the table support and wherein the table is moveable between a first position and a second position.

6. The table of claim 1, wherein the table is adapted to incline.

7. The table of claim 1, wherein the table support is pivotally connected to the base plate by a friction hinge.

8. The table of claim 1, wherein the rotating support is telescopingly connected to the assembly anchor.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority to currently pending U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/829,220, entitled “Folding Armrest Tray for Wheelchairs”, filed on Oct. 12, 2006, the contents of which are herein incorporated by reference.

FIELD OF INVENTION/BACKGROUND

This invention relates to devices for assisting people confined to wheelchairs and the like.

Individuals with disabilities using power wheelchairs often have limited reach and are unable to use traditional desks and tables. In some environments such as restaurants and the workplace, these individuals use trays attached to their wheelchair for convenience and accessibility. While there are many wheelchair trays on the market, none store out of the way when not in use without increasing the width/dimensions of the wheelchair, which interfere with accessibility. Most designs are rigid, one-piece designs that are bulky and do not fit the user. The problem is that these trays are fixed and require assistance to attach and detach, and further that they must be stored elsewhere on the wheelchair when not in use.

Therefore, there is a need for a lightweight tray that is simple to use and is integrated into the ergonomic armrest design of commercially available wheelchairs.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION

The integrated wheelchair-armrest provides a mechanism to store a portable table surface, computer or communication device ideal for use with a wheelchair. The articulating table is disposed within a housing which is designed to accommodate most commercially available wheelchairs. In a first embodiment, the articulating table includes a rotating support, a base plate pivotally connected to the rotating support, the base plate adapted to pivot between a first position and second position. A table support is pivotally connected to the base plate, the table support is adapted to pivot between a first position and a second position. A table is connected to the table support.

In a second embodiment, a housing is adapted to encompass the table when it is in a stowed position. The housing is further adapted to be affixed to the side of most commercially available wheelchairs, thereby providing substantially universal use of the device.

In yet another embodiment, the table is releasably connected to the table support. Moreover, the table is slidingly connected to the table support and is moveable between a first position and a second position. The table of a preferred embodiment is adapted to incline and is height adjustable.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

For a fuller understanding of the invention, reference should be made to the following detailed description, taken in connection with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a side view of the invention in the stowed position, wherein the base plate is in the first position.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the invention in the transition position wherein the base plate is in the second position and the table support is in the first position.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the invention in the deployed position wherein the table support is in the second position and the table and rotating support are in their respective first positions.

FIG. 4 is a perspective view of the invention wherein the table is in the second position.

FIG. 5 is a perspective view of the invention wherein the rotating support is in the second position.

FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an alternate embodiment wherein the table is hingidly connected to the table support and the rotating support is telescopically connected to the housing.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

In the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments, reference is made to the accompanying drawings, which form a part hereof, and within which are shown by way of illustration specific embodiments by which the invention may be practiced. It is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and structural changes may be made without departing from the scope of the invention.

In a first embodiment, the invention includes an articulating table for use with a wheelchair. Referring now to FIG. 1, which represents a preferred embodiment, wherein table 20 is shown in the stored position and is encompassed by housing 30 (housing 30 is shown with the cover removed). In the embodiment of FIG. 1, anchor 40 is attached to the interior of housing 30. Anchor 40, however, can also be attached to numerous other structures without departing from the scope of the invention. For example, anchor 40 can be affixed directly to the wheelchair such as in embodiments where housing 30 is not used.

Rotating support 50 is pivotally connected to anchor 40 such that rotating support 40 pivots along a central axis between a first position (shown in FIGS. 1-4) and a second position (See FIG. 5). Base plate 60 is pivotally connected to rotating support 50 and is adapted to rotate between a first position (FIG. 1) and second position (FIGS. 2-6) along an axis that is substantially perpendicular to the axis of rotation of rotating support 50.

Table support 70 is hingidly connected to base plate 60. In a preferred embodiment, table support 70 is connected to base plate 60 by a friction hinge. As used herein, a friction hinge is a hinge which exerts torque between two parts on a common axis. Alternatively, the use of other hinges is within the scope of the invention. For example, table support 70 can be connected to base plate 60 by a detent hinge; a device which allows repeatable “soft stops” in one or more positions between two parts on a common axis. In this manner, table support 70 rotates between a first position (FIGS. 1 and 2) and a second position (FIGS. 3-6).

Table 20 is slidingly connected to table support 70 in a preferred embodiment. This sliding engagement allows table 20 to move between a first position (FIG. 3) and a second position (FIG. 4). FIG. 5 illustrates an alternative position of table 20 wherein the assembly is rotated around rotating support 50 such that rotating support is in its second position. This places table 20 to side of the wheelchair.

In a preferred embodiment, shown in FIG. 6, table 20 is also hingidly connected to table support 70. This permits the angle of table 20 to be adjusted. While the use of a friction hinge is preferred, any type of hinge can be used as will be appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art. The preferred embodiment of FIG. 6 also shows a modified rotating support 50 telescopically connected to anchor 40. This arrangement allows the height of the table to be adjusted. It also preferable to provide a quick-release connection between table 20 and table support 70 to allow table 20 to be removed and replace with either a new table or other device (such as a modified laptop computer).

As it will be appreciated, table 20 provides the majority of the invention's functionality. Table 20 is preferably formed by injection molding a compound of polypropylene. Polypropylene is preferable because it is durable, inexpensive, and can be extruded from recycled materials and be transparent to allow visibility for wheelchair mobility. All the features are included in the single molded piece so that all manufacturing complexity is contained within the one time purchase of the die. The tray, in one embodiment, is 18×12×1 inches in size, making it large enough to hold a meal, support a laptop computer, or provide space for writing or drawing. All corners are rounded to prevent any sharp edges from injuring the user.

Table 20 can also contain convenient features, such as cup holders and the like. Additionally, table 20 is molded with a 0.25 inch lip around the perimeter so that any liquids that are inadvertently spilled onto the surface will be contained within the perimeter of the tray rather than running off onto the vehicle or user. This symmetry provides support for flat objects placed on the tray (such as a laptop computer). In addition, power outlets provide power supply to the user from the existing wheelchair battery.

The main working area of the tray is a flat surface that can be used for holding food, for writing or drawing, or for support of a laptop computer. The surface is slightly tilted toward the front of the tray so that any writing utensils placed on the table will roll to the front. At the very front of the table is a groove to be used for the storage of pens or pencils. The center of the groove contains a clip to tightly secure a standard sized pen or pencil. The utensil simply needs to be snapped into the clip for storage. Once snapped into place, the utensil is snugly secured in place.

It will be seen that the advantages set forth above, and those made apparent from the foregoing description, are efficiently attained and since certain changes may be made in the above construction without departing from the scope of the invention, it is intended that all matters contained in the foregoing description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

It is also to be understood that the following claims are intended to cover all of the generic and specific features of the invention herein described, and all statements of the scope of the invention which, as a matter of language, might be said to fall there between. Now that the invention has been described,