Title:
Wheelchair accessible cabinet apparatus
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system and method for a moveable cabinet apparatus. The cabinet apparatus includes a vertical bin having a shelving arrangement. The shelving arrangement is accessible from a first side of the vertical bin, and the vertical bin has an upper position and a lower position. The upper position is vertically offset from the lower position. The method involves the vertical bin movement being controlled by activating a motor to move the vertical bin between the upper position and the lower position. Other embodiments are also disclosed.



Inventors:
Van Meter, Mark (Arlington, TX, US)
Application Number:
12/584380
Publication Date:
03/11/2010
Filing Date:
09/04/2009
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A47B96/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:



Primary Examiner:
ROERSMA, ANDREW MARK
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Russell C. Scott (Austin, TX, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A moveable cabinet apparatus comprising: a vertical bin including a shelving arrangement accessible from a first side of the vertical bin, the vertical bin having an upper position and a lower position, the upper position being vertically offset from the lower position; a suspension mechanism mechanically coupling the vertical bin to a recessed location of a vertical wall, the suspension mechanism having two arms, each arm having a first end mechanically coupled to an exterior of the vertical bin and a second end mechanically coupled to a motor disposed within the recessed location of the vertical wall, wherein the bin is moveable between the upper position and the lower position while the shelving arrangement remains accessible from the first side of the vertical bin, the motor of the suspension mechanism being configured to move at least a chain that is mechanically coupled between the motor and the second end of each arm; and the suspension mechanism including a thread and bolt arrangement that is configured to prevent undesirable bin movement as well as to create a gap between the vertical bin and the vertical wall when the vertical bin is moved into the lower position through chain movement by the motor; wherein, the vertical bin movement is controlled by activating the motor to move the vertical bin between the upper position and the lower position by means of the chain.

2. The moveable cabinet apparatus of claim 1 wherein the suspension mechanism includes gear teeth mechanically coupled to the second end of the arms of the suspension mechanism.

3. The moveable cabinet apparatus of claim 2 wherein the gear teeth are engaged with a gear rack positioned within the recessed location of the vertical wall.

4. The moveable cabinet apparatus of claim 1 wherein the suspension mechanism includes a spring mounted in the suspension mechanism to provide tension with the arms as they are used to support weight of the vertical bin.

5. The moveable cabinet apparatus of claim 4 wherein each arm includes a sliding carriage that interacts with the spring to reduce tension of the spring as the vertical bin moves from the upper position to the lower position.

6. The moveable cabinet apparatus of claim 5 wherein a cable is mechanically coupled between the spring and the sliding carriage of each of the arms, wherein the vertical bin is stabilized regardless of a position of the vertical bin.

7. A method of moving a cabinet apparatus between an upper position and a lower position, the method comprising: activating a motor of a suspension mechanism, the suspension mechanism supporting a vertical bin at a recessed location of a vertical wall, the suspension mechanism having two arms, each arm having a first end mechanically coupled to an exterior of the vertical bin and a second end mechanically coupled to a motor disposed within the recessed location of the vertical wall, wherein the vertical bin is moveable by the motor between the upper position and the lower position while a shelving arrangement of the vertical bin remains accessible from a first side of the vertical bin, the motor of the suspension mechanism being configured to move at least a chain that is mechanically coupled between the motor and the second end of each arm; and maintaining substantially constant chain tension between the vertical bin and the arms of the suspension mechanism as the vertical bin moves from the upper position to the lower position, the substantially constant chain tension being created by a thread and bolt arrangement that is configured to prevent undesirable bin movement as well as to create a gap between the vertical bin and the vertical wall when the vertical bin is moved into the lower position through chain movement by the motor.

8. The method of claim 7 wherein the suspension mechanism includes gear teeth mechanically coupled to the second end of the arms of the suspension mechanism.

9. The method of claim 8 further comprising engaging the gear teeth with a gear rack positioned within the recessed location of the vertical wall.

10. A moveable cabinet apparatus comprising: a vertical bin including a shelving arrangement accessible from a first side of the vertical bin, the vertical bin having an upper position and a lower position, the upper position being vertically offset from the lower position; a suspension mechanism mechanically coupling the vertical bin to a recessed location of a vertical wall, the suspension mechanism having two arms, each arm having a first end mechanically coupled to an exterior of the vertical bin and a second end mechanically coupled to a motor disposed within the recessed location of the vertical wall, wherein the bin is moveable between the upper position and the lower position while the shelving arrangement remains accessible from the first side of the vertical bin, the motor of the suspension mechanism being configured to move at least a chain that is mechanically coupled between the motor and the second end of each arm; the suspension mechanism including a thread and bolt arrangement that is configured to prevent undesirable bin movement as well as to create a gap between the vertical bin and the vertical wall when the vertical bin is moved into the lower position through chain movement by the motor; the suspension mechanism also including gear teeth mechanically coupled to the second end of the arms of the suspension mechanism, the gear teeth being engaged with a gear rack positioned within the recessed location of the vertical wall; the suspension mechanism further including a spring mounted in the suspension mechanism to provide tension with the arms as they are used to support weight of the vertical bin, each arm including a sliding carriage that interacts with the spring to reduce tension of the spring as the vertical bin moves from the upper position to the lower position; a cable mechanically coupled between the spring and the sliding carriage of each of the arms, wherein the vertical bin is stabilized regardless of a position of the vertical bin; and wherein, the vertical bin movement is controlled by activating the motor to move the vertical bin between the upper position and the lower position by means of the chain.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This Application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 61/191,288, filed Sep. 8, 2008, entitled “Your level cabinet”, which is hereby incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention relates in general to a system and method for accessing cabinets in a home.

In particular, the present invention relates to a handicap accessible cabinet apparatus.

2. Description of the Related Art

Over the years, society has become more sensitive to the needs of mobility impaired individuals. Because of this sensitivity, efforts have been made to meet some of these needs. For example, handicap accessible parking is commonly provided for those individuals suffering from an inability to walk long distances. In addition, homes are being specially designed for people that have special needs. For example, homes are being designed with accommodations such as wheelchair space in a bathroom or kitchen.

Unfortunately, people may have special needs that are not always recognized by the other people that are trying to help. Thus, in spite of good intentions, some of the special needs of people in need are not being met by those other people that are trying to meet such needs. Further, mechanisms that have been invented that could apparently serve needs of a mobility impaired person are often inadequate to assist with subtle special needs of some mobility impaired people. Consequently, the subtle special needs of mobility impaired people are apparently being served by the currently available mechanisms.

For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,026,129 entitled “Merchandise Display Assembly” (Merl) discloses an assembly that may be moved between an upper and a lower position and may be incorrectly assumed to perform the same function of the present invention. However, the assembly fails to address the special needs of certain mobility impaired people, is not built with the same structure as the present invention, and does not perform the same function as the present invention. However, upon viewing the Merl assembly, those of ordinary skill in the art would assume that the Merl assembly would meet the needs of such mobility impaired people.

As a result, as will become apparent from the following detailed description of the drawings, the needs are not being met by inventions such as Merl, and inventors are not attempting to improve the existing technology because it is assumed that the needs are already being met.

From the foregoing discussion, what is unapparently needed, therefore, is an improved system and method for a wheelchair accessible cabinet. Recent advancements/alternatives in handicap accessible homes do not address many of the subtle needs of mobility impaired people. In fact, the recent advancements even teach away from addressing these subtle needs because it appears that the needs have already been met. Apparently, the subtler special needs of some mobility impaired people have been completely and intentionally ignored in the prior art.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention may be better understood, and its numerous objects, features, and advantages made apparent to those skilled in the art by referencing the accompanying drawings.

FIGS. 1A-1D are profile view diagrams showing a general embodiment of a wheelchair accessible cabinet constructed according to principles of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a profile view diagram showing a more detailed general embodiment of the wheelchair accessible cabinet of FIG. 1C;

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram illustrative of a general method embodiment of a wheelchair accessible cabinet constructed according to principles of the present invention; and

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram illustrating further details of the general method embodiment of FIG. 3.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF TEE DRAWINGS

The following is intended to provide a detailed description of examples of the invention and should not be taken to be limiting of the invention itself. Rather, any number of variations may fall within the scope of the invention, which is defined in the claims following the description.

Upon viewing the present disclosure, one of ordinary skill in the art will appreciate that variations to the disclosed system and method could be contemplated.

FIGS. 1A-1D are profile view diagrams showing a general embodiment of a wheelchair accessible cabinet constructed according to principles of the present invention. As illustrated in FIG. 1A, a wall 102 is depicted in profile. Of course, wall 102 could be a kitchen wall, a bedroom wall, a bathroom wall, or other type of wall that may be found within a home. In addition, the home could be either commercial or residential property. Protruding from wall 102 is a partially concealed cabinet.

FIG. 1B depicts wall 102, a cabinet 104, and an arm 106. Cabinet 104 and arm 106 are visible to show the first stage of movement of cabinet 104 and arm 106 as cabinet 104 begins movement from an original recessed location within wall 102 and into a lower position. The original location of cabinet 104 within the recessed location of wall 102 may also be known as the upper position of cabinet 104. Of course, cabinet 104 may vary in size and location depending upon the location of the recessed location within wall 102.

As illustrated in a second movement stage of cabinet 104, FIG. 1C depicts cabinet 104 and arm 106 as cabinet 104 moves further from its original upper position within the recessed location of wall 102. Cabinet 104 is illustrated moving toward its lower position outside of the recessed location of wall 102. As illustrated, arm 106 extends out of the recessed location to allow a gap to be opened between wall 102 and cabinet 104 as well as to allow cabinet 104 to be lowered.

FIG. 1D depicts cabinet 104 and arm 106 as cabinet 104 completes the path of its movement from its upper position into its lower position. In its lower position, the gap is completely opened between wall 102 and cabinet 104. Further, arm 106 is fully extended and completely lowered to allow cabinet 104 to enter its lower position.

As stated, the foregoing description is a description of a general embodiment of a wheelchair accessible cabinet constructed according to principles of the present invention, and thus contains, by necessity, simplifications, generalizations, and omissions of detail. Consequently, upon viewing the present disclosure, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the description is illustrative only and is not intended to be in any way limiting. Other aspects, inventive features, and advantages of the present invention, as defined solely by the claims, will become apparent in the remainder of the non-limiting detailed description which follows.

In its narrowest interpretation, the wheelchair accessible cabinet is intended to assist only wheelchair bound people with accessing cabinets that would otherwise be inaccessible to the person in the wheelchair. However, as will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art upon viewing the present disclosure, the disclosed movable cabinet may be utilized by someone other than a person in a wheelchair.

FIG. 2 is a profile view diagram showing a more detailed general embodiment of the wheelchair accessible cabinet of FIG. 1C. As illustrated in FIG. 2, wall 102 is depicted in a ghost line profile to illustrate with the recessed location of wall 102 a motor 202 and a chain 204 that interact with arm 106. Of course, as will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art and viewing the present disclosure, wall 102 could include additional hardware to accomplish principles of the present invention.

For example, along with motor 202 and chain 204, springs may be located under arm 106. These springs may be compressed as a carriage slides outward on arm 106. The springs may be used to assist motor 202 when trying to raise cabinet 104 back to the upper position after having come down into the lower position. The springs would be mounted on a screw that screws into a block that is mounted on the back of a mounting plate. In addition, there may be a bolt on the front side of the screw that is adjustable so you can adjust it depending on the load that you want cabinet 104 to carry. In one embodiment, the spring could be a common die spring.

In addition, gear teeth may be coupled to arm 106 as it engages into a gear rack (located on the bottom of a mounting plate). As the carriage moves outward, arm 106 is forced to rotate cabinet 104 to a lower position suited for a person that may be in a wheelchair. Still further, a forward micro switch may enable activating or shutting off motor 202 when cabinet 104 is in either its full up or down position. In another embodiment, there may be another switch located further back that shuts the motor off when cabinet 104 is in its full up position.

In another embodiment, chain 204 may be mounted to a gear arm that keeps tension on chain 204 for cabinet stability.

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram illustrative of a general method embodiment of a wheelchair accessible cabinet constructed according to principles of the present invention. As illustrated, the method of FIG. 3 begins at start circle 300. The method includes activating a motor of a suspension mechanism 302. Once activated, as indicated in process block 304 the motor lowers a vertical bin or cabinet by means of the suspension mechanism. The vertical bin is lowered from a recessed location of a vertical wall which at least partially supports the vertical bin.

The suspension mechanism includes two arms. Each arm has a first end mechanically coupled to an exterior of the vertical bin and a second end mechanically coupled to a motor disposed within the recessed location of the vertical wall.

The vertical bin is moveable between the recessed location (an upper position) and a lower position while a shelving arrangement of the vertical bin remains accessible from a first side of the vertical bin. A motor of the suspension mechanism is configured to move a chain that is mechanically coupled between the motor and the second end of each arm.

A substantially constant chain tension is maintained between the vertical bin and the arms of the suspension mechanism as the vertical bin moves from the upper position to the lower position. The substantially constant chain tension is created by a thread and bolt arrangement that is configured to prevent undesirable bin movement as well as to create a gap between the vertical bin and the vertical wall when the vertical bin is moved into the lower position through chain movement by the motor.

As indicated by the “no” branch of diamond 320, if the lowering of the cabinet/vertical bin is not successful, the cabinet is locked into position at block 322. The locking may occur before the cabinet moves at all, or as the cabinet is on the path into the lower position. On the other hand, as indicated by the “yes” branch of diamond 320, if the lowering of the cabinet/vertical bin is successful, the cabinet may be accessed at block 324. Access of the cabinet continues until completed.

As indicated by the “no” branch of diamond 330, if access to the cabinet is not complete, further access to the cabinet is indicated at block 324. On the other hand, if access is complete as indicated by “yes” branch of diamond 330, the suspension mechanism is activated at block 350 and the cabinet is raised at block 354.

Similar to lowering the cabinet, as indicated by “no” branch of diamond 360, if the raising of the cabinet/vertical bin is not successful, the cabinet is locked into position at block 322. The locking may occur before the cabinet moves at all, or on the path into the upper position. On the other hand, as indicated by “yes” branch of diamond 360, if the raising of the cabinet/vertical bin is successful, the flow diagram ends at end circle 395.

FIG. 4 is a flow diagram illustrating further details of the general method embodiment of FIG. 3. Specifically, movement of the cabinet (whether upwardly or downwardly) begins at circle 400. Block 410 indicates that adjustment of the suspension mechanism begins. As indicated by “yes” branch of diamond 420, if the movement of the cabinet/vertical bin is not successful, an error report is generated and reported at return circle 495. On the other hand, if the movement of the cabinet/vertical bin is successful, no error report is generated and, as indicated by as indicated by “no” branch of diamond 430, if cabinet movement has completed or entered a secure position, movement ceases at return circle 495. On the other hand, if cabinet movement has not completed and no error has occurred, movement continues as indicated by looping back to movement circle 400.

The included functional descriptive material is information that imparts functionality to a machine. This functional descriptive material includes, but is not limited to, mechanical gearing of an apparatus such as the wheelchair accessible apparatus of FIG. 2.

While particular embodiments of the present invention have been shown and described, based upon the teachings herein, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that changes and modifications may be made without departing from the principles of this invention and its broader aspects. Therefore, the appended claims are to encompass within their scope all such changes and modifications as are within the true spirit and scope of this invention. Furthermore, it is to be understood that the invention is defined by the appended claims. It will be understood by those with skill in the art that if a specific number of an introduced claim element is intended, such intent will be explicitly recited in the claim, and in the absence of such recitation no such limitation is present. For non-limiting example, as an aid to understanding, the following appended claims contain usage of the introductory phrases “at least one” and “one or more” to introduce claim elements. However, the use of such phrases should not be construed to imply that the introduction of a claim element by the indefinite articles “a” or “an” limits any particular claim containing such introduced claim element to inventions containing only one such element, even when the same claim includes the introductory phrases “one or more” or “at least one” and indefinite articles such as “a” or “an”; the same holds true for the use in the claims of definite articles.