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Publication numberUS20020179131 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/159,850
Publication dateDec 5, 2002
Filing dateMay 31, 2002
Priority dateJun 1, 2001
Publication number10159850, 159850, US 2002/0179131 A1, US 2002/179131 A1, US 20020179131 A1, US 20020179131A1, US 2002179131 A1, US 2002179131A1, US-A1-20020179131, US-A1-2002179131, US2002/0179131A1, US2002/179131A1, US20020179131 A1, US20020179131A1, US2002179131 A1, US2002179131A1
InventorsSteven Johnson, Laura Sims
Original AssigneeThe Regents Of The University Of Minnesota
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Tray apparatus and methods regarding same
US 20020179131 A1
Abstract
A tray apparatus that can be attached to a walker and methods of using the tray apparatus. The tray apparatus has multiple configurations such that various object receiving surfaces may be selected for use.
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Claims(60)
1. A tray apparatus for use with a walker, the tray apparatus comprising:
at least a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface;
a connection apparatus configured to position the second object receiving surface generally orthogonal to the first object receiving surface, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises walker connection elements for use in coupling the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface to one or more portions of the walker.
2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the walker connection elements are configured to allow for coupling of the tray apparatus to different walkers having different spacing between leg elements thereof.
3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the tray apparatus is configured such that when the tray apparatus is connected to the walker at least one of the first and second object receiving surfaces is located over a bar of the walker extending between two leg elements thereof.
4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the connection apparatus is configured to hold the first object receiving surface in a generally fixed orthogonal position relative to the second object receiving surface.
5. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the connection apparatus is operable to allow a user to move the tray apparatus between a first configuration and a second configuration when the tray apparatus is coupled to the walker, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration, and further wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration.
6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises at least one pair of brackets connected to one or both of the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface, wherein each bracket of the at least one pair of brackets comprises at least one opening for use in moving between the first configuration and second configuration.
7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises at least one crossover rod substantially orthogonal to the at least one pair of brackets, wherein the at least one crossover rod is coupled to the walker connection elements, and further wherein the at least one crossover rod extends through the at least one opening of each bracket of the at least one pair of brackets.
8. The apparatus of claim 7, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises a detent mechanism associated with the at least one crossover rod, wherein the detent mechanism is operable to lock the tray apparatus in either the first configuration or the second configuration.
9. The apparatus of claim 8, wherein the detent mechanism comprises a biased member operable to selectively engage with one or more notches in each bracket of the at least one pair of brackets.
10. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the at least one opening of each bracket of the at least one pair of brackets is generally T-shaped.
11. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises a back member lying in a plane generally parallel to one of the first and second object receiving surfaces, and further wherein the back member is spring coupled to the one of the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface such that a trapping compartment is formed between the back member and portions of the one of the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface when the back member is separated from the portions thereof.
12. The apparatus of claim 4, wherein the apparatus further comprises a lid hingedly coupled to one of the first object receiving surface and second object receiving surface, wherein the lid covers at least a portion of the one of the first object receiving surface and second object receiving surface.
13. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the connection apparatus is operable to allow a user to move the second object receiving surface into a generally orthogonal position relative to the first object receiving surface.
14. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the connection apparatus is operable to allow a user to move the tray apparatus between a first configuration, a second configuration, and a third configuration when the tray apparatus is coupled to the walker, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration, wherein the first object receiving surface is at the substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration, and further wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at the substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the third configuration.
15. The apparatus of claim 14, wherein the connection apparatus comprises a hinge, wherein the hinge is used to couple the first object receiving surface to the second object receiving surface.
16. The apparatus of claim 15, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises:
an extension element comprising a first length and a second length, wherein the extension element is coupled to the second object receiving surface; and
an actuator coupled to the extension element, wherein the actuator is operable to move the extension element between the first length and the second length.
17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein the extension element comprises a gas spring.
18. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least one of the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface comprises at least one cup holder.
19. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the walker connection elements comprise at least one pair of J-clamps, wherein a cross section of a first portion and a second portion of each J-clamp of the at least one pair of J-clamps parallel to a ground plane when connected to a walker comprises an elongated arcuate cross section, and further wherein the first portion and the second portion at least partially engage leg elements of the walker.
20. A tray apparatus for use with a walker, the tray apparatus comprising:
a first tray comprising a first working surface;
a second tray comprising a second working surface, wherein the second working surface is substantially orthogonal to the first working surface;
a connection apparatus connected to both the first tray and the second tray, wherein the connection apparatus is operable to couple the first tray and second tray to a walker via walker connection elements, and further wherein the connection apparatus is operable to allow a user to move the tray apparatus between a first configuration, where the first working surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second working surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane, and a second configuration, where the first working surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second working surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane.
21. The tray apparatus of claim 20, wherein the connection apparatus comprises a back member lying in a plane generally parallel to one of the first and second working surfaces, and further wherein the back member is spring coupled to the one of the first tray and the second tray such that a trapping compartment is formed between the back member and portions of the one of the first working surface and the second working surface when the back member is separated from the portions thereof.
22. The tray apparatus of claim 20, wherein one of the first tray and second tray comprises a lid hingedly coupled to the one of the first tray and the second tray to form a covered compartment.
23. The tray apparatus of claim 20, wherein the walker connection elements are configured to allow for coupling of the tray apparatus to different walkers having different spacing between leg elements thereof.
24. The tray apparatus of claim 20, wherein the tray apparatus is configured such that when the tray apparatus is connected to the walker at least one of the first and second trays is located over a bar of the walker extending between two leg elements thereof.
25. The tray apparatus of claim 20, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises at least one pair of brackets connected to one or both of the first tray and the second tray, wherein each bracket of the at least one pair of brackets comprises at least one opening for use in moving between the first configuration and second configuration.
26. The tray apparatus of claim 25, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises at least one crossover rod substantially orthogonal to the at least one pair of brackets, wherein the at least one crossover rod is coupled to the walker connection elements, and further wherein the at least one crossover rod extends through the at least one opening of each bracket of the at least one pair of brackets.
27. The tray apparatus of claim 26, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises a detent mechanism associated with the at least one crossover rod, wherein the detent mechanism is operable to lock the tray apparatus in either the first configuration or the second configuration.
28. The tray apparatus of claim 27, wherein the detent mechanism comprises a biased member operable to selectively engage with one or more notches in each bracket of the at least one pair of brackets.
29. The tray apparatus of claim 25, wherein the at least one opening of each bracket of the at least one pair of brackets is generally T-shaped.
30. The tray apparatus of claim 20, wherein the walker connection elements comprise at least one pair of J-clamps, wherein a cross section of a first portion and a second portion of each J-clamp of the at least one pair of J-clamps parallel to a ground plane when connected to a walker comprises an elongated arcuate cross section, and further wherein the first portion and the second portion at least partially engage leg elements of the walker.
31. A tray apparatus for use with a walker, the tray apparatus comprising:
at least a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface;
a connection apparatus operable to allow a user to move the second object receiving surface into a generally orthogonal position relative to the first object receiving surface, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises walker connection elements for use in coupling the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface to one or more portions of the walker;
wherein the connection apparatus is operable to allow the user to move the tray apparatus between a first configuration and a second configuration when the tray apparatus is coupled to the walker, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration, and further wherein the first object receiving surface is at the substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration.
32. The apparatus of claim 31, wherein the walker connection elements are configured to allow for coupling of the tray apparatus to different walkers having different spacing between leg elements thereof.
33. The apparatus of claim 31, wherein the tray apparatus is configured such that when the tray apparatus is connected to the walker at least one of the first and second object receiving surfaces is located over a bar of the walker extending between two leg elements thereof.
34. The apparatus of claim 31, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises a back member lying in a plane generally parallel to one of the first and second object receiving surfaces, and further wherein the back member is spring coupled to the one of the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface such that a trapping compartment is formed between the back member and portions of the one of the first object receiving surface and second object receiving surface when the back member is separated from the portions thereof.
35. The apparatus of claim 31, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises at least one crossover rod substantially parallel to the first object receiving surface and the first object receiving surface, wherein the at least one crossover rod is coupled to the walker connection elements, and further wherein the first object receiving surface is connected to the at least one crossover rod.
36. The apparatus of claim 31, wherein the connection apparatus is further operable to allow the user to move the tray apparatus between the first configuration, the second configuration, and a third configuration when the tray apparatus is coupled to the walker, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the third configuration.
37. The apparatus of claim 31, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises a hinge, wherein the hinge is used to couple the first object receiving surface to the second object receiving surface.
38. The apparatus of claim 37, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises:
an extension element comprising a first length and a second length, wherein the extension element is coupled to the second object receiving surface; and
an actuator coupled to the extension element, wherein the actuator is operable to move the extension element between the first length and the second length.
39. The apparatus of claim 38, wherein the extension element comprises a gas spring.
40. The apparatus of claim 31, wherein the walker connection elements comprise at least one pair of J-clamps, wherein a cross section of a first portion and a second portion of each J-clamp of the at least one pair of J-clamps parallel to a ground plane when connected to a walker comprises an elongated arcuate cross section, and further wherein the first portion and the second portion at least partially engage leg elements of the walker.
41. A walker apparatus comprising:
a walker comprising at least one pair of ground engaging leg elements;
a tray apparatus coupled to the walker, the tray apparatus comprising:
at least a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface; and
a connection apparatus configured to position the second object receiving surface generally orthogonal to the first object receiving surface, wherein the connection apparatus further comprises walker connection elements for use in coupling the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface to the at least one pair of ground engaging leg elements.
42. The apparatus of claim 41, wherein the connection apparatus is configured to hold the first object receiving surface in a generally fixed orthogonal position relative to the second object receiving surface.
43. The apparatus of claim 42, wherein the connection apparatus is operable to allow a user to move the tray apparatus between a first configuration and a second configuration when the tray apparatus is coupled to the walker, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration, and further wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration.
44. The apparatus of claim 41, wherein the connection apparatus is operable to allow a user to move the second object receiving surface into a generally orthogonal position relative to the first object receiving surface.
45. The apparatus of claim 44, wherein the connection apparatus is operable to allow a user to move the tray apparatus between a first configuration, a second configuration, and a third configuration when the tray apparatus is coupled to the walker, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration, and further wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the third configuration.
46. A method of using a tray apparatus with a walker, the method comprising:
providing a tray apparatus, wherein the tray apparatus comprises a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface;
connecting the tray apparatus to a walker; and
moving the tray apparatus between at least a first configuration and a second configuration, wherein the second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration, and further wherein the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration.
47. The method of claim 46, wherein the tray apparatus further comprises a back member spring coupled to the second object receiving surface, and wherein the method further comprises separating the back member from portions of the second object receiving surface to form a trapping compartment.
48. The method of claim 46, wherein the method further comprises removing the tray apparatus from the walker and connecting the tray apparatus to a different type of walker having different spacing between leg elements thereof to which the tray apparatus is connected.
49. The method of claim 46, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration.
50. The method of claim 49, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration.
51. The method of claim 50, wherein the method further comprises moving the tray apparatus to a third configuration, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the third configuration.
52. The method of claim 51, wherein the method further comprises collapsing the walker into a generally flat configuration when the tray apparatus is in the third configuration.
53. A method of using a tray apparatus with a walker, the method comprising:
providing a tray apparatus, wherein the tray apparatus comprises a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface, wherein the first object receiving surface is held in a generally fixed orthogonal position relative to the second object receiving surface;
connecting the tray apparatus to a walker; and
moving the tray apparatus between at least a first configuration and a second configuration, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration, and further wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration.
54. The method of claim 53, wherein the tray apparatus further comprises a back member spring coupled to the second object receiving surface, and wherein the method further comprises separating the back member from portions of the second object receiving surface to form a trapping compartment.
55. The method of claim 53, wherein the method further comprises removing the tray apparatus from the walker and connecting the tray apparatus to a different type of walker having different spacing between leg elements thereof to which the tray apparatus is connected.
56. A method of using a tray apparatus with a walker, the method comprising:
providing a tray apparatus, wherein the tray apparatus comprises a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface;
connecting the tray apparatus to a walker; and
moving the tray apparatus between at least a first configuration and a second configuration, wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration, and further wherein the first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration.
57. The method of claim 56, wherein the tray apparatus further comprises a back member spring coupled to the second object receiving surface, and wherein the method further comprises separating the back member from portions of the second object receiving surface to form a trapping compartment.
58. The method of claim 56, wherein the method further comprises removing the tray apparatus from the walker and connecting the tray apparatus to a different type of walker having different spacing between leg elements thereof to which the tray apparatus is connected.
59. The method of claim 56, wherein the method further comprises moving the tray apparatus to a third configuration, wherein the first object receiving surface is at the substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the third configuration.
60. The method of claim 59, wherein the method further comprises collapsing the walker into a generally flat configuration when the tray apparatus is in the third configuration.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/295,145 entitled “Tray Apparatus and Methods Regarding Same,” filed Jun. 1, 2001, wherein such documents are incorporated herein by reference.

TECHNICAL FIELD

[0002] The present invention relates generally to equipment for providing assistance to persons in need thereof. More particularly, the present invention pertains to tray apparatus, e.g., such as those used with a walker, and methods related thereto.

BACKGROUND

[0003] It is estimated that over two million people in the United States alone use walkers to enhance mobility. Factors such as the aging baby boomer generation, managed care, and the demand for home care as an alternative to hospital care ensure continued growth in the use of walkers.

[0004] Although generally safe to use, a user may find a walker very impractical. For example, without some sort of carrying device attached to the walker, the user may be unable to safely transport items such as a cup of coffee or a plate of food because the user must keep both hands on the walker at all times.

[0005] Currently, this problem is addressed by attaching to walkers such products as bags, pouches, baskets, caddies, trays, and flip trays. However, none of the current products provide a comprehensive solution to the problem. For example, bags and pouches, while small enough to not interfere with a person's mobility, may not be able to carry clothes, cups, or large items such as a dinner plate. Caddies may be able to carry cups but not plates or changes of clothes. Most baskets do not have cup holders and cannot carry dinner plates. Depending on their width, baskets could interfere with the user's ability to maneuver in a small area.

[0006] Another type of device that is utilized is a flip tray that is attached to the front of the walker and is unfolded into a horizontal position that extends out from the front of the walker. Although the flip tray may be able to accommodate cups and a plate, it must be in an unfolded position to do so. For example, if the user wanted to carry a tooth brush and tooth paste to the bathroom sink, they would have to have the tray completely unfolded; therefore, the tray would interfere with the user's ability to reach into the sink or prevent the user from maneuvering in a small bathroom.

SUMMARY

[0007] The present invention provides a tray apparatus for use with a walker and methods regarding same. The tray apparatus may be attached to a variety of different walkers having varying distances between legs of the walker. The tray apparatus has multiple configurations such that various different object receiving surfaces may be selected for use. The tray apparatus is capable of being positioned in several configurations such that the tray apparatus does not inhibit mobility by being fixed in an extended position in front of the walker.

[0008] A tray apparatus for use with a walker according to the present invention includes at least a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface. The tray apparatus also includes a connection apparatus configured to position the second object receiving surface generally orthogonal to the first object receiving surface. The connection apparatus also includes walker connection elements for use in coupling the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface to one or more portions of the walker.

[0009] In one embodiment of the tray apparatus, the connection apparatus includes a back member lying in a plane generally parallel to one of the first and second object receiving surfaces. The back member is spring coupled to the one of the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface such that a trapping compartment is formed between the back member and portions of the one of the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface when the back member is separated from the portions thereof.

[0010] Another tray apparatus for use with a walker according to the present invention includes a first tray including a first working surface and a second tray including a second working surface. The second working surface is substantially orthogonal to the first working surface. The tray apparatus also includes a connection apparatus connected to both the first tray and the second tray. The connection apparatus is operable to couple the first tray and second tray to a walker via walker connection elements. The connection apparatus is also operable to allow a user to move the tray apparatus between a first configuration, wherein the first working surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second working surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane, and a second configuration, where the first working surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second working surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane.

[0011] Another tray apparatus for use with a walker according to the present invention includes at least a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface. The tray apparatus also includes a connection apparatus operable to allow a user to move the second object receiving surface into a generally orthogonal position relative to the first object receiving surface. The connection apparatus also includes walker connection elements for use in coupling the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface to one or more portions of the walker.

[0012] The connection apparatus is operable to allow the user to move the tray apparatus between a first configuration and a second configuration when the tray apparatus is coupled to the walker. The first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration. And the first object receiving surface is at the substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration.

[0013] In one embodiment of the tray apparatus, the connection apparatus is further operable to allow the user to move the tray apparatus between the first configuration, the second configuration, and a third configuration when the tray apparatus is coupled to the walker. The first object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the third configuration.

[0014] A walker apparatus according to the present invention includes a walker including at least a pair of ground engaging elements, and a tray apparatus coupled to the walker. The tray apparatus includes at least a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface. The tray apparatus further includes a connection apparatus configured to position the second object receiving surface generally orthogonal to the first object receiving surface. The connection apparatus further includes walker connection elements for use in coupling the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface to the at least one pair of ground engaging elements.

[0015] A method for using a tray apparatus with a walker according to the present invention includes providing a tray apparatus. The tray apparatus includes a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface. The tray apparatus is connected to a walker. The method further includes moving the tray apparatus between at least a first configuration and a second configuration. The second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration, and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration.

[0016] Another method for using a tray apparatus with a walker according to the present invention includes providing a tray apparatus. The tray apparatus includes a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface. The first object receiving surface is held in a generally fixed orthogonal position relative to the second object receiving surface. The tray apparatus is connected to a walker. The method further includes moving the tray apparatus between at least a first configuration and a second configuration. The first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration. The first object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration.

[0017] Another method of using a tray apparatus with a walker according to the present invention includes providing a tray apparatus. The tray apparatus includes a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface. The tray apparatus is connected to a walker. The method further includes moving the tray apparatus between at least a first configuration and a second configuration, The first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the first configuration. The first object receiving surface is at a substantially horizontal position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the second configuration.

[0018] In one embodiment of the present invention, the method further includes moving the tray apparatus to a third configuration. The first object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane and the second object receiving surface is at a substantially vertical position relative to the ground plane when the tray apparatus is in the third configuration.

[0019] The above summary of the present invention is not intended to describe each embodiment or every implementation of the present invention. Advantages, together with a more complete understanding of the invention, will become apparent and appreciated by referring to the following detailed description and claims taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0020]FIG. 1 is a front perspective view of a tray apparatus in accordance with one embodiment of the invention that uses a lift and flip type connection apparatus, wherein the tray apparatus is shown coupled to a walker in a first configuration;

[0021]FIG. 2 is a rear perspective view of the tray apparatus of FIG. 1 in a second configuration;

[0022]FIG. 3 is a plan view of one embodiment of a J-clamp for use with the tray apparatus of FIG. 1;

[0023]FIG. 4 is a side perspective view of the connection apparatus of the tray apparatus of FIG. 1 in the first configuration;

[0024]FIG. 5 is a side perspective view of the connection apparatus of the tray apparatus of FIG. 1 with the tray apparatus in the second configuration as shown in FIG. 2;

[0025]FIG. 6 is a front perspective view of the tray apparatus of FIG. 1 having a lid in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention;

[0026]FIG. 7 is a rear perspective view of a tray apparatus in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention that uses a push button type connection apparatus, wherein the tray apparatus is shown coupled to a walker;

[0027]FIG. 8 is a perspective view of a portion of the connection apparatus of the tray apparatus of FIG. 7;

[0028]FIG. 9 is a side perspective view of the tray apparatus of FIG. 7 showing a back member that forms a trapping compartment;

[0029]FIG. 10 is a perspective view of a tray apparatus in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention, wherein the tray apparatus is shown coupled to a walker in a first configuration;

[0030]FIG. 10A is a top perspective view of the tray apparatus of FIG. 10;

[0031]FIG. 11 is a bottom perspective view of the tray apparatus of FIG. 10;

[0032]FIG. 11A is a schematic view of an extension apparatus of the tray apparatus of FIG. 10;

[0033]FIG. 12 is a side perspective view of the tray apparatus of FIG. 10 in a second configuration in accordance with the present invention;

[0034]FIG. 13 is a top perspective view of the tray apparatus of FIG. 10 showing a trapping compartment;

[0035]FIG. 14 is a perspective view of the tray apparatus of FIG. 10 in a third configuration according to the present invention;

[0036]FIG. 14A is a rear perspective view of the tray apparatus of FIG. 10 in the third configuration; and

[0037]FIG. 15 is a perspective view of the tray apparatus of FIG. 10 in the third configuration and with the walker collapsed.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0038] In the following detailed description of the embodiments, reference is made to the accompanying drawings that form a part hereof, and in which are shown, by way of illustration, specific embodiments in 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 present invention.

[0039] Generally, the present invention is directed to a tray apparatus operable to be attached to a walker of the type commonly used to assist those having limited mobility. More specifically, the present invention is directed to a tray apparatus operable to be moved into multiple configurations such that, for example, various different object receiving surfaces or other various features (e.g., trapping compartment) may be selected for use.

[0040] In one exemplary embodiment, the tray apparatus includes a first object receiving surface and a second object receiving surface. A connection apparatus is configured to position the second object receiving surface generally orthogonal to the first object receiving surface. The connection apparatus includes walker connection elements for use in coupling the tray apparatus to one or more portions of the walker. The walker connection elements (e.g., J-clamps) allow for coupling of the tray apparatus to different walkers having different spacing between leg elements thereof.

[0041] The connection apparatus of the present invention may be configured to hold the first object receiving surface in a generally fixed orthogonal position relative to the second object receiving surface. For example, in one embodiment of the present invention as illustrated in FIGS. 1-6, connection apparatus 40 is configured to hold a first object receiving surface 26 in a fixed, generally orthogonal position relative to second object receiving surface 36. In other words, the spatial relationship between the first object receiving surface 26 and the second object receiving surface 36 remains fixed.

[0042] A user may operate the tray apparatus 10 such that the apparatus 10 is in either a first configuration or a second configuration. When in the first configuration, the first object receiving surface 26 is in a substantially horizontal position relative to a ground plane 18 (e.g., FIG. 1). Because the connection apparatus 40 in this embodiment holds the first object receiving surface 26 in a generally fixed orthogonal position relative to the second object receiving surface 36, the second object receiving surface 36 will be in a substantially vertical position when the tray apparatus 10 is in the first configuration. When the tray apparatus 10 is in the second configuration, the second object receiving surface 36 is in a substantially horizontal position while the first object receiving surface 26 is in a substantially vertical position (e.g., FIG. 2).

[0043] To move the tray apparatus 10 from the first configuration to the second configuration, the user in the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1-6 lifts and rotates the tray apparatus 10. In another embodiment of the present invention as illustrated in FIGS. 7-9, a user moves a tray apparatus 100 from the first configuration to the second configuration by activating a detent mechanism that unlocks the tray apparatus such that it can be rotated. The detent mechanism is used to lock the tray apparatus 100 into place once the second configuration is reached.

[0044] The connection apparatus of the present invention may also be operable to allow a user to move the second object receiving surface into a generally orthogonal position relative to the first object receiving surface. For example, one embodiment of such a connection apparatus is illustrated in FIGS. 10-15. As shown therein, tray apparatus 200 includes a connection apparatus 240 configured such that the second object receiving surface 236 is movable into a generally orthogonal position relative to the first object receiving surface 226.

[0045] A user may operate the tray apparatus 200 such that the apparatus 200 is in either a first configuration, a second configuration, or a third configuration. When in the first configuration, the first object receiving surface 226 is in a substantially horizontal position in relation to a ground plane 218 (e.g., FIG. 10). Unlike the previously discussed embodiments, because the connection apparatus 240 of this embodiment is configured to move the first object receiving surface 226 and the second object receiving surface 236 into a generally orthogonal position relative to one another, the second object receiving surface 236 may also be in a substantially horizontal position when the tray apparatus 200 is in the first configuration. When the tray apparatus 200 is in the second configuration, the first object receiving surface 226 is in the substantially horizontal position, and the second object receiving surface 236 is in a substantially vertical position (e.g., FIG. 12). Finally, when the tray apparatus 200 is in the third configuration, the first object receiving surface 226 is in the substantially vertical position, and the second object receiving surface 236 is also in the substantially vertical position (e.g., FIG. 14).

[0046] Exemplary embodiments of the present invention will now be described with reference to FIGS. 1-15.

[0047]FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a tray apparatus 10 in accordance with one illustrative embodiment of the present invention. Tray apparatus 10 includes a first tray apparatus component 20 having a first object receiving surface 26, a second tray apparatus component 30 having a second object receiving surface 36, and a connection apparatus 40. The tray apparatus 10 is illustrated as being connected to a walker 60 via walker connection elements 50.

[0048] The first object receiving surface 26 and the second object receiving surface 36 are configured to receive various objects that may be of need to a user, e.g., plates, containers, cups, glasses, newspapers, books, etc. As used herein, an object receiving surface is a working surface that forms at least a part of one or more compartments of the overall tray apparatus. The object receiving surface is a surface configured to support one or more various objects when the surface is in one or more different configurations.

[0049] The object receiving surfaces 26 and 36 may be of any suitable shape and size. For example, the first object receiving surface 26 of FIG. 1 is shown as being part of a recessed working surface and a pair of cup holders 29. Further, the second object receiving surface 36 is shown in FIG. 1 as having five sides with rounded corners distal from the user when the user is operating the walker 60. Alternatively, the object receiving surfaces 26 and 36 may form any other shape for holding or supporting objects.

[0050] The tray apparatus components 20 and 30 may be any configuration known in the art, e.g., rectangular, circular, elliptical. Further, both the first tray apparatus component 20 and the second tray apparatus component 30 may be made of any suitable material, e.g., polymeric materials, stainless steel, aluminum, cardboard, wood, etc. In one embodiment, disposable liners made of any suitable material may be fitted over one or both of the first tray apparatus component 20 and second tray apparatus component 30 such that the liners may be discarded after use.

[0051] The first tray apparatus component 20 includes a first end 22 proximate a position that a user would occupy when the user is operating the walker 60 (hereinafter the “operating position”), and a second end 24 distal from this position. A lip 28 is adjacent the first end 22 of the first tray apparatus component 20 such that objects placed on the first object receiving surface 26 may be prevented from sliding off during walker operation. The first object receiving surface 26 may be recessed below the lip 28 to form a container for storage of items as will be further described below. The first object receiving surface 26 may be a generally smooth surface, or the first object receiving surface 26 may be textured to also aid in preventing objects placed on the first object receiving surface 26 from sliding during walker 60 usage.

[0052] The first tray apparatus component 20 also includes at least one pair of cup holders 29 that are configured to receive a cup or glass when the first object receiving surface 26 is in a substantially horizontal position as further described below. In one embodiment, the cup holders 29 include a notch 29 a that is configured to receive the handle of a cup or mug. Although depicted as having at least one pair of cup holders 29, the first tray apparatus component 20 may have no cup holders or any number of cup holders. Further, the cup holders may be positioned anywhere relative to the first object receiving surface 26 of the first tray apparatus component 20.

[0053] The second tray apparatus component 30 includes a first end 32 proximate the second end 24 of the first tray apparatus component 20, and a second end 34 distal from the second end 24 of the first tray apparatus component 20. The second tray apparatus component 30 also includes the second object receiving surface 36 for receiving objects, e.g., plates, newspapers, cartons, clothes, etc., when the second object receiving surface 36 is in a substantially horizontal position. At least one pair of cup holders 39 are positioned adjacent the first end 32 of the second tray apparatus component 30 and are configured to receive a cup or glass when the second object receiving surface 36 is in a substantially horizontal position. Although depicted as having at least one pair of cup holders 39, the second tray apparatus component 30 may have no cup holders or any number of cup holders. Further, the cup holders 39 may be positioned anywhere relative to the second object receiving surface 36 of the second tray apparatus component 30.

[0054] The second object receiving surface 36 may also be of any suitable shape and size. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, the second object receiving surface 36 is a generally planer surface. Alternatively, the second object receiving surface 36 may be a recessed surface for use as part of a container for storing objects. The second tray apparatus component 30 may also include a lip 38 that may prevent objects from sliding off of the second object receiving surface 36 when the walker 60 is in use.

[0055] The second object receiving surface 36 may be a generally smooth surface, or the second object receiving surface 36 may be textured to also prevent objects placed on the second object receiving surface 36 from sliding during walker 60 usage. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, the second tray apparatus component 30 has five sides including rounded corners to facilitate maneuverability, although any suitable shape may be utilized.

[0056] The first object receiving surface 26 and/or the second object receiving surface 36 are coupled to the connection apparatus 40. The connection apparatus 40 includes at least one pair of brackets 42 having an opening 44 in each bracket 42 (as better shown, e.g., in FIGS. 4 and 5). Extending through each opening 44 is a first crossover rod 48 a and a second crossover rod 48 b. Each end of the first crossover rod 48 a and the second crossover rod 48 b is connected to risers 47 using any suitable method for connection.

[0057] The first object receiving surface 26 may be coupled to the connection apparatus 40 via a back member 90 (as best seen in FIG. 4). The back member 90 includes a first portion 92 and a second portion 94. The first portion 92 is substantially orthogonal to the second portion 94. In one embodiment, the back member 90 may be a generally planar sheet of material that has been reconfigured such that the first portion 92 is substantially orthogonal to the second portion 94. In one embodiment, a second major surface (e.g., second major surface 27 as best shown in FIG. 4) of the first tray apparatus component 20 is connected to a first major surface 92 a of the first portion 92 of the back member 90. A second major surface 92 b of the first portion 92 of back member 90 is connected to a first edge 43 a of bracket 42. The first tray apparatus component 20 may be connected to the first portion 92 of back member 90 using any suitable method known in the art, e.g., welding, spot welding, adhesive bonding, rivets, etc. In one embodiment, the first tray apparatus component 20 may be manufactured such that the first tray apparatus component 20, the at least one pair of brackets 42, the back member 90, and the second tray apparatus component 30 may be molded into one unified element.

[0058] The second tray apparatus component 30 may also be coupled to the connection apparatus 40 via the back member 90. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4, a second major surface 37 of the second tray apparatus component 30 is connected with a first major surface 94 a of the second portion 94 of back member 90. A second major surface 94 b of the second portion 94 of the back member 90 is in turn connected to a second edge 43 b of the bracket 42. The second tray apparatus component 30 may be connected to the back member 90 using any suitable method known in the art, e.g., welding, spot welding, adhesive bonding, riveting. In one embodiment, the second tray apparatus component 30 may be connected to the back member 90 using a spring such that a trapping compartment may be formed between the second tray apparatus component 30 and the back member 90 (see FIG. 9).

[0059] The connection apparatus 40 is configured to position the second object receiving surface 36 generally orthogonal to the first object receiving surface 26. In one embodiment, the connection apparatus 40 is configured to hold the first object receiving surface 26 in a generally fixed orthogonal position relative to the second object receiving surface 36 such that the surfaces 26 and 36 remain in a generally orthogonal relationship.

[0060] The connection apparatus 40 further includes walker connection elements 50 for use in coupling the first object receiving surface 26 and the second object receiving surface 36 to one or more portions of the walker 60. In the embodiment depicted in FIG. 1, the walker connection elements 50 couple the tray apparatus components 20 and 30 via the connection apparatus 40 to the walker 60 at a portion 64 on leg element 62.

[0061] The walker connection elements 50 may include any device suitable for connecting one apparatus to another, e.g., clamps, bolts, fasteners, welds. In one embodiment, the walker connection elements 50 include at least one pair of J-clamps 52.

[0062] An exemplary J-clamp 52 is illustrated in plan view in FIG. 3. The J-clamp 52 includes a slot 55, a leg 56, and an opening 58. The opening 58 allows the J-clamp 52 to be connected to the connection apparatus 40 as is further described below. The slot 55 includes a first portion 53, a second portion 54, and a third portion 59. The first portion 53 of slot 55 has a generally rectangular cross section. The second portion 54 and third portion 59 of slot 55 that engages the leg elements of a walker have an elongated arcuate cross section taken parallel to a ground plane 18 (e.g., FIG. 1). As used herein, the term “elongated arcuate cross section” defines a cross section of a portion of a slot that slightly deviates from a circular configuration. For example, in the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, the third portion 59 of slot 55 has a first radius r that is measured from a focus 59 a to an inside surface 59 b of the third portion 59 of slot 55. The second portion 54 has a second radius r2 that is measured from a focus 54 a to an inside surface 54 b of the second portion 54 of slot 55. Focus 54 a is offset from focus 59 a. The first radius r is equal to or less than the second radius r2. In other words, the radius of curvature of the second portion 54 is less than the radius of curvature of the third portion 59.

[0063] The first portion 53 of J-clamp 52 allows a leg element of a walker (e.g., leg element 62 of walker 60 in FIG. 1) to be inserted into the slot 55 and holds the J-clamp 52 in place on the leg elements of the walker 60. The second portion 54 and third portion 59 of the slot 55 allow the J-clamp 52 to rotate around the leg element such that the tray apparatus may be connected to walkers having a variety of distances and angles between front leg elements.

[0064] For example, various walkers may have leg elements that are not orthogonal to the ground plane 18. The elongated arcuate cross section of slot 55 allows the J-clamp 52 to be coupled to a leg element that is at an angle to an axis orthogonal to the cross section of J-clamp 52 shown in FIG. 3 through focus 59 a.

[0065] Further, for example, referring to FIG. 1, J-clamp 52 may be pivotably connected to riser 47 such that the J-clamp 52 is free to rotate in a plane parallel to ground plane 18. Walker 60 has a width 68 that is the distance from the outside of front leg element 62 to the outside of front leg element 63. For the connection apparatus 40 to span width 68, each J-clamp 52 pivots about risers 47 to effectively lengthen the distance from slot 55 of J-clamp 52 on one side to slot 55 of J-clamp 52 on the other side of tray apparatus 10.

[0066] The J-clamp 52 may be manufactured of any material known in the art, e.g., polymeric material, stainless steel, aluminum, etc. Further, the J-clamp 52 may be manufactured using any suitable method known in the art, e.g., plastic injection molding, machining from a solid, bent into form from sheet metal, vacuum formed, etc.

[0067] When coupled to the walker 60, one of the first and second object receiving surfaces 26 and 36 is located over a bar 66 of walker 60. By positioning one of the surfaces 26 and 36 over the bar 66, the walker's center of gravity may be maintained to prevent the walker 60 coupled with the tray apparatus 10 from being prone to tipping, e.g., tipping forward.

[0068] In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 1, the connection apparatus 40 is operable to allow the user to move the tray apparatus 10 between a first configuration and a second configuration when the tray apparatus 10 is coupled to the walker 60. FIG. 1 shows the tray apparatus 10 in the first configuration and FIG. 2 shows the tray apparatus 10 in the second configuration. In the first configuration, the first object receiving surface 26 is at a substantially horizontal position relative to ground plane 18. As used herein, a ground plane is a plane that is generally defined by the ground engaging portions (e.g., front leg elements 62 and 63) of walker 60. In other words, all ground engaging portions of the leg elements of walker 60 are in contact with the ground plane 18 at the same time. For example, a walker having four leg elements would define a ground plane that is in contact with the ground engaging ends of all four leg elements. A user operating the walker would therefore be substantially orthogonal to the ground plane. One of skill would know that the receiving surfaces may not be exactly parallel to the ground plane but will likely deviate slightly therefrom. The term “substantially” has been used to describe such deviation. For example, the term “substantially horizontal” may include a deviation that would not effect the overall usability of the receiving surfaces.

[0069] The first object receiving surface 26 extends along a first axis 12 between the first end 22 and the second end 24 of the first tray apparatus component 20; the axis 12 is parallel with and lies in a plane defined by the first object receiving surface 26. When the first object receiving surface 26 is in the substantially horizontal position, the axis 12 is substantially parallel to the ground plane 18.

[0070] Similarly, the second object receiving surface 36 extends along a second axis 14 between the first end 32 and the second end 34 of the second tray apparatus component 30; the axis 14 is parallel with and lies in a plane defined by the first object receiving surface 26. When the tray apparatus 10 is in the first configuration, the second object receiving surface 36 is in a substantially vertical position, i.e., the second axis 14 is orthogonal to the ground plane 18. In this embodiment, the first axis 12 and the second axis 14 remain in a generally fixed orthogonal position relative to one another. In other words, when the first object receiving surface 26 is in a substantially horizontal position, the second object receiving surface 36 must be in a substantially vertical position. Likewise, when the first object receiving surface 26 is in a substantially vertical position, the second object receiving surface 36 is in a substantially horizontal position.

[0071]FIG. 2 is a perspective view of the tray apparatus 10 of FIG. 1 positioned in the second configuration. When in the second configuration, the first object receiving surface 26 is in a substantially vertical position, while the second object receiving surface 36 is in a substantially horizontal position. In other words, the first axis 12 that is defined by the first tray apparatus component 20 is substantially orthogonal to the ground plane 18, while the second axis 14 that is defined by the second tray apparatus component 30 is substantially parallel to the ground plane 18.

[0072] When in the first configuration (e.g., FIG. 1), the tray apparatus 10 may be used to store objects on the first object receiving surface 26 and glasses or cups in the at least one pair of cup holders 29 of the first tray apparatus component 20. The first object receiving surface 26 is positioned above bar 66 of walker 60. This enables the user to reach objects placed on the first object receiving surface 26. Also, when the tray apparatus 10 is in the first configuration, the second object receiving surface 36 is in the substantially vertical position. This position maintains a more compact profile in front of the walker 60, which enables the user to maneuver into more restricted spaces.

[0073] When in the second configuration, the tray apparatus 10 enables objects to be placed on the second object receiving surface 36 of the second tray apparatus component 30, such as plates, clothes, cartons, newspapers, etc. Cups or glasses may also be placed in the at least one pair of cup holders 39 of the second tray apparatus component 30 when in the second configuration.

[0074] The connection apparatus 40 is configured and operable by the user to move the tray apparatus 10 between the first configuration and the second configuration. As illustrated in FIG. 4, the tray apparatus 10 is in the first configuration (i.e., the second object receiving surface 36 is in the substantially vertical position). The opening 44 in the bracket 42 is generally T-shaped and includes a first slot 45 and a second slot 46, i.e., the first slot 45 is substantially orthogonal to the second slot 46 and one end of slot 45 intersects with a middle portion of slot 46 to form a T-shape. The connection apparatus 40 includes washer 49 that prevents the tray apparatus 10 from laterally sliding along crossover rods 48 a and/or 48 b. In this embodiment, the crossover rods 48 a and 48 b are both located in a plane that is substantially orthogonal to ground plane 18. When the tray apparatus 10 is in the first configuration, both the first crossover rod 48 a and the second crossover rod 48 b extend through the first slot 45 of opening 44.

[0075] To move the tray apparatus 10 from the first configuration to the second configuration, a user lifts the tray apparatus 10 upward (e.g., away from ground plane 18) by grasping the first tray apparatus component 20. When the tray apparatus is lifted upward, the second crossover rod 48 b leaves the first slot 45 of opening 44 and enters the second slot 46. Once fully lifted upward such that the second crossover rod 48 b contacts the edge of opening 44, the user then simultaneously pulls the first tray apparatus component 20 toward his body and downward toward ground plane 18 in a circular path. As the user is operating the tray apparatus 10 in this manner, the second crossover rod 48 b engages the second slot 46 while the first crossover rod 48 a acts as a pivot within the first slot 45. As the tray apparatus 10 nears the second configuration, the first crossover rod 48 a leaves the first slot 45 and enters the second slot 46. The tray apparatus 10 completes its rotation as the first crossover rod 48 a engages a first end 46 a of the second slot 46 as illustrated in FIG. 5.

[0076]FIG. 6 is a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the tray apparatus 10 of FIG. 1. The first tray apparatus component 20 includes a lid 70 that is hingedly connected to the second end 24 of the first tray apparatus component 20 such that the lid 70 covers a portion of the first object receiving surface 26 to form container 72. The lid 70 may also include an engaging member 74 that engages the lip 28 of the first tray apparatus component 20 such that the lid 70 remains closed when the first object receiving surface 26 is positioned in a substantially vertical position (i.e., the second configuration illustrated in FIG. 2). Objects that are placed in container 72 will remain within the container 72 when the tray apparatus 10 is moved between configurations. Any type of hinge may be used to couple lid 70 to the first tray apparatus component 20, e.g., metal, piano, living hinge, spring hinge, etc. The lid 70 may be manufactured using any suitable material, e.g., polymeric, stainless steel, aluminum, wood, cardboard. Further, in another embodiment, although not shown, the second tray apparatus component 30 may also include a lid such that a container is formed with the second object receiving surface 36.

[0077] FIGS. 7-9 are perspective views of a tray apparatus 100 according to another embodiment of the present invention. The embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 7-9 is substantially identical to the embodiment discussed above in reference to FIGS. 1-6 with the exception of the connection apparatus that will be described below. Therefore, the same numbers have been used for certain elements of tray apparatus 100.

[0078] Tray apparatus 100 includes a first tray apparatus component 20 having a first object receiving surface 26, a second tray apparatus component 30 having a second object receiving surface 36, and a connection apparatus 140 configured to hold the first object receiving surface 26 in a generally fixed orthogonal position relative to the second object receiving surface 36.

[0079] The connection apparatus 140 includes one crossover rod 148. The crossover rod 148 extends through an opening 144 in each bracket 142 of at least one pair of brackets 142 that are substantially equivalent to brackets 42 except for openings 144 instead of T-shaped opening 44. The crossover rod 148 includes a detent mechanism 182 (e.g., a pin) that includes a biased member (e.g., a spring inside rod 148 that is not shown) operable to selectively engage with one or more notches 186 in each bracket 142 of the at least one pair of brackets 142.

[0080]FIG. 8 illustrates the crossover rod 148 without the first tray apparatus component 20 and the second tray apparatus component 30 coupled thereto. An actuator 184 is also coupled to the biased member such that pressing the actuator 184 compresses the biased member linearly along the crossover rod 148. The actuator 184 may be a button, tab, or other type of lever or device configured to compress the biased member within the crossover rod 148 while laterally moving the detent mechanism 182 such that the mechanism 182 is no longer engaged with notch 186.

[0081] The connection apparatus 140 is operable to allow a user to move the tray apparatus 100 between a first configuration and a second configuration when the tray apparatus is coupled to the walker 60. The first and second configurations of tray apparatus 100 are substantially similar to those of tray apparatus 10. To operate the tray apparatus 100, a user first depresses the actuator 184, causing the detent mechanism 182 to disengage from notch 186 in bracket 142. While depressing the actuator 184, the user grasps the first tray apparatus component 20 and pulls towards his body while also pushing down. Thus, the tray apparatus 100 moves in a circular motion, pivoting around the crossover bar 148. Once the tray apparatus 100 is in the second configuration, the user releases actuator 184 and the detent mechanism 182 locks the tray into place by engaging a second notch (not shown) in bracket 142. To move the tray apparatus 100 from the second configuration to the first configuration, the user would repeat the above steps while rotating the tray apparatus 100 up and away from his body.

[0082] The tray apparatus according to the present invention preferably includes a back member as previously described herein with reference to the embodiment of FIGS. 1-6, coupled to one of the first object receiving surface and the second object receiving surface with a spring or other type of resilient member to provide a trapping compartment as described in detail with reference to the embodiment having back member 190 as is illustrated in FIG. 9. Although depicted as being included particularly with the tray apparatus 100, any tray apparatus embodiment described herein may provide a trapping compartment as described herein.

[0083] Tray apparatus 100 of FIG. 9 includes back member 190 connected to the first tray apparatus component 20 adjacent a second end 24 of the first tray apparatus component 20. The back member 190 may also be connected to one or both of the at least one pair of brackets 142. For example, as described in regard to the embodiment illustrated in FIGS. 4 and 5, the back member 190 may be a substantially planar sheet of material having a first portion 192 and a second portion 194 that is substantially orthogonal to the first portion 192. The first portion 192 of back member 190 may be connected to the second major surface 27 of tray apparatus component 20 on the first major surface 192 a of first portion 192. The second major surface 192 b of the first portion 192 of back member 190 may be connected to the bracket 142. Similarly, the second portion 194 of back member 190 may be connected to brackets 142 via a second major surface 194 b of second portion 194.

[0084] The back member 190 may be manufactured using any suitable material, e.g., stainless steel, aluminum, polymeric, cardboard. Further, the back member 190 may be any suitable shape, e.g., rectangular, oval, etc. In one embodiment, the back member 190 is approximately the same size and shape as the second tray apparatus component 30.

[0085] The back member 190 is coupled to the second tray apparatus component 30 proximate a second end 34 of the second tray apparatus component 30 using any suitable method of coupling known in the art that would provide trapping function as described herein. Preferably, the back member 190 is spring coupled to the second tray apparatus component 30 using, e.g., a general spring, a living hinge, a biased piano hinge (as best seen, e.g., in FIG. 11 as spring 292).

[0086] In an alternative embodiment, the back member 190 may be spring coupled to the first tray apparatus component 20. For example, the spring hinge may couple the first portion 192 of the back member 190 to the first tray apparatus component 20 proximate the second end 24 of the first tray apparatus component 20 using a hinge similar to those described above.

[0087] The back member 190 forms a trapping compartment 188 with the second tray apparatus component 30 when the user pushes the second tray apparatus component 30 away from the back member 190. As shown in FIG. 9, the second tray apparatus component 30 has been forced away from the first tray apparatus component 20, creating trapping compartment 188. Various objects may be placed in the trapping compartment 188, e.g., newspapers, cartons, clothing. The trapping compartment 188 acts to hold objects in place because of the spring coupling between the second tray apparatus component 30 and the back member 190.

[0088] FIGS. 10-11 are perspective views of tray apparatus 200 according to another embodiment of the present invention. Tray apparatus 200 includes a first tray apparatus component 220 having a first object receiving surface 226, a second tray apparatus component 230 having a second object receiving surface 236, and a connection apparatus 240 coupled to a walker 260. The first tray apparatus component 220 includes a first end 222 proximate the operating position of the walker 260. The first tray apparatus component 220 also includes a second end 224 distal from the operating position. The second tray apparatus component 230 includes a first end 232 proximate the second end 224 of the first tray apparatus component 220, and a second end 234 distal from the first tray apparatus component 220.

[0089] The tray apparatus 200 further includes a back member 290 that is coupled to the first tray apparatus component 220 proximate the second end 224 of the first tray apparatus component 220 using hinge 294 (as best shown in FIG. 11). Any suitable hinge known in art may be used to couple the back member 90 to the first tray apparatus component 220, e.g., piano hinge, living hinge, etc.

[0090] The back member 290 is coupled to the second tray apparatus component 230 using a spring hinge 292 for providing a trapping formation as further described herein. Any suitable spring hinge or combination of hinges may be used, e.g., regular hinges, spring loaded clamps, torsional springs, etc. The spring hinge 292 is located proximate the second end 234 of the second tray apparatus component 230.

[0091] The connection apparatus 240 is operable to allow the user to move the second object receiving surface 236 into a generally orthogonal position relative to the first object receiving surface 226. The connection apparatus 240 includes a crossover rod 248 coupled to walker connection elements 250 at each end via risers 244 (e.g., FIG. 11). The crossover rod 248 may be coupled to the risers 244 using any suitable method known in the art, e.g., bolts, welds, friction fits, etc.

[0092] Also coupled to the crossover rod 248 is a pair of extension elements 282. The extension elements 282 extend the second tray apparatus component 230 as is further described below. The connection apparatus 240 may include one or more of these extension elements 282. The extension elements 282 may be any suitable element, e.g., gas springs, spring loaded hinges, braces, torsional springs coupled with standard hinges, etc. The extension elements 282 are coupled to the back member 290 via hinge points 283 adjacent the second end 234 of the second tray apparatus component 230.

[0093] Coupled to the crossover rod 248 and the extension elements 282 is an actuator 280. The actuator 280 may be any suitable actuator (e.g., mechanical or electrical) known in the art, e.g., lever, push button, paddle, handle, etc. The actuator 280 releases and locks the extension elements 282 as further described below.

[0094] In one embodiment illustrated in FIG. 11A, the connection apparatus 240 includes extension assembly 300. The extension assembly 300 includes actuator 310, engaging member 320, and gas hinges 330. The actuator 310 includes knob 312 and a distal end 318. The actuator 310 is connected to a crossover rod (e.g., crossover rod 248 of FIG. 11) via pivot 314 such that the actuator 310 pivots about pivot 314. The pivot 314 may be coupled to crossover rod 248 (see FIG. 11). The actuator 310 is coupled to connection point 322 of engaging member 320 at distal end 318 of actuator 312.

[0095] The actuator 310 engages the engaging member 320, which, in turn, engages the gas springs 330 as is further described below. Generally, each gas spring 330 includes a cylinder 332 having a first end 334 and a second end 336. The cylinder 332 is coupled to the crossover rod 248 (see FIG. 11) via standoff 338 located proximate the first end 334 of cylinder 332. The standoff 338 may be coupled to the crossover rod 248 at connection points 284 (see FIG. 11) using any suitable method known in the art. Each gas spring 330 is coupled to the crossover rod 248 such that the gas spring 330 may pivot from a position substantially orthogonal to the ground plane to a position substantially horizontal to the ground plane as piston rod 340 extends away from the second end 336 of cylinder 332.

[0096] The gas spring 330 may also include a piston mounted in the cylinder 332. The piston is coupled to a piston rod 340 at a first end 344 of the piston rod 340 (not shown). A second end 346 of the piston rod 340 is coupled to the second tray apparatus component 230 (see FIG. 11) at hinge points 283. Also located inside cylinder 332 is a control valve. The control valve is in turn coupled to valve stem 350 located at the first end 334 of the cylinder 332. The valve stem 350 is operable to open and close the control valve. The valve stem 350 has a rounded end that engages the engaging member 320 as is further described below. The gas spring 330 may also include a spring inside the cylinder 330 that biases the piston rod 340 in the extended position.

[0097] An exemplary embodiment of a gas spring is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 4,709,963 to Uecker et al. entitled “Adjustable Office Chair,” issued Dec. 1, 1987.

[0098] The gas spring 330 is preloaded with compressed gas and/or fluid so that piston rod 340 is normally biased so that it is extended away from second end 336 of cylinder 332. When the valve stem 350 is extended outward from cylinder 332, the control valve inside the cylinder 332 is closed. When depressed, the valve stem 350 opens the control valve, thus allowing the compressed gas to flow from one side of the piston nearest the second end 336 of cylinder 332 to the other side nearest the first end 334 of cylinder 332. This movement of compressed gas forces the piston to extend piston rod 340 away from the second end 336 of cylinder 332. Because the second end 346 of piston rod 340 is connected to the second tray apparatus component 230 at hinge points 283, the extension of the piston rod 340 forces the second tray apparatus component 230 to move from the substantially vertical position to the substantially horizontal position in an arc. As the piston rod 340 extends, the gas spring 330 also moves from a substantially vertical position to a substantially horizontal position.

[0099] When the control valve is open and the piston rod 340 is extended, the piston rod 340 may be forced inward into cylinder 332 against the force of the compressed gas.

[0100] As mentioned above, the actuator 310 is coupled to the engaging member 320 at connection point 322. The engaging member 320 includes sloping portions 324 that engage the rounded ends of the valve stems 350 of gas springs 330. The engaging member 320 is connected to the crossover rod 248 by being seated within a track 249 in the crossover rod 248 (as seen in FIG. 11). The engaging member 320 is operable to slide in direction 360 and back in direction 362 within the track 249 of crossover rod 248. The engaging member 320 is also coupled to the crossover rod 248 by a spring 326 that is stretched when the engaging member 320 is moved in direction 360. In other words, spring 326 biases the engaging member 320 such that it moves in direction 362.

[0101] To operate extension assembly 300, the user first engages actuator 310 by lifting upward (i.e., away from ground plane 218 of FIG. 10). As the user lifts upward, the actuator 310 pivots about pivot 314, causing the distal end 318 of actuator 310 to pull the engaging member 320 in direction 360. When the engaging member 320 moves in direction 360, the sloping portions 324 of engaging member 320 engage the valve stems 350 of both gas springs 330, depressing each valve stem 350 toward the first end 334 of cylinder 332. When depressed, the valve stem 350 opens the control valve inside cylinder 332. Once open, the control valve allows compressed gas to move from proximate the second end 336 of cylinder 332 to proximate the first end 334. As the compressed gas migrates to the first end 334, the gas forces the piston toward the second end 336 of cylinder 332, thereby extending the piston rod 340 outward, away from the second end 336 of cylinder 332. As the piston rod 340 extends, the second tray apparatus component 230 moves from the substantially vertical position to the substantially horizontal position. Once the second tray apparatus component 230 is in the substantially horizontal position, the user releases the actuator, allowing the spring 326 to pull the engaging member 320 in direction 362. As the engaging member 320 moves in direction 362, the sloping portions 324 of engaging member 320 release the valve stems 350, thereby closing the control valves. Once closed, the control valves do not allow compressed gas to migrate, thus holding the piston and control rods 340 in place.

[0102] To move the tray apparatus component 230 from the substantially horizontal position to the substantially vertical position using extension assembly 300, the user once again engages actuator 310 by lifting knob 312 upward. The actuator 310 in turn pulls engaging member 320 in direction 360 such that sloping portions 324 of engaging member 320 engage valve stems 350. Once engaged, the valve stems 350 open the control valves. While engaging actuator 310, the user also applies a downward force on the second end 234 of second tray apparatus component 230. The downward force allows the piston rod 340 and piston to overcome the force of the compressed gas within cylinder 332, thereby causing the piston rod 340 to retract into cylinder 332. Once the piston rod 340 is completely retracted, the user releases actuator 310, allowing the engaging member 320 to move in direction 362. As the engaging member 320 moves in direction 362, the sloping portions 324 of engaging member 320 release valve stems 350 such that the control valves are closed. Once closed, the control valves do not allow compressed gas to move from one end of the cylinders 332 to the other, thereby holding the piston and piston rods 340 in place.

[0103] The connection apparatus 240 is operable to allow the user to move the tray apparatus 200 between at least a first configuration, a second configuration, and a third configuration when the tray apparatus is coupled to the walker 260.

[0104] For example, FIG. 10 is an exemplary illustration of the tray apparatus 200 in a first configuration. The first object receiving surface 226 extends along a first axis 212 between the first end 222 and the second end 224 of the first tray apparatus component 220; the axis 212 is parallel with and lies in a plane defined by the first object receiving surface 226. The second object receiving surface 236 extends along a second axis 214 between the first end 232 and the second end 234 of the second tray apparatus component 230; the axis 214 is parallel with and lies in a plane defined by the second object receiving surface 236.

[0105] When the tray apparatus 200 is in the first configuration, the first object receiving surface 226 is in a substantially horizontal position as is evidenced by the first axis 212 being parallel to a ground plane 218. Further, when the tray apparatus 200 is in the first configuration, the second object receiving surface 236 is also in a substantially horizontal position as shown by second axis 214 being parallel to the ground plane 218. In other words, when the tray apparatus 200 is in the first configuration, the first object receiving surface 226 and the second object receiving surface 236 may form a single, substantially horizontal working surface that may accommodate a large plate or tray.

[0106]FIG. 10A is a top perspective view of tray apparatus 200 in the first configuration. In one embodiment, the second object receiving surface 236 also includes a lip 238 that is proximate the first end 232 of the second object receiving surface 236. The lip 238 lies on top of the first object receiving surface 226 when the tray apparatus 200 is in the first configuration. When the tray apparatus 200 is in the second configuration (as described in greater detail below), the lip 238 extends above the plane of the first object receiving surface 226 such that objects placed on the first object receiving surface 226 do not slide off towards the front of the walker 260.

[0107]FIG. 12 is a side perspective view of the tray apparatus 200 of FIG. 10 in the second configuration. When the tray apparatus 200 is in the second configuration, the first object receiving surface 226 remains in a substantially horizontal position, i.e., first axis 212 is parallel with ground plane 218. The second object receiving surface 236 is in a substantially vertical position when the tray apparatus 200 is in the second configuration. This position is illustrated in FIG. 12 by axis 214, which is substantially orthogonal to ground plane 218. When in the second configuration, the first object receiving surface 226 may still receive objects, e.g., cups, glasses, pencils, toothbrushes, while the second object receiving surface 236 is folded down such that it does not hinder the user's mobility in front of the walker 260.

[0108] To move the tray apparatus 200 from the first configuration to the second configuration, the user engages the actuator 280 and applies a slight, downward force proximate the second end 234 of the second tray apparatus component 230 until the second object receiving surface 236 is in the substantially vertical position. Once the second tray apparatus component 230 is in the substantially vertical position, the user releases actuator 280. Once the actuator 280 is released, the extension elements 282 hold the second tray apparatus component 230 in the substantially vertical position.

[0109] To move the tray apparatus 200 from the second configuration to the first, the user engages the actuator 280, thereby allowing the extension elements 282 to extend until the second object receiving surface 236 is in the substantially horizontal position. Once the tray apparatus 200 is in the first configuration, the user releases the actuator 280, and the extension elements 282 then hold the second tray apparatus component 230 in the substantially horizontal position.

[0110] Further, when the tray apparatus 200 is in the second configuration, the second object receiving surface 236 and the back member 290 form trapping compartment 296 as illustrated in FIG. 13. Various objects may be placed within trapping compartment 296 and transported, e.g., newspapers, cartons, clothes. The user forms the trapping compartment 296 by applying a generally linear force to the first end 232 of the second tray apparatus component 230 to separate the second tray apparatus component 230 from the back member 290.

[0111] The connection apparatus 240 of FIG. 10 is further operable to allow the user to move the tray apparatus 200 from the second configuration to a third configuration as illustrated in FIG. 14. In the third configuration, the first object receiving surface 226 is in a substantially vertical position as shown by first axis 212 being substantially orthogonal to ground plane 218. The second object receiving surface 236 is also in a substantially vertical position as shown by second axis 214 being substantially orthogonal to ground plane 218 as well.

[0112]FIG. 14A is a rear perspective view of a second major surface 228 of the first tray apparatus component 220 in the third configuration as would be seen from the operating position of the walker. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 14A, the first tray apparatus component 220 is coupled to the connection apparatus 240 by a spring hinge 270. The spring hinge 270 may be any suitable spring hinge as described herein. Preferably, the spring hinge 270 is a biased piano hinge. The spring hinge 270 is biased such that the first tray apparatus component 220 is biased in the substantially horizontal position. The spring hinge 270 is connected to the crossover rod 248 of the connection apparatus 240 at the second end 224 of the first tray apparatus component 220.

[0113] Also coupled to the connection apparatus 240 is a lever 272. The lever 272 is any suitable lever or bar known in the art. The lever 272 is pivotably connected to the crossover rod 248 at a first end 272 a of the lever 272 such that the lever 272 may be rotated until a second end 272 b of the lever 272 is in contact with the second major surface 228 of the first tray apparatus component 220. When the second end 272 b of the lever 270 is in contact with the second major surface 228 of the first tray apparatus component 220, the lever 272 holds the first tray apparatus component 220 in the substantially vertical position.

[0114] The user moves the tray apparatus 200 from the second configuration to the third configuration by applying a rotational force on the first end 222 of the first tray apparatus component 220 away from the operating position such that the first tray apparatus component 220 pivotably rotates away from the user. Once the first object receiving surface 226 reaches the substantially vertical position, the user engages the lever 272 such that the second end 272 b of the lever 272 is in contact with the second major surface 228 of the first tray apparatus component 220. The lever 272 prevents the restoring force of the spring hinge 270 from forcing the first tray apparatus component 220 to return to the substantially horizontal position.

[0115] To move the tray apparatus 200 from the third configuration to the second configuration, the user would first move the lever 272 from its position in contact with the second major surface 228 of the first tray apparatus component 220. The spring hinge 270 then causes the first tray apparatus component 220 to rotate away from the ground plane 218 and toward the operating position until the first tray apparatus component 220 reaches the substantially horizontal position.

[0116] When in the third configuration, the tray apparatus 200 is clear of the walker 260 such that, in some embodiments, the walker may be collapsed by folding the leg elements toward the center of the walker as shown in FIG. 15. Because the tray apparatus 200 can be collapsed in this manner, the walker 260 may be collapsed without removing the tray apparatus 200 from the walker 260. This enables the walker 260 and tray apparatus 200 to be placed in the trunk or back seat of a vehicle and transported.

[0117] Exemplary embodiments of the present invention are described above. Those skilled in the art will recognize that many embodiments are possible within the scope of the invention. Other variations, modifications, and combinations of the various parts, various connection apparatus, and assemblies can certainly be made and still fall within the scope of the invention. Thus, the invention is limited only by the following claims, and equivalents thereto.

[0118] All references cited herein are incorporated in their entirety as if each were incorporated separately. This invention has been described with reference to illustrative embodiments and is not meant to be construed in a limiting sense. Various modifications of the illustrative embodiments, as well as additional embodiments of the invention, will be apparent to persons skilled in the art upon reference to this description.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US8171845 *May 29, 2007May 8, 2012Kitchen Equipment Fabricating CompanyTemperature controlled food tray system
US8701554 *May 4, 2012Apr 22, 2014Kitchen Equipment Fabricating CompanyTemperature controlled food tray system
US8997640 *Feb 26, 2014Apr 7, 2015Kitchen Equipment Fabricating CompanyTemperature controlled food display system
US20080283440 *May 29, 2007Nov 20, 2008Kitchen Equipment Fabricating CompanyTemperature controlled food tray system
US20120216987 *May 4, 2012Aug 30, 2012Kitchen Equipment Fabricating CompanyTemperature controlled food tray system
Classifications
U.S. Classification135/66
International ClassificationA61H3/00
Cooperative ClassificationA61H3/00, A61H2003/004
European ClassificationA61H3/00
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
May 31, 2002ASAssignment
Owner name: REGENTS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, MINNESOTA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:JOHNSON, STEVEN A.;REEL/FRAME:012976/0738
Effective date: 20020531