DIY – A Simple Cupholder for a Wheelchair

Image of a Custom Cupholder on a Wheelchair ArmWhen my dad needed a beverage holder on his wheelchair for everyday use, I was a bit stymied. There are lots of beverage holders out there, like the excellent one made by Valco that I’ve reviewed previously, but the ones that work well tend to have a hardshell design. the Valco worked great when Dad had more control over his chair, but it isn’t a good option any longer — these days he’s way too fond of crashing into walls and other immutable objects. No hardshell can stand that kind of assault on such a regular basis.

On the other hand, the cupholders that are soft-bodied are more difficult to use — they morph too much and the cup tends to get stuck on the way into or out of the holder. That wasn’t going to work for Dad, either.

Dad needed something a little different; something that combined the most practical components of each type of holder. This new cupholder needed to retain its shape while being used, have an opening wide enough to allow easy placement and removal of a cup, and had to be resilient enough to survive being regularly smashed into various hard objects.

I ended up making one (see image upper left). After measuring the cup he uses everyday, and fiddling with the cup, the angle he needed to hold it at, and the side of the wheelchair, I ended up with a simple pattern. The bottom of the holder is a half-moon shape, with the flat side next to the wheelchair. The sides of the holder come up just far enough to keep the cup from tumbling out, but are low enough so that Dad can get a grip on the cup.

For structural support, I cut up the thinnest, flexible plastic kitchen cutting board I could find. Only three pieces were necessary: the half-moon for the bottom, another flat piece for the back of the holder, and a longer rectangle to curve from the back piece across the front.

Image of a Cupholder on a Table TopMost cupholders are round at the bottom, and ditto all the way up. I deliberately made this one semi-circular so that the cup would be held upright and somewhat snugly in the front (where the holder is round), but so that there would be more space in back (where the half-moon shape squares off). This gives the cup more wiggle-room without making it unstable, and gives Dad a little more space for his hands.

I used a nylon sports material for the fabric — it cleans easily and dries quickly. I encased the plastic half-moon shape in ripstop, sewing the edges together. Then I did the same for the plastic back piece, and again for the front rectangle.

I attached the back piece and the front rectangle together, and then attached the tube that made to the fabric-covered half-moon piece. Using foldover braid made assembly quick and easy — I didn’t have to get into the complexities of hiding seams with a more complicated plan.

Straps at the top and the side keep the cupholder from slipping around. I probably didn’t need to have the front strap, but originally I thought the holder would just go over the armrest. Instead, I unscrewed the arm rest, and put the straps under it, which effectively clamps the cupholder in place.

The cupholder tilts at a bit of an angle, but that’s deliberate, because it means that the top of the cup automatically clears the chair’s armrest. It’s turned out to be a good solution for Dad. The combination of fabric with the thin plastic inner support has proven to be just right — when smashed, this cupholder just flexes and bounces back. There’s no harm done at all, and it’s ready for use again immediately.

6 Responses to “DIY – A Simple Cupholder for a Wheelchair”


  • That’s a great idea, though I think I would put the two top clip fasteners right up to the fabric top, instead of on longer straps, so as to leave the top of the armrest flatter, without the bumps of the fasteners. And the idea of unscrewing the armrest and clamping the loops could even mean that you needn’t use clip fasteners, but just have loops that fit around the armrest, which then gets rescrewed back to the chair arms.

  • Good points, Chris. I was hedging my bet a bit with the fasteners since we’ve been going through a prolonged period of making different kinds of adjustments to my dad’s wheelchair. Customizing the straps to one chair, and leaving the fasteners off definitely makes more sense where it’s feasible. Thanks for your comment.

  • Hi! Thanks for the great writeup of your cool wheelchair mod! I linked to you from Disapedia, where I’m building a page of disabled DIY links and how-tos for people who want to build their own accessibility or assistive devices.

    Here’s the page, if you invent anything else and would like to add your how-to:

    http://www.disapedia.com/index.php?title=DIY_Equipment

  • What a great resource, Liz! I’m very glad to know about it, and will plan a post to introduce it in the near future. Thanks for commenting and letting me and GearAbility readers know about it.

  • Hi,
    I just read your article about the wheelchair cup holder you built for your Dad. What a Great idea. I also am having the similar problem with cup holders like your Dad. Do you happen to make these and sell them? I would be willing to pay you if you could make one for me. I am a Quadraplegic, so I am unable to make much of anything. Please, if you read this, contact me at garyosr [at] gmail.com. I would be willing to pay you for your time and materials if you could make one for me. I am desperate!!!

  • I’m sorry, we don’t sell or make for sale any items mentioned on this blog. You might consider trying the cupholder mentioned here: Valco. It’s quite useful and would work for anyone who isn’t inclined to run his or her chair into walls too often.

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