When 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.
Most 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.