Rain Shield

Designers: Kelsey Boitnott, Dennis Cattel, Shawn J. Mendonca
Supervising Professors:  Kevin Caves, Richard Goldberg

Our client uses a manual wheelchair that she transports with her car. She gets wet on rainy days when getting into and out of the car, and when traveling outside in the wheelchair. The Rain Shield uses a large commercial umbrella, and custom attachments for the car and wheelchair, to allow the client to remain relatively dry in these situations.  An additional plastic shield attaches to the car and the umbrella to further improve conditions when it is windy and rainy.

The client commented, “As a new wheelchair user, the rain has made it really difficult for me to get in and out using this chair.  So the rain shield is going to make it so much easier for me to get out and go to work and do my daily activities without getting wet.  Thank you students.”

The Rain Shield (Figure 1) includes four components:  the umbrella holder, the wheelchair attachment, the side panel, and the umbrella closing system. The umbrella holder uses a 10.5″ section of 1.5″ diameter  black PVC pipe as a sheath to hold the umbrella upright. A semicircular notch, milled in the pipe near the top end, allows the umbrella to be secured to the pipe with a hose clamp. An eye screw attaches near the bottom of the pipe, and a carabiner clips through the eye screw.   To mount the umbrella to the car, the user rests the umbrella between the opened door and the car roof, then attaches the carabiner to the U-shaped door locking hook on the side of the car.  A stainless steel L-bracket also attaches to the bottom of the black pipe, which is used to connect the umbrella to the wheelchair as described below.

The wheelchair attachment (Figure 2) mounts under the client’s seat.  The base of the wheelchair attachment consists of three 1/8″ thick aluminum stacked on top of each other, with cuts and screws placed on specific areas depending on the functional use of the layer.  A gap between the outer layers accepts the horizontal end of the L-shaped bracket on the umbrella holder.  Once the bracket is slid into the base, it is secured by a pin.  Two pairs of circular clamps secure the base to the wheelchair.

The clear vinyl side panel only needs to be used during extremely windy and rainy days. It attaches to the umbrella via 6 button snaps.

A closing system was devised to help the client close the umbrella after use, while seated in the driver’s seat of the car. At the top end of the umbrella, nylon fishing wire is braided into the spokes.  Below the spokes, this fishing wire is interwoven into a powder-coated black jack chain, which provides the main support of the closing system.  A hanging hook attaches to the fishing wire/chain approximately 19″ from the spokes.  While the client is sitting in the driver’s seat, the small carabiner is still attached to the door lock hook. The client then pulls the hanging hook attached to the fishing wire/chain, and attaches it to the outer hole of the L-shaped bracket.  This closes the umbrella to a level where she can reach the umbrella slider and then fully close it.

Other features ensure stability, safety and aesthetic appeal of the device.  For connecting the umbrella to the car, a second attachment point was added to improve device stability.  A large carabiner was attached to the grab bar in the front passenger side of the car.  A nylon loop in the fishing wire/black chain approximately 20″ from the umbrella spokes was attached to this carabiner on the grab bar.  Also, a removable black nylon fabric cover was created for the umbrella holder to improve its appearance.

Cost of parts for the device was approximately $440.

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