Envelope Inserting Aids

Designers: Shin Y. Ong and Shin R. Ong
Client Coordinators: Judy Stroupe, Orange Enterprises
Supervising Professor: Dr. Larry N. Bohs

Four devices have been developed to help workers with disabilities insert documents into envelopes of different dimensions. Each device holds an envelope in a document receiving position and aligns paper prior to insertion. Envelope insertion is then achieved through single-hand pushing actions. The devices are relatively inexpensive, portable, easy to operate and suitable for use by individuals who lack fine motor control.

How this project helped
Orange Enterprises, Inc. is a non-profit agency in Hillsborough, North Carolina that meets the employment needs of citizens with disabilities by subcontracting businesses in areas of mailing and packaging. Employee salary is a function of competence in areas of mail preparation, such as document collation and envelope stuffing. The Envelope Inserting Aids will allow some workers to perform an additional task in the workplace. Our client coordinator, Judy Stroupe, commented that the inserting aids will “increase production rate and pay, boost independence, self-esteem and confidence, and allow them to do just much more of the job”.

Four aids were designed to accommodate the following envelope sizes (all dimensions in inches): (10 x 13) (Figure 1, top left), (9.5 x 12.75) (top right),  (9 x 6) (bottom left) and  (9 x 4) (bottom right). Each device consists of an aluminum aligner tray mounted on a plywood base. The tray has perpendicular or angled edges to align documents. Some perpendicular edges have an additional lip to ensure that documents stay on the tray.

The tray and its edges extend a few inches beyond the plywood. A ledge is mounted over the tray extension, and the gap between the ledge and the tray forms a channel for documents into the envelope. The envelope is opened by pulling it over the rigid channel and secured with a clip.  The top piece of the channel extends further into the envelope to provide stability, while the tray extension is shorter so that documents will not remain in the channel upon envelope removal.

The shape of the channel is customized for each envelope. For business envelopes with triangle flaps (Figure 1, bottom right), the channel’s top piece has a triangular cut in the middle to enable the client to reach deeper and insert documents completely. The (9 x 6) aid requires a trapezoidal channel with a wider bottom to accommodate snug-fitting documents. The channel is elevated from the work surface by the plywood, so envelopes can be mounted without moving the device.

Documents on the aligner tray can are pushed into the envelope through the channel. Aluminum edges are smoothed and rounded to ensure they do not cut. Edges without a lip are fitted with rubber hoses to minimize stress injuries to the wrist. A piece of Dycem is attached to the underside of each device to secure it to the table surface during operation.

After testing the devices with our clients, we determined that aligner edges were effective in keeping paper in the tray. The channel aligns documents properly and the smooth continuous tray extending into the envelope minimizes snagging to allow proper document insertion. The envelope is secured with a clip and does not get displaced by pushing actions. Physical discomfort during envelope insertion is minimized since thin edges of the aluminum (without a lip) are padded. We determined the static and kinetic friction between paper and aluminum to be a small value that increases with contact pressure. Hence the most efficient manner to use the device is to push papers against the tray lightly. The cost of parts for the four envelope inserting aids was about $100.

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