After being paralyzed in a January 2000 skiing accident, one of the many things with which C. John Stanchina struggled during his recovery was how to carry simple things like laundry or groceries when he needed to use both of his hands to push his manual wheelchair. While simply resting a box or a tray on his lap seemed to do the trick initially, after dumping load after load on the ground as he bounced over doorway thresholds or rough pavement, he thought there has got to be a better way.
Then, one day on his way into work, with his briefcase on his lap and its shoulder strap draped around the back of his neck, it occurred to him – why not attach an adjustable strap like the one on his briefcase to some sort of rigid box or bin? Not only would it provide some sensory feedback to the back of his neck if the carrier started to slide off of his lap, but it would also actually prevent it from sliding all the way off and falling to the ground. In that moment, the concept of the Utilitote hands-free rigid carrier was born.
Now, not only would C. John have a device to keep his cargo securely positioned on his lap, but he would also have a mechanism that would multiply his lifting capability by several fold, as well as mitigate the need to reach down to retrieve his cargo from the floor in the first place. For paraplegics like C. John, retrieving items from the floor is a one-handed proposition, as they typically need to use their remaining hand to stabilize themselves to keep from tipping over. The addition of the strap to the carrying medium eliminates the need to reach down to pick it up, as the strap can be draped over part of the wheelchair and kept within easy reach. But more importantly, the ability to grab the strap in the middle, toward the cargo’s center of gravity, would also make it much easier to lift heavy loads single-handedly, especially compared to trying to lift the same amount of weight by grabbing a box or tray by one of the ends or in the middle of one of the sides.