Mealtime Partners, Inc.

Specializing in Assistive Dining and Drinking Equipment


The Very Versatile Front Mounted Drinking System

Mealtime Partners develops products to meet independent eating and drinking needs that are currently not satisfactorily fulfilled. An example of a previously unavailable product that was developed by Mealtime Partners is the Front Mounted Drinking System. Because, many people who are unable to pick up a drink with their hands also have a limited ability to suck, they require a short straw from which to drink (instead of a long drink tube). This reduces the mounting possibilities for a drinking system. The system must be in front of the user and near to their mouth. The Front Mounted Drinking System, is a drink holder that is positioned to hold a drink container (cup, bottle, 12 oz. can, etc.) close to the user's mouth. Thus, the straw can be as short as necessary to facilitate easy suction for the user. An additional benefit of the Front Mounted Drinking System is that it is the easiest to clean of all Mealtime Partners drinking systems. Many of the containers it holds are disposable and thus do not require cleaning. Those that do, are usually easy to wash or are dishwasher safe.

In the process of creating these single purpose products, parts or components are often developed that are versatile enough to be used for more than one application. Our clamping products that were developed primarily to mount the Mealtime Partners drinking systems are an example of this. This article discusses the versatility of the Front Mounted Drinking System. However, when reading this article keep in mind that the Wheelchair Clamp used for this Drinking System can also be used in a wide variety of applications that do not necessarily relate to drinking.

The Front Mounted Drinking System is the most flexible of the drinking systems offered by Mealtime Partners. This is possible because it is a configuration of three components that are all adaptable: the Wheelchair Clamp, the Flex Arm, and the Cup Holder. The Front Mounted Drinking System is fundamentally a very versatile drink holder that can accommodate a variety of cups, cans, or bottles. It allows the drink to be held such that the drink tube (or straw) is very near the user's mouth. Thus the user can take a drink without using their hands with only a small amount of neck or upper body movement. Because the Clamp can be attached almost anywhere on the wheelchair and the Flex Arm can be bent to hold the Cup Holder in the desired position, the Front Mounted Drinking System becomes a semi-custom drinking system for each user.

Figure 1 below shows the Front Mounted Drinking System with a 24-inch Flex Arm mounted to the lower vertical support tubing of the wheelchair. The clamp is oriented horizontally on the tube. (The Front Mounted Drinking System can be purchased with 6-inch, 12-inch, 18-inch, 24-inch, or a 30-inch Flex Arm, as required to suit the needs of the user.)

Front Mounted Drinking System
Figure 1 - Front Mounted Drinking Systems Attached to Wheelchair

To better understand how this system can be configured to accommodate the diverse needs of users, the three components used in the Front Mounted Drinking System will be discussed below.

The Wheelchair Clamp

Wheelchair Clamp 
Figure 2 - Photograph of the MtP Wheelchair Clamp

The Wheelchair Clamp, shown in Figure 2, can be attached to round (i.e., tubular), or square surfaces. The opening can accommodate round objects ranging from 3/8 inch to 1-1/4 inches in diameter, and flat objects from 3/8 inch to 1 3/4 inches in diameter. This allows it to be attached to a variety of structural parts on a wheelchair frame, a bed rail, or a table top. And it can be clamped to both vertical and horizontal tubular or square rails. An integral part of the Wheelchair Clamp is its attachment holder which is opened and closed using a thumb screw. The built in attachment holder can hold shafts from 11/16 inch to 7/8 inch. For the Front Mounted Drinking System that is pictured above, this attachment holder with associated Thumbscrew facilitates holding the Flex Arm securely in position.

The photographs in Figure 3 show examples of different locations and orientations that the Flex Arm can be mounted on a wheelchair using the Wheelchair Clamp.

Front-Mounted Drinking System Figure 3  Front Mounted Drinking System  Front Mounted Drinking System 
Figure 3 - Examples of Methods of Attaching the Front Mounted Drinking System to a Wheelchair

The Front Mounted Drinking System can also be mounted on a table top as shown in Figure 4 for users who do not wish to have their drink attached to their wheelchair but would rather roll up to the table and take a drink. 

Front Mounted Drinking System Attached to a Table 
Figure 4 - The Front Mounted Drinking System can also be attached to a table.

If the built-in attachment holder does not orient the flex arm in the desired direction for the user, or the user would like to attach two items (like a Flex Arm and a Flex Tube), a separate Attachment Holder can be added to the Wheelchair Clamp.

Attachment Holder  Attachemnt Holder  Attachment Holders 
The MtP Wheelchair Clamp Attachment Holder Attachment Holder Attached to Clamp More ways for attaching the Attachment Holder
Figure 5

The Attachment Holder, pictured in Figure 5, can be oriented vertically or horizontally in relation to the Wheelchair Clamp and can be attached to either side of the Clamp. In the picture of the Front Mounted Drinking System attached to the edge of a table (Fig. 4), the built-in Attachment Holder is being used. However, had there been a need for the Flex Arm to extend vertically from the clamp, an auxiliary Attachment Holder could have been added to accommodate this positioning.

The Attachment Holder adds an additional value to the Wheelchair Clamp by allowing a second piece of equipment to be mounted using the clamp. The first piece of equipment can be held in position using the integral attachment holder and the second can be connected to the clamp using the auxiliary Attachment Holder. Examples of equipment that might be mounted simultaneously in this way are a Front Mounted Drinking System and a Sip N Puff control, or a Hydration Backpack with Drink Tube Positioning and an adaptive switch mount.

The Flex Arm

Mealtime Partners uses custom Flex Arms in many of their product assemblies. These Flex Arms are heavy duty, spring steel arms that have been chosen for their durability and capacity to maintain their position once they are positioned. Flex Arm (often referred to as flexible gooseneck tubing) can support an object and hold it in position. It is adjustable and can be re-positioned by bending. It is very rigid and will stay put after being re-positioned. The ends of the Flex Arm are solid shafts that are around 0.8-inch in diameter and 1-inch long so they can be clamped onto. Also, each end has a threaded hole (1/4"-20 thread), so objects can be screwed to it. Flex Arms are available in various lengths to accommodate different purposes. Currently Mealtime Partners provides products utilizing Flex Arms ranging from 6 inches in length to 30 inches in 6 inch increments.

The Cup Holder

The final essential component of the Front Mounted Drinking System is the Cup Holder. The Cup Holder attaches to the end of the Flex Arm and can be oriented in two directions, vertically or horizontally, as shown in Figure 6. Additionally, it should be noted that the Cup Holder has a cutout to accommodate the handle of a mug.

Cup Holders
Figure 6 - Cup Holders with attachment bracket mounted both horizontally and vertically.

The Cup Holder can accommodate a wide variety of drink containers ranging from standard 12 oz. cans and coffee cups to larger plastic cups as shown in Figure 7.

Cup Holder Cup HolderHholding Water Bottle Cup Holder
A Plastic Cup A Water Bottle in a Koozie A Coffee Cup
Cup Holder holding a soft drink Cup Holder holding a plastic cup Cup Holder holding a Sports Bottle
A Soft Drink in a Koozie A Small Plastic Cup in a Koozie A Sports Bottle with a Drink Tube
Figure 7 - Front Mounted Drinking System Cup Holder - Holding Various Containers

A Koozie (which is provided with the Front Mounted Drinking System) can be inserted into the Cup Holder to position smaller cups snuggly (and to keep items hot or cold). Simply add a straw to the container and the drink is available.

In summary, the versatility of this drinking system allows it to be configured to meet the needs of a wide variety of users and make hydration easy and comfortable, even for individuals who lack the use of arms and/or hands. It requires the least suction of any drinking system currently available and is the easiest to clean because it can accommodate drink containers and straws that are disposable, or cups and bottles that can easily be removed and washed. Because of the previously described versatility of the components of the Front Mounted Drinking System, the Wheelchair Clamp and the Wheelchair Clamp Attachment Holder can now be purchased from Mealtime Partners as separate parts. The Wheelchair Clamp can support shafts, rods, and tubes from 3/8" to 1-1/4" diameter. The Wheelchair Clamp built-in attachment holder and the auxiliary Wheelchair Clamp Attachment Holder can support shafts, rods, and tubes from 11/16" to 7/8" in diameter. Using the Wheelchair Clamp and metal shafts or PVC pipes and other PVC parts (like elbows, T's, etc.) that are readily available from your local hardware store (Lowes, Home Depot, Ace, etc.), custom mounting systems can be readily constructed that will hold almost any item. For detailed information about these items or to purchase, click on the following links: Wheelchair Clamp, Wheelchair Clamp Attachment Holder.

When choosing any equipment, the abilities of the person who will use it should be thoroughly evaluated prior to selecting the specific equipment. When deciding which Front Mounted Drinking System to purchase, the factors that should be considered are the user’s ability to suck and the type of straw that they are comfortable drinking through. Whether the person is able to drink safely with their head turned to the left or right, or if they need to have their head facing forward and positioned to produce a chin-tuck, should also be considered. Next the range of movement that the person is comfortable moving their head, neck and trunk should be assessed. For example, if they can move their head and shoulders forward six inches, or if they have good lateral head movement (side to side) but can only move their head forward two inches, etc. This provides the necessary information to locate how far away from the individual’s mouth the cup holder can be placed. To determine this, measure from where the person’s lower lip is when they are in the “ready to drink” position, and then add the length of the straw. Next, subtract three inches from this length to determine the distance that the cup holder should be from the person’s mouth.

Using this information, decide where the cup holder can be located relative to the person’s forward facing position. If a chin tuck is required, the Cup Holder should be positioned in front of the user. But, if the person is able to move their head to the left or right and still safely swallow liquids, then the cup hold can be positioned left or right of their body’s mid-line, moving it somewhat out of their way.

The most appropriate location to clamp to the wheelchair can be determined once the Cup Holder’s position is known. Each wheelchair, and the person sitting in it is different so this is a judgment call based on observing what parts of the wheelchair that can be clamped to that do not interfere with the person’s body, arms, hands, and legs. In many cases it is quite obvious where the clamp should be attached to the wheelchair, but in some cases it is not as easy. If no obvious locations are found begin the search for the best sight by looking at the chair from the top to the bottom. Could the clamp be attached to one of the handles of the wheelchair without interfering with the user?

Cup Holder Positioned for Chin Tuck
Figure 8 - The Cup Holder is Positioned to Facilitate the User Producing a Chin Tuck

The next step is to measure the distance from the handle to where the cup holder sight will be (as established above). Always allow plenty of room to curve the Flex-arm in a way that will not touch or impede the person in the chair. Flex Arms are provided in various lengths in six inches increments. When choosing the appropriate Flex Arm, always select the next longest length from the measurement you have taken. A little extra bend can remove any excess length.

Front Mounted Drinking System Front Mounted Drinking System
Figure 9A - For Individuals who have significant range of motion the cup holder can be positioned farther from their mouth. Figure 9B - 24-Inch Flex Arm Positions the Cup Holder Comfortably In Front of the User.

Another example of determining the length of the Flex Arm is for a clamp site on the front of the wheelchair. When considering locations around the wheels or brake, make sure that the clamp will not interfere with them. Also, make sure that the clamp does not stick out from the side of the wheelchair and get in the way of going through doors, etc. Once the clamp location is selected measure from that location to where the cup holder will be, add enough length to curve the Flex Arm to position the cup holder and then select the appropriate length Flex Arm.

Front Mounted Drinking System
Figure 10 - Front Mounted Drinking System with 30-Inch Flex Arm Clamped to the Front of the Wheelchair

The Drink Holder can accommodate large cups and mugs, and, using the provided Koozie, can also accommodate standard 12 oz. soft drink bottles and cans. Some photographs of different cups and bottles in the Cup Holder can be seen earlier in this article.x; padding-right: 5px" class="style52"> It is always advisable to use a drinking container that has a lid. This provides two advantages. It reduces the risk of spillage should the cup holder get knocked, and it helps to hold the straw in a stable position for the user to easily access it.

This drinking system, by its nature, is positioned directly or partially in front of the user. Because of its close proximity to the user it is generally advisable to take it off of the wheelchair when the user wishes to get in or out of the chair. To facilitate this being quick and easy, the wheelchair clamp that comes with the Front Mounted Drinking System can easily be released and reattached. No tools are needed. The same comment applies to removing and reinstalling the Flex Arm from the Wheelchair Clamp.


This page last updated 11-07-17./p>