Invention

Victoria’s father-son duo’s invention supports disabled shoppers | Premium

When Hurricane Harvey ripped through Ernie Byrd’s house, decimating his store and flooding his home, the 69-year-old said he went through a phase of depression and gained about 70 pounds.

Eight months later, with the added weight, Byrd noticed he had more difficulty shopping while resting his arms on the handles of his shopping cart.

“I looked around and about a third of other people were doing the same thing,” Byrd said. “And I got to thinking, ‘Boy, we need handles or something.'”






Ernie Byrd rests his arms on the armrest handles of the shopping cart February 7 in Victoria.



A welder for most of his life, Byrd then took to the drawing board to create an invention.

His invention, the shopping cart armrest handles, which was granted a U.S. patent last year, is a tool that has the potential to help millions of people with disabilities across the country when shopping. races, Byrd said. So far, the handles aren’t for sale to the general public, but Byrd and his son said they hope the invention will one day become widely available.

Even though people can opt for an electric scooter, they will still have to bend over and hold the basket, he said.

“These handles here will support about 30 percent of their body weight and take it off their ankles and knees,” Ernie said. “And it helps with their balance.”

His first attempt to solve the problem was simple. He placed an exercise roller on a cart for added comfort. The idea, however, was elementary and didn’t solve the problem of people slouching over their baskets, instead of standing up, he said.

“It’s about the tenth style we have, and it’s by far the best. They adjust so easily. They’re solid, so you can put your full weight on them and it won’t tip the basket backwards,” Byrd said. “It also restores people’s dignity, so they can stand up straight and be at eye level with others instead of looking at the basket.”







Basket armrest handles

Dana Wright tests a prototype of the cart’s armrest handles.




The invention is particularly useful for people with ankle, knee and back pain or those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, Byrd said.

Byrd then enlisted the help of his son, Chad Byrd, of Victoria, to build on the model using his knowledge of 3D modeling. In a room transformed into a workshop, the father-son duo thinks about improving the handles of the armrests.

“He was asking my opinion, and I was trying it out, and I think these must really be adjustable because they were kind of fixed in place,” the younger Byrd said. “And so we started thinking about ideas.”

Approved as a US patent on July 13, the current prototype uses auxiliary handles attached to a caddy in pairs. Each handle consists of a telescopically extendable vertical tube connected to a horizontal tube that can be used as an armrest. A locking mechanism then secures the top tube to compensate for a person’s height.

With a solid prototype in place, the two hope to license the rights to a shopping cart manufacturer to start the process of mass-producing the shopping cart handles nationwide. Or they could sell the patent outright, depending on the terms.







Basket armrest handles

Old prototypes of the shopping cart armrest handles on February 7 in Victoria.



Already, the invention has received around $25,000 from 70 investors including friends, acquaintances and business people in Victoria.

But for the father-son duo, the motivation for the invention is ultimately to help people get back on their feet and be able to go back to shopping in the store.

“A lot of people want to go back to shops and stores that can’t because their knees don’t hold up. (As for) me, in two minutes I’m out, but with this I can walk around the whole store,” Ernie Byrd said.

“You can imagine someone, say they’re getting older, they have osteoarthritis in their knees, it doesn’t take much to automatically have a sedentary lifestyle. Things can run away from you. If you start to sit still, you’re going to gain weight and you’re going to have heart problems. If we can get people out of the house and into the store, it’s going to dramatically change your lifestyle,” Byrd’s son said.







Basket armrest handles

Chad Byrd and his father Ernie Byrd inside their studio on February 7 in Victoria.