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  Nothing About Us Without Us

   Developing Innovative Technologies
            For, By and With Disabled Persons

    David Werner



Non-Spill Trays: A Personal
Invention Shared with Others

A girl with cerebral palsy carries a drink on a non-slip tray.

Some disabled persons have a problem carrying jars, glasses, and pots of food and drink. If a container falls, it can be dangerous. The difficulty is greater for persons with only one arm, with half of their body paralyzed (paraplegia), or any condition that causes shaking or uncontrolled movements.

PETER AND MARIANNE WEST are a married couple in England. Both have cerebral palsy. Both have trouble carrying drinks because of what they call the wobble factor. In their search for solutions, they learned of a large, commercially-made fiberglass tray with an overhead handle, which was advertized as spill-proof. But it was no longer available.


Peter West, in a workshop in Palestine, demonstrates his non-spill tray.

Peter designed a simple, wooden non-spill tray to meet his own and his wife's needs. He got the idea for the design from a tray used for carrying coffee in Arab markets. The tray can carry a lot of cups and glasses, and packs flat for storage in a small kitchen.

Trays for the man who doesn't have fingers.

Peter now teaches people how to make the tray in a community workshop called People Potential (see page 342) where he and Kennett Westmacott give disabled persons and family members courses in "Resources and Creativity," and "Appropriate Disability Design." He and Kennett have taught many others to make the tray in various countries.


I first saw the tray being made and used in a disability skills workshop in Angola (see Chapter 29).The tray can be whirled in a circle overhead.The tray can be fitted onto a holding device on a wheelchair.


The non-spill capacity of the tray is quite amazing. It can be swung from side to side, and even whirled in a circle overhead, without spilling the liquid in a cup. 

The tray can be adapted to meet individual needs. For example, for a person who has difficulty gripping (because of arthritis, leprosy, etc.), you can attach a handgrip of clay, plaster, or putty to the handbar. Also, the tray can be fitted onto a holding device on a wheelchair, to carry containers over uneven ground.


How to Make a Non-Spill Tray

(These instructions are adapted from CeR News No 17, May-Aug , 1994. Drawings by Celia Till/AHRTAG. Text by Peter West )

Cut off 4 triangles and glue 3 trapezoids on each side.

The base of the tray starts with a square (as large or as small as will meet your needs). Cut off corners, as shown. Glue small piece of wood to 3 sides.

45 degree angle.

The wood lever is slightly shorter than the tray. Make sure the bottom edge is angled so that the lever sits on the base at a 45 degree angle.2 small pieces of wood to fix the lever.

Place 2 small pieces of wood upright in the center of the fourth side, leaving space between them for the lever.


Make a peg from a rod of hard wood.

4. With the lever in place (at 45 degrees), drill a hole of about 6 mm (1/4 inch) in diameter through the middle of the 3 pieces. Enlarge the hole in the lever slightly (so it will move easily). Make a peg from a rod of hard wood, so that it fits tightly between the 2 side-pieces. If fitted correctly, the lever should move easily and stop at 45 degrees. When satisfied, glue the peg in place and trim off the ends. Now fasten the remaining edge pieces on either side of the lever.

5. Make a handbar from a small piece of wood. It should be big enough for a hole to be drilled through its center. Thread a piece of strong thin rope through the hole.

Drill a hole through the free end of the lever.



6. Drill a hole through the free end of the lever. Be sure the hole is exactly over the center of the tray when the lever is fully raised.

Central knot.




Knot the center of the rope. This is very important. Without this central knot, the objects on the tray will move in a different direction to the tray, and fall off or spill. Pull the rope through the hole in the handbar and tie it firmly, so that the handbar is connected firmly to the lever.

Cut in the shape of fish.




Note: To make the tray more fun, the lever can be cut in the shape of another design - for example, a fish.

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