While installing buttons or plates that automatically open doors can help make a building more accessible, they aren't spared from flaws. These buttons particularly are of no use to wheelchairs users having restricted upper body movement.
More often than not, these buttons aren't installed properly. In other words, they are either placed too high, too low or just too far from the door to come in handy, since the door closes quickly.
Thankfully, Portal Entryways is leaving no stone unturned in a bid to revamp these existing buttons and make them more accessible.
The company has come up with a device that sits on the top of existing access buttons, helping the doors to open on their own and remain open for a longer period of time for the wheelchair user to enter. Meanwhile, the button does not stop functioning and stays active just as before.
Portal's product can be split into two components including a piece of Bluetooth Low Energy-enabled hardware that comfortably fits into the current door opening system, and a companion app that can be installed and run on the wheelchair user's mobile phone.
As soon as the app finds a Bluetooth Low Energy device within range, it transmits a command to open the door, and ensures it remains open long enough for the user to pass through the doorway. Users can easily identify Portal-enabled doorways by looking for stickers on them.
Although Portal is originally part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2019 class, it came to fruition as a student project in an innovation program at BYU. The aforesaid project required students to find practical solutions to real-world issues.
According to co-founder Sam Lew, initially the concept was completely different (shipping logistic) but they decided to divert their focus after meeting someone on their school campus. This person had organized a lineup of friends who'd either open doors or simply press accessibility buttons that were unreachable.
Despite being in the early stages, the company is hoping to garner noteworthy success. With a whopping 250 devices already installed, they are aiming for contracts signed for about 1,250 devices before the month end.
The company's founder is left with no choice but the do the installations themselves at the moment. It is worth mentioning here that each door uses a specific button and motor. While some mechanism is connected via wire, others are wireless.
"As long as it’s not ancient,” he says, “it should work,” Josh Horne told Greg Kumparak, who is an editor at TechCrunch.
The company is currently focusing on malls, universities and other places with several publicly-accessible doors. They haven't decided yet about the price tag it will carry, however, the device is likely to cost about $100-200 annually per door.
Image credit: Portal Entryways/YouTube screencap