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Student designs tech to make wheelchair life easier

The team behind Portal.

PROVO — This project started with four friends who wanted to build something that would make life a little better.

“We sat down with our friend Lauren, who uses a wheelchair, and said take us through your day from when you wake up to when you go to bed,” said Morgen Glessing, the CEO and a creator of Portal. “We learned so many problems she deals with. An insight that she gave us is that it’s hard to get through a lot of doors on campus.”

Glessing and three other students at Brigham Young University, Samuel Lew, Josh Horne and Jake Parry, took Lauren’s complaints and asked other people who use wheelchairs if they had similar concerns. They did.

“Some of the door buttons are broken. A lot of them are in weird awkward places,” Glessing said. “You don’t know if you have seven seconds to get through or 15 seconds. Sometimes the doors will close and smash their legs.”

The four set to work finding a solution. Glessing said they wanted to create something that would make the doors more reliable and easier to use. He said people who walk to class never have to worry about how they’ll get through the number of doors in their path, and he wants people in wheelchairs to have that same chance.

That’s where Portal comes in.

The team built technology that is about the size of a small stack of cards. It plugs in easily to the motor on automatic doors and is controlled by an app.

“Once you have the Portal app downloaded the phone can go back in your pocket. Then every time you approach a door, equipped with a portal device, it will open up,” Glessing said. “We built it kind of like Star Wars or Star Trek. The doors just open up.”

He said the doors won’t close again until the app is at least five feet away.

“It really allows someone true peace of mind that the door isn’t going to just smash on their legs,” Glessing said.

The team behind Portal.

Portal is still in beta mode right now. They’ve installed in on ten doors on the Utah Valley University Campus, and hope to have 150 installed on doors on five University Campuses across the state by the end of the month.