SUU brings high-tech ADA accessibility to campus buildings

Photo showing a cell phone being used to activate an ADA accessible door-opening device from Portal Entryways, several of which have been recently installed on the Southern Utah University campus, Cedar City, Utah, date of photo not specified. | Image courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News / Cedar City News

CEDAR CITY — Many of the building entrances across Southern Utah University’s campus are now Bluetooth enabled so they can open hands-free, making the campus more accessible for everyone.

According to a press release from the university, the project became a reality thanks to a partnership between the university and Portal Entryways, a company established to “create a world where people of any physical ability can get anywhere, enjoying an environment that is safe, convenient, accessible, inclusive and collaborative.”

During the fall of 2017, SUU Facilities Management and the university’s Disability Support office began working with a group of students from Brigham Young University to help develop the product for Portal Entryways, which at the time was a small startup. This breakthrough technology provides an incredible opportunity for ADA access points.

“We are having more and more students using wheelchairs and having mobility difficulties,” Carmen Alldredge, director of disability services at SUU, said in the press release. “The fact that they can have an app to open doors on campus immediately, without even having to touch their phone once the app is set up, is a step forward towards universal design.”

Alldredge said that SUU is moving forward “thanks to those who understand and are willing to improve the lives of many.”

A QR code sticker on an ADA accessible door that has a new high-tech opening device from Portal Entryways, several of which have been recently installed on the Southern Utah University campus, Cedar City, Utah, date of photo not specified. | Image courtesy of Southern Utah University, St. George News / Cedar City News

The Bluetooth technology works to open exterior doors automatically when a patron with the corresponding app downloaded on their smartphone, comes within a certain distance from the door. At least one exterior door in most campus buildings will be equipped with this technology.

“We have contracted with Portal Entryways to install 40 transceivers across campus, knowing this will make a tremendous difference to those needing assistance accessing campus buildings more readily,” said Tiger Funk, assistant vice president for SUU Facilities Management.

Christine Bonnett, disability support specialist at the university, said the devices will help more than just people with a disability.

“This provides easier access for anyone who can’t access a door, whether it’s a person in a wheelchair, a parent with a stroller, or a student with an armful of books.”

SUU Facilities Management has also committed ongoing funding for the annual contract price, which includes technical support, data analytics and future opportunities to expand the system.

The Portal Entryways app is available on the App Store and Play Store for all Apple and Android devices. Doors with the transceivers installed on the SUU campus are indicated with a Portal Entryways decal on the door, which also has a QR code that can be scanned for more information.

“Portal Entryways has created opportunities for mobility that have never before been realized by persons unable to operate building access points,” Funk said.

For more information about Facilities Management at SUU, visit their webpage.

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