New assistance for the disabled and elderly

November 30, 2018 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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Bar-Ilan University is marking International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Monday by introducing a new technology that facilitates access to buildings, classrooms and restrooms for the physically disabled and the elderly by automatically opening doors for them. 

In addition to Heron, Bar-Ilan University recently purchased this wheelchair-accessible vehicle for its cross-campus, environmentally-friendly shuttle system. The shuttle system assists students and faculty with and without disabilities to navigate the University campus. Credit: Yoni Reif

The technology, known as “Heron”, works on doors that have a small robot affixed to them.  The robot is activated via remote control or through an app that will soon be available for download on Android devices.  The door opens when the appropriate selection is made on the app or the remote control.  Once entry is gained the door closes automatically after approximately 12 seconds.

The Equal Rights for People with Disabilities Act in Israel and laws in many countries around the world include regulations for making all services accessible to people with disabilities, including solutions for entrance doors — though most doors are still inaccessible in public buildings, office towers, shops and residences.  Many have to wait outside the door until someone opens it for them. Heron offers a feeling of independence and a solution to a problem common to people around the world.

Bar-Ilan University is the only university in Israel currently using this technology, which was developed by Petel, a startup company formed by the non-profit organisation Milbat. Petel is housed at Bar-Ilan University’s Smart City Impact Center.  The Smart City Impact Center brings together city officials, tech companies, and researchers to improve the quality of life in Israel’s urban environments and beyond.  The Bar-Ilan University campus serves as an urban laboratory where it is possible to test ideas of scientists and systems of solution providers on target populations.

“Our goal should be to integrate people with disabilities into society and Israeli academia has an important role to play in this,” says Dr Eyal Yaniv, who directs the Smart City Impact Center.  “Petel’s technology enables people to ‘open doors’. An activity that seems simple for healthy people can be quite complex for the disabled, so we are pleased to be a hub and a testing ground for startups that contribute to society.” Dr Yaniv, who also serves as director of the School of Business Administration, is considered one of Israel’s internet pioneers.  A co-founder of of Haaretz Group (now Walla), he headed various divisions at IAI and IBM and founded “Nonstop” a company providing ADSL high-speed internet and infrastructure services

“Suddenly, what can be a daunting task for a person in a wheelchair is not only possible, but incredibly simple,” says Ran Goldstein, General Manager of the Smart City Impact Center. “This technology offers a novel way to empower the physically disabled and the elderly by providing them with a greater sense of confidence and independence.”

Building 407 on campus, home to the Sybil Wigdor Social Involvement Unit which services students with physical, mental and chronic disabilities, is the first building equipped with the new technology. The technology is also currently on display at the Smart City Impact Center.  Plans are underway to equip most buildings on campus with the technology, which will also be activated in the future via a permanent button installed on the wall within close proximity to the entry door.

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