Fredericton coder's accessibility app could open some city doors wirelessly

Fredericton city council will decide Monday night if a proposed pilot project called Doorable, an app that opens doors wirelessly, will go ahead in select buildings around the city.

Doorable app would make it easy for smartphone users to open automatic doors

If Fredericton city council approves the idea, residents with the new Doorable app will be able to open doors wirelessly at some municipal buildings. (Maria Jose Burgos)

Fredericton city council will decide Monday night if a proposed pilot project called Doorable, an app that opens doors wirelessly, will go ahead in select buildings around the city.

For Doorable to work, the app's developer would hook up a device to the push-botton mechanisms that already allow disabled people and others to open doors automatically.

But once the Doorable app is downloaded, users' smartphones would automatically connect to the doors and open them.

"When you get to a certain distance from the door, it just opens up," said Melissa Lunney, founder of AppDigenous Development Inc., a company that is merging technology with tradition. "You don't need to press anything, the phone has to be on. That's it."

Lunney's inspiration for Doorable came when she noticed a woman in a wheelchair trying to enter a building.

"She wheeled up to the door, pushed the button and the door opened on the same side as the button," Lunney said. "She had to back up and manoeuvre herself around the door. By the time she was entering the building, the door was closing on her."

There has to be a better way, Lunney thought.

So she created Doorable while taking a mobile application development course through the Joint Economic Development Initiative, an organization that supports Indigenous participation in the New Brunswick economy.

After creating the app, Lunney went to the City of Fredericton and proposed installing it at buildings around the city. City officials felt the idea would contribute to the Digital Fredericton Initiative, which is trying to make Fredericton a smart, progressive city.

If approved Monday night, Doorable will be implemented at City Hall, Fredericton Public Library, the Grant Harvey Centre and Willie O'Ree Place.

"It's about taking something old and upgrading it using technology," said Lunney.

Before working on Doorable, Lunney created Helping Hands, an app for a Maliseet children's book called Weyossisok, which educates readers in the Maliseet language.

As AppDigenous grows, Lunney said, she wants to hire Indigenous workers and create more accessibility apps.

"There's really a big market for it," she said. "There's a lot of ways you can help people with technology that's not being done yet," she said.

With files from Information Morning Fredericton