A Poughkeepsie Entrepreneur Pioneers Accessible Technology for the Disabled

Marist student Dana Jones developed Accessadoor to open doors for individuals with disabilities — and Hudson Valley innovators are taking notice.


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Dana Jones (center) chats with guests at the Think Dutchess Innovation Challenge.

Photo by Ben Jamieson of Kateigh and Ben Photography

 

When the idea for Accessadoor first came to Dana Jones, she was in a bit of a bind. At the time, she was on her way to class at Dutchess Community College when she realized she had no way to open the door to get into her building.

“It’s very difficult to [open doors] independently when you are in a wheelchair, and I was not able to use the current ADA door-opening technology to open the doors because the buttons were too hard for me to push,” the Poughkeepsie resident explains. That day, she had to text a friend to meet her, since there was no one around to assist.

While the moment was stressful, it turned out to be something of a blessing in disguise, since it prompted her to come up with the inspiration for what would soon become Accessadoor.

As the name suggests, Accessadoor is a two-part system with a smartphone application and compatible device that work in tandem to open doors for individuals with all varieties of handicap. The device connects with existing ADA buttons and, after a 10-minute set-up, allows anyone who has downloaded the accompanying app to signal to the device to open the door for them.

 

Accessadoor
Photo provided by Accessadoor

 

For Jones, the device is a godsend, since it’s one more way for individuals with physical handicaps to become more independent. After that light-bulb moment at Dutchess Community College, she began to flesh out the Accessadoor concept in more detail. When she transferred to Marist College to complete her degree, she developed the blueprint even further and ultimately submitted it to the 2018 New York Regional Business Plan Competition.

After presenting her concept and beta technology, she closed the day with the top prize in the IT/Software division and, later, the second-place title in the New York State Business Plan Competition. From beginning the R&D process to creating a functioning model that was optimized for manufacturing, the entire development process took approximately a year and a half.

Since then, Accessadoor has taken off. It caught the eye of Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, who’s worked with Jones to increase the scope of the technology’s beta testing and promote awareness about accessible, inclusive spaces for all.

“The existing handicap accessible door technology has failed to keep up with technological advances,” Jones notes. In regard to her Accessadoor technology, she explains that touchscreens require significantly less strength to activate, thereby easing stress and reducing risk of contact with germs for handicapped individuals.

Although she serves as founder and CEO at Accessadoor, she relies upon Jacob Ernst, who she met as a student at Dutchess Community College, to helm the hardware and software engineering component. In addition, the duo has received mentorship from individuals like Bill Wolfson, an IT and security specialist at DCC, and David Gavin, the Associate Professor of Management at Marist College.

 

Accessadoor Dana Jones

Left to right: Dana Jones, Accessadoor, with Sarah Lee, CEO at Think Dutchess, at the Think Dutchess Innovation Challenge / Photo by Ben Jamieson of Kateigh and Ben Photography

 

Most recently, Jones was one of four semi-finalists in the Think Dutchess Innovation Challenge, which gives budding Hudson Valley entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their businesses to a panel of judges in an attempt to secure funding, prizes, and support. At the event, which was held on June 5 at Locust Grove, Accessadoor took home second place, earning high marks for successful beta testing and a go-to-market plan.

“We spent eight weeks preparing for the competition, and I learned so much during that process,” she reveals. “Being a student, you learn how to prepare certain things, but when you actually get to use them in a real setting, it lets you see how it works in the real world.”

Now that the challenge has wrapped, Jones is full steam ahead toward her next target: introducing Accessadoor to the market. Currently, she’s working to finish her first manufacturing order and beta testing by October in hopes of making the product available in January 2020. A total of four locations with more than 150 doors will participate in testing, which Jones estimates will last two to four months. After that, Accessadoor will be ready for sale on the retail market.

“As long as our timeline stays on schedule, our product should be available to everyone by the New Year!” she enthuses.

Accessadoor is available for preorder online.


Related: Marist Ranks as One of the World's Top Fashion Schools

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