Being in a wheelchair is essentially about loss of independence. As time and technology speeds ahead, more technology is emerging to redress that loss. The invention of the wheelchair was a leap from not being able to move to full independent mobility.
The iPortal is an amazing piece of technology that turns a wheelchair controller into a Bluetooth device which can control an iPhone, iPad or iPod. It allows the wheelchair user to issue standard taps, double taps, swipes and so on simply by moving the wheelchair controller up, down, left or right.
iPortal works using a combination of hardware and software. The hardware side of things involves connecting the existing wheelchair controller to the iPortal unit. This is a small, slim rectangular box that sits neatly and unobtrusively under the wheelchair seat and sends signals to your device.
The iPhone then sits in a supplied cradle with a flexible “goose-neck” type arm which attaches to the wheelchair.
Once the iPortal has been connected it needs to be paired to your device.
There’s also a companion iPortal Dashboard app, available as a free download from the App Store.
While in use the iPortal unit drains power from the wheelchair battery, which in turn charges the connected iPhone. The iPortal comes with two USB ports, allowing you to power two devices at any one time if you need to.
With the the hardware installed, pairing successful and the iPortal App downloaded, it’s simply a matter of switching to iPortal mode on your wheelchair controller. Time to learn the ropes!
Using the iPortal to control an iOS device should be fairly intuitive for a wheelchair user, primarily because moving the controller is something which is already required for normal driving. The “learning curve” is essentially a period of becoming familiar with which movements correspond to the desired action on your device.
If your iPortal has been recommended by your occupational therapist, it is most likely that this person will be familiar with it and will oversee both installation and training. If this is not the case, everything is covered comprehensively in the accompanying user manual.
For wheelchair users the iPortal is a true game changer. The delights of making phone calls, typing on a mobile device, browsing the web, taking photos and the myriad other possibilities of today’s mobile devices are no longer the exclusive domain of those with normal use of their hands. iPortal puts a new world at the wheelchair user’s fingertips or, more correctly, controller!
For me as a disabled person, it has given and continues to give me a whole new level of independence. No longer is it necessary to set a particular time to be picked up from the movies, I just phone home or text when I am ready. Furthermore by using the iPhone as a remote control, I can have full control over practically any home appliance — smart lighting, WeMo connected power sockets, connected thermostats… the list goes on!
You may have no direct need of the iPortal, it obviously being a technology aimed primarily at a particular group, but consider for a moment those you know. Do you have a relative, loved one or friend who is disabled or advancing in years and mobility is becoming an issue? iPortal may be the perfect solution to get them “back on their feet” and restore additional independence through the use of an iPhone.
How Do I Get One?
I have presented the iPortal here in it’s standard form: iPortal Accessibility. Also available is iPortal Mouse Mover, which can pair with your computer just like any wireless bluetooth mouse. This can allow full control of your computer from your wheelchair controller.
It is important to make clear that the iPortal is extremely full featured and provides more than one method of control. For those interested in seeing the full range of control capabilities, I would strongly recommend visiting the Dynamic Controls website.
Acquiring an iPortal for most will involve contacting their healthcare professional, occupational therapist or healthcare provider to investigate funding options. This is an area which is handled in different ways depending on which part of the world you are in. If in doubt, I would suggest contacting your GP as a starting point.
It is worth pointing out that the iPortal is an advanced, and thus expensive, bit of kit. Self-funding a purchase will not be an option for many
Your thoughts, questions or feedback are encouraged and appreciated.