Best 2015 student inventions to remove barriers for people with disabilities named through the Council of Ontario Universities’ IDeA contest

An app that promotes healthy active living by checking in to make sure users are meeting the goals they’ve shared with their social network is this year’s winner of the Council of Ontario Universities’ (COU) annual Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) student competition.

Designed by Carleton University’s Quayce Thomas and Brendan O’Brien, the app took the top prize in the IDeA competition in which Ontario university undergraduate students compete to come up with inventions that help remove barriers for people with disabilities.

“This active living app is a wonderful invention because it encourages people to stay on track and maintain their physical and mental health, even when they run up against unexpected obstacles,” says Max Blouw, COU Chair and President of Wilfrid Laurier University.

“It really assists people in their own lives and happiness by leveraging the people closest to them to support them in their goals – whether that’s keeping doctors’ appointments, getting enough sleep, taking medications, or getting to the gym.”

The Carleton duo, architecture students in the Faculty of Engineering and Design, also takes IDeA’s second prize for a device that helps people get up or down from a chair that – unlike some hospital-issued assistive devices – is stylish and aesthetically pleasing for use in the home.

Third prize goes to a team from York University for eyeglasses for someone with a hearing impairment that use microphones and speech recognition software to display words spoken to the user.

“Ontario universities encourage the innovation of our students,” says Bonnie M. Patterson, COU President and CEO. “When we match students’ ability to be creative with our goal of creating accessible environments, we get graduates who can recognize barriers for people with disabilities and can help to remove them as they go out into the world.”

To mark the 2015 Parapan Am Games, a bonus prize was awarded this year for the IDeA that best addresses a barrier in para-sport. The winner – invented by a University of Toronto team – is a cargo trailer that attaches to the back of a wheelchair allowing users to independently transport sledge hockey equipment.

Each of Ontario’s 21 publicly assisted universities participated in this year’s competition, funded by the Ontario government’s EnAbling Change program, through the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.

Finalists included students from the University of Guelph, McMaster University, University of Ottawa and York University.

The winners and three runners-up will receive prizes of $1,500, $1,000 and $500 respectively, while the bonus prize winner receives $1,500.


COU is the voice of Ontario’s universities, promoting the value of education, research and innovation that leads to social, cultural and economic success.

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