Student Inventions Break Down Barriers in Accessibility at COU’s 2016 IDeA Competition

A program that connects a corporation with members of the disability community to identify career paths, an app that utilizes Google Glass to read  sign language, and a remote-powered device that adjusts closets to make vertical storage more accessible to wheelchair users are among finalists in the Council of Ontario Universities’ annual Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) student competition – a provincial contest that focuses on removing barriers for people with disabilities.

“It’s incredible to think of the lives that could be improved as a result of the remarkable ideas featured here today,” says COU President and CEO David Lindsay. “This competition challenges students to be creative and to work with industry, government, and the community – including members of the disability community – to create and innovate solutions to accessibility.”

“This is a great example of the value our universities place on encouraging students to think about barriers faced by people with disabilities and to take that awareness into the world with them in order to help make our province – our world – more accessible.”

Eight finalist teams from five Ontario universities will showcase their inventions at the Ontario Centre of Excellence Discovery Conference at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre on May 9-10. Winners will be announced on May 10 at 3 p.m. in the South Building.

IDeAs include:

Pursue Your Potential: A program developed for use by the Royal Bank of Canada that aims to connect one of Canada’s largest banks with members of the disability community to identify possible career paths in the corporation, in order to make RBC a leader in workforce diversity – Katie Baird, Cara Lord, Madi Dedora, Kyle Taylor, Luigi Mion, Greg Posavad, Devon Colquitt: Carleton University.

I Saw the Sign: An app that utilizes Google Glass to read American Sign Language (ASL) and project a real-time translation on the glass display for a user who does not understand ASL – Faith Lauzon-Collins: University of Windsor.

Accessible Closet Storage: A device that adjusts closets vertically and horizontally with the use of a remote to optimize storage space and make vertical storage more accessible to wheelchair users – Melody Chen: Carleton University.

uNav – Designing Effective Navigation on Campus: An app designed to help users navigate between two locations by providing accessibility information about the journey, including such things as the type of door handles and the amenities nearby – Anuja Chokshi, Astor Wong, Eric Wong, Motaz Al-Ashhab: University of Waterloo.

Google Speech: An app that resolves presentation anxiety for university students by allowing them to practice public speeches in any auditorium via virtual reality – Adam Badzynski, Eitan Markus, Kristen Thomson: OCAD University.

Lift: A height-adjustable, movable table with integrated storage that provides home cooks a comfortable and flexible work surface in the kitchen – Micah Rakoff Bellman: Carleton University.

High School Move-able: An initiative that would require high school students in Ontario to commit 10 hours of the already mandated 40 hours of community service to working with facilities and organizations that support people with disabilities – Devante Estick, Christman Hsu, and Arvin Santos: University of Toronto.

Aphasia Friendly Business Campaign: A campaign that educates businesses and their employees on Aphasia – a combination of a speech and language disorder caused by damage to the brain – giving them the ability to better serve customers affected by it and other disabilities – Laura Pineault: University of Windsor.

The winner and two runners-up will receive prizes of $1,500, $1,000 and $500 respectively. A bonus prize of $1,500 will be awarded to the IDeA that best addresses a barrier in business.

All 21 Ontario universities participated in the contest, which is supported through the Ontario government’s EnAbling Change program and partners at the Accessibility Directorate of Ontario in the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.

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Dayana Fraser
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