Innovative Designs for Accessibility Student Competition

illustration: a light bulb floats above the palm of an articulated hand

Do you have an idea, concept, or design that addresses everyday accessibility issues?

Share your concepts, programs, initiatives or designs to develop innovative, cost-effective, and practical solutions to accessibility issues.

Download Competition Guidelines [PDF] Competition details – including eligibility, selection, and prizes – are available from the organizer, Universities Canada.

Submit an entry

Using the form below, submit a brief video (30 – 90 seconds), an accessible PDF of no more than 2,000 words, or an accessible website to the U of T Competition Selection Committee. Your video should outline your accessibility solution, identifying which barrier it addresses, your strategy for overcoming this barrier, and who will benefit from your solution.

Entries must be submitted by April 19, 2019

If nominated by the Selection Committee, applicants will receive an email inviting them complete the IDeA competition’s submission form, due by April 30, 2019, which will include four short essay questions and the ability to upload your project. Full submission criteria will be provided upon successful nomination.

Submission Categories

Students must submit their concepts, programs, initiatives or designs in one of three streams:
Stream 1:
Attitudinal/Systemic barriers

Attitudinal barriers are behaviours, perceptions, and assumptions that discriminate against persons with disabilities. These barriers often emerge from a lack of understanding, which can lead people to ignore, to judge, or to have misconceptions about a person with a disability. For example, communicating with a person with a disability in a patronizing tone, or assuming they are incapable of accomplishing a task.

Systemic barriers are policies, procedures, or practices that unfairly discriminate against individuals with a disability and can prevent these individuals from participating fully in a situation. Systemic barriers are often put into place unintentionally. A meeting conducted only in person that does not allow participation by phone or web conference is an example of a systemic barrier.

Stream 2:
Architectural/Industrial design barriers

Architectural barriers are elements of buildings or outdoor spaces that create barriers for persons with disabilities. These barriers relate to elements such as the design of a building’s stairs or doorway, the layout of rooms, or the width of halls and sidewalks. Sidewalks or doorways that are too narrow for a wheelchair, scooter or walker represent an architectural accessibility barrier.

Industrial design barriers are products that cannot be used by persons with disabilities because of their design. A jar that cannot be opened by someone who has a motor disability is an example of an industrial design barrier.

Stream 3:
Technological/Communication barriers

Technological barriers occur when the intended audience cannot a use a given technology even with an assistive device. Technology can enhance the user experience, but it can also create unintentional barriers for some users. Technological barriers are often related to information and communications barriers. For example, websites that cannot be accessed using screen reading software provide technological barriers.

Communication barriers occur when sensory disabilities, such as hearing, seeing or learning disabilities, have not been considered. These barriers relate to both the sending and receiving of information. If the print in an email or on a handout is too small to read, this is an example of a communication barrier.


  • This competition is open to students currently enrolled in any post-secondary program at a university which has recognized provincial degree granting power, or their affiliates.
  • Applicants must have demonstrated they have consulted with a person(s) with a disability(ies) for feedback on their concepts, programs, initiative or design.
  • Students must demonstrate that their submission adheres to accessibility standards.
  • If students work as a team, they will be required to nominate one member to act as the team’s delegate, the official point of contact for the team.

About the Administrator

Universities Canada administers the IDeA student competition, a national program funded by the Government of Canada’s Employment and Social Development Canada. Universities Canada’s mandate is to facilitate the development of public policy on higher education and to encourage cooperation among universities and governments, industry, communities, and institutions in other countries. Learn more…