Students work towards a more accessible Ontario

Graphic by Kate Turner

Graphic by Kate Turner

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act aims to make Ontario the most accessible province by 2025. Inspired by this, the Council of Ontario Universities held its annual Innovative Designs for Accessibility student competition on May 13.

Max Blouw, COU chair and Wilfrid Laurier University president, explained the premise of the competition.

“It is a celebration … I think of the innovative entrepreneurial spirit that so many students have. It is basically encouraging young people to get engaged to find solutions to problems and see if they are marketable.”

This year’s winner was Jasmine Yeung, a student from Carleton University. She was awarded $1,500 for her idea for an expandable portable washroom,.

“Portable accessible washrooms exist, but mine is designed differently,” Yeung said. “Mine is mainly different in that it works with what is already out there. It is more portable because it is expandable.”

Yeung’s design saves space on transport trucks because it is collapsible, and provides ample room for users with accessibility concerns to easily enter and use the bathrooms.

“When you go to big concerts or sporting events all the portable washrooms are for able-bodied individuals and never ones for those with wheelchairs,” said Blouw. “You scratch your head and go why has no one ever thought of this before?”

As a design student, Yeung recognized the need for a competition of this nature.

“It encourages most accessible designs,” she said of IDeA. “It encourages future designers to think about these accessibility issues. You are more conscious of those types of needs in whatever people choose to design.”

After the competition concluded, Blouw introduced the finalists to Governor General David Johnston to tell him about their ideas.

“Students there had an amazing array of contacts that they could and did make,” said Blouw.

In terms of next steps for the designs the winner and runners-up conceived, Blouw said, “In all entrepreneurship or innovation you may have a wonderful idea, but unless there is a market or a business case to mobilize that idea into the market place, one must ask: is there a market for portable washrooms? Intuitively I would think so but I don’t know that for sure.”

 

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