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Blog by Patchen Barss

Top three finalists of 2012 IDeA competition Will McDonald, Hilary Tyler, and Kevin Spencer

Top three finalists of 2012 IDeA competition Will McDonald, Hilary Tyler, and Kevin Spencer

Elevators and ramps in shopping malls. Braille on bank machine buttons. Closed captioning on TV. A superficial survey would suggest that we’re doing pretty well at overcoming barriers that once kept people with disabilities from participating fully in their communities.

Look a little closer, though, and the situation isn’t quite so settled. How about a group bike trip? A skating outing? A collaborative work project? A recent contest challenged undergraduate students to identify extant barriers to accessibility and find affordable, effective solutions to overcome them.

Carleton University Industrial Design student Will McDonald took first place in the Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) contest, for his reinvention of the tandem bike. His mechanism allows any bicycle to link to a wheelchair, creating an unusual, and potentially fun, hybrid vehicle. Once they reach their destination, the chair easily detaches.

Second prize went to Kevin Spencer, also from Carleton for the hi-tech “Nu Viu” cane, which acts as an indoor navigator for people with visual impairments. Brock University’s Hilary Tyler took third place for a different kind of invention: she created a collaborative program designed to help students address issues of mental health and stigma on their campuses.

This trifecta of winning ideas were chosen from among a wide range of inventions, interfaces and refinements to existing technologies and equipment.

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