Innovative designs for accessibility competition

Illustration of an open hand holding a light bulb. Innovative Designs for Accessibility. Innovations pour l'accessibilité.

The Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) student competition challenges university students across Canada to use their creativity to develop innovative, cost-effective and practical solutions to accessibility barriers for people with disabilities. The objectives of the program are:

  • to contribute to the creation of a culture of accessibility in Canada
  • to motivate students to think about accessibility issues and to include accessibility in their creation of social and technological innovations now and in the future
  • to develop cost-effective, practical and innovative concepts, programs, initiatives or designs that address everyday accessibility issues

Update on 2020 and 2021 competitions

The IDeA competition is accepting applications!

Due to the challenges and disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 IDeA competition—originally scheduled to close on April 30, 2020—has been deferred and will be integrated into this year’s 2021 competition.

This means that:

  • All students who entered the 2020 IDeA competition will be automatically entered into the 2021 competition.
      • Students who entered the 2020 IDeA competition may modify and re-submit their submissions up until April 30, 2021 at 5 p.m. ET, if they wish.
  • All students who were eligible for the 2020 competition will continue to be eligible for the 2021 competition, regardless of enrollment status for the fall 2020 term.
  • The competition submission portal will remain open until the final 2021 deadline.

The deadline to enter the 2021 IDeA competition is April 30, 2021 at 5 p.m. ET.

We are truly inspired by the ingenuity of IDeA competition submissions and encourage students to continue developing their ideas and designs, working in collaboration with persons with disabilities to tackle accessibility challenges and to use their skills and talent to build a more inclusive Canada.  

If you have questions about the IDeA student competition, please contact 

Who is eligible?

COVID-19 UPDATE: Due to the disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, students who were enrolled in the 2019-2020 academic year on a full-time or part-time basis at the undergraduate or master’s level are also eligible to apply for the 2020-2021 program. All other eligibility criteria below still apply.

Eligible applicants must be:

  • Currently enrolled in the 2020-2021 academic year at a Canadian university which has recognized provincial degree-granting power, or their affiliates.
  • Studying in any program at the undergraduate or master’s level on a part-time or full-time basis, including but not limited to: Architecture, arts, business, computer science, early childhood education, engineering, industrial design, medicine, nursing, political science, psychology, sociology or social work.
  • Canadian students, or international students studying at a Canadian university.
  • Nominated by a member of the university faculty or administration (see “How to apply” below).

How to apply

Students must be nominated by a university representative (faculty or administration) before submitting their project to the IDeA 2020 student competition.

  1. To nominate a student or student team, the university representative must create an account; university representatives who have previously nominated a student will simply need to log into the system using their email address and password.
  2. University representatives must provide the student’s name and email address for each project endorsed. If a team is being nominated, one student will be named as the team delegate. The university representative will receive an email confirmation once the nomination has been submitted. 
  3. Once nominated, the student will receive an email inviting them to complete the submission form. The student will receive a confirmation email when the submission has been successfully completed.  

Download the program guidelines


The 2021 IDeA competition will award 12 winning groups (rather than nine) to accommodate the potential increase in applications caused by the integration of the 2020 and 2021 competitions.

First place – Four prizes of $5,000
Students who finish in first place will receive $5,000 and all expenses paid trip to showcase their project at a national conference.

Second place – Four prizes of $1,500

Third place – Four prizes of $1,000

As finalists in the IDeA student competition, all winners will also be invited to join the IDeA Alumni Network.

Engineering students at UBC built a custom wheelchair frame out of state of the art chromoly. This innovation allowed me to exponentially increase my speed and propelled me to new levels that I could not have imagined before.

2019 competition winners

Nine university students and student teams were winners of the national 2019 Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) competition for their work to reduce accessibility barriers on their campuses and in their communities.

Read the announcement of the 2019 IDeA winners

Meet the winners of the 2019 IDeA competition


Are you an organization interested in innovation and accessibility? Would you like to become a partner of the IDeA program?

Get involved

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With the support of:

Universities Canada administers the IDeA student competition, a national program on behalf of Employment and Social Development Canada.

Canadian Academy of Engineering logo

Disability Foundation logo

Universities Canada