IDeA competition guidelines


The Innovative Design for Accessibility (IDeA) student competition aims to inspire students to use their creativity to develop innovative, cost-effective and practical solutions to accessibility-related issues resulting in communities that are more accessible for persons 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; and
  • to develop cost-effective, practical and innovative concepts, programs, initiatives or designs that address every day accessibility issues.


Eligible applicants must be:

  • Currently enrolled in any post-secondary program at a university which has recognized provincial degree granting power, or their affiliates.
  • Students in all programs including architecture, arts, business, computer science, early childhood education, engineering, industrial design, medicine, nursing, political science, psychology, sociology, social work, etc. are welcome to apply.

Submission Information


Students must submit their concepts, programs, initiatives or designs in one of five categories addressing an accessibility barrier as outlined in Canadian provincial legislation.

Submissions will be made at the IDeA portal.

Students will include their project in one of the following formats*:

  1. PDF Document: A document submission must present the full details of the project which is to be considered by a selection panel and may not exceed 2,500 words. The document must be uploaded to the submission form. Only PDF documents will be accepted.
  2. Video: A video submission must present in full detail the project that is to be considered by the selection panel. The video submission must be a minimum of 30 seconds to a maximum of 3 minutes in total running time, and uploaded to YouTube. The link to the YouTube video must be provided on the submission form.
  3. Website: A website submission must present with full details of the project that is to be considered by the selection panel. Websites must include a specified “Summary Page” that includes a brief (maximum 1,000-word) summary of project. The student or student team is responsible for acquiring the server space on which each website submission is to be hosted. If the Website has restricted settings, the information required to gain access to the Website must be provided. The URL for the website must be provided on the submission form.

Only online submissions in the formats noted above will be accepted.

* By making an electronic submission, the student or student team represents and warrants that he/she has obtained all necessary consents, approvals, permissions, licenses and other documents relating to the Submission that may be required from the participants or any other third party to permit the uses of the Submission or any part thereof as contemplated in these Rules, including, without limitation, any waiver of moral rights; (ii) represents and warrants that it is the owner of the Submission and grants the Competition Group and Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada an unlimited, worldwide, perpetual, royalty- free, license and right to publish, use, publicly perform the Electronic Format Submission in any way, in any and all media, without limitation, and without consideration; and (iii) agrees to release, indemnify, defend, and hold the Contest Group harmless from any and all claims, liabilities, and damages (including, without limitation, legal fees) related to the Submission, or usage of the Submission by the Contest Group in any manner; and (iv) waives any moral rights the Entrant may have in the Submission.

Submission categories

Students must present a solution that addresses one of the following accessibility barriers:

  1. 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, making a person feel as though you are doing them a “special favour” by providing their accommodation, or assuming a person with a disability is inferior.
  2. Organizational or 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. Organizational or systemic barriers are often put into place unintentionally. For example, meetings or office hours conducted in person only, or not allowing individuals to access the information by phone, e-mail, or other means of communication.
  3. Architectural/physical barriers are elements of buildings or outdoor spaces that create barriers to 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. For example, sidewalks or doorways that are too narrow for a wheelchair, scooter or walker. Another example, poor lighting that makes it difficult for a person with low vision or a person who lip-reads to see.
  4. Information or 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. For example, electronic documents that are not properly formatted and cannot be read by a screen reader.
  5. Technological barriers occur when a device or technological platform is not accessible by its intended audience and cannot be used with an assistive device. Technology can enhance the user experience, but it can also create unintentional barriers for some users. Technology barriers are often related to information and communications barriers. For example, Learning Management Systems or Customer Relationship Management Systems or websites that cannot be accessed using screen reading software or do not meet accessibility standards.

Conditions and restrictions

To make a submission, the student(s) or student team(s) must be nominated by a member of the university faculty or administration (University Representative):

  • Universities are limited to a maximum of ten (10) submissions to the competition;
  • University Representatives can either be named by a university senior administrator or self-identify but will be required to secure the endorsement of the university’s senior administration once all submissions have been received;
  • Students 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. Students can find information on how to make their submission accessible on The Accessibility Hub website: ; and
  • If students work as a team, they will be required to nominate one member to act as the team’s delegate. This person will be the official point of contact for the team.

Submission process

The submission period will open on March 1, 2018 and close on May 31, 2018 at 5:00pm (EST).

  1. The University Representative (member of university faculty or administration) begins the submission process by nominating the student or student team. Students cannot submit their project without the endorsement of the University Representative.
  2. The University Representative will register at the IDeA portal.
  3. To nominate a student or team, University Representatives will be required to provide the name and email address for each project endorsed. If nominating a student team, one team member will be named as the team delegate. Email confirmation of the nomination will be sent to the University Representative once submitted.
  4. Once nominated, students will receive an email inviting them to complete the submission form, which will include four (4) short essay questions and the ability to upload their project. Confirmation of a successful submission will be sent by email.
  5. After the competition closes, University Representatives will receive a report of all submissions made by their university, which will need to be endorsed with the signature of a member of the university’s senior administration to finalize the university’s ten (10) submissions.


The selection of winners is made by an independent panel of accessibility/disability experts. Once complete, the selection committee’s decision is irrevocable.

Evaluation criteria

The submission:

  • supports the objectives of the program;
  • is concise, innovative and clearly demonstrates a solution to an accessibility issue;
  • demonstrates that the needs of persons with disabilities have been considered;
  • demonstrates that the project is cost-effective and shows promise for practical application.


First Place Prize: One submission from each category (Attitudinal barriers, Organizational or systemic barriers, Architectural/physical barriers, Information or communication barriers or Technological barriers) will be awarded a first-place prize of $2000 CAD and (up to two students per winning team) will present their concept, program, initiative or design at the Canadian Innovative Exchange (CIX) Conference. All travel expenses and conference fees will be included in the prize.

CIX is the ‘must attend’ event for leaders in Canada’s innovative economy. In its 11th year, the CIX attracts 800+ technology industry leaders, corporates, investors and entrepreneurs of innovation focused start-ups companies from across the country and globally. This national event curates and showcases Canada’s most innovative and promising young companies and provides the tools to network, build new relationships and increase deal flow. CIX is Canada’s largest innovation investment conference.

Second Place Prize: One submission from each category (Attitudinal barriers, Organizational or Systemic barriers, Architectural/physical barriers, Information or communication barriers or technological barriers) will be awarded a second-place prize of $1500 CAD.

Third Place Prize: One submission from each category (Attitudinal barriers, Organizational or Systemic barriers, Architectural/physical barriers, Information or communication barriers or technological barriers) will be awarded a third-place prize of $1000 CAD.

* IDeA Alumni Network: As a finalist in the IDeA student competition, you will be invited to join the IDeA Alumni Network.

Competition winners

Competition winners will be contacted at the e-mail address provided in their submission form. To receive the prize, recipients must complete an online acceptance exercise.

Announcement: The first-place winner(s) will be publicly announced at the CIX Annual Conference be held on October 22-23, 2018.

Delivery of Prize: Following receipt of the online acceptance form, Universities Canada will issue a onetime payment to the winning students or student teams to the name(s) and mailing address indicated on the submission form. For winning student teams, the prize money will be divided equally among team members. The recipients will receive a T4A slip, for income tax purposes, from Universities Canada showing the full amount of the prize money paid to them during a calendar year. Successful recipients of this competition will be responsible to report income from this student competition as required by the Canada Revenue Agency.


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.


Employment and Social Development Canada

In 2017, Employment and Social Development Canada provided the funding for a three-year national IDeA student competition through their Social Development Partnership Program (SDPP). The SDPP supports projects that

(1) promote the development and utilization by the not-for-profit sector of effective approaches to address social issues and barriers;

(2) promote the development, exchange and application by the not-for-profit sector f knowledge, tools and resources that sustain social inclusion for individuals, families and communities;

(3) foster collaboration, partnerships, alliances and networks by the not-for-profit sector to address existing and emerging social issues;

(4) recognizes and supports the ability of not-for-profit organizations to identify and address social development priorities.

Contact us

Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) student competition
1710-350 Albert Street Ottawa ON K1R 1B1
Telephone: (613) 563-1236 x 279

PLEASE NOTE: If any of the submission requirements noted above are not met, your submission will be considered incomplete and will not be presented to the selection committee.


Visit our FAQ page or contact:

Brian Carriere
Program Officer
Universities Canada
Tel.: (613) 563-1236, ext. 279

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