For university students taking part in the First Annual Rick Hansen Access Innovation Competition on March 29, this question became a direct challenge.
The evening kicked off with talks from experts on innovation in para-sport, adaptive equipment and access in the built environment. Students were urged to challenge their assumptions and remember that if something isn’t easy to use, it won’t be used.
Over the course of the next hour, students worked in teams with a person with a disability to come up with a solution to the challenge. They then had three minutes to pitch their solution to an expert panel.
All the groups showed incredible innovation and creative thinking, with many solutions focusing on original ways to make the vast and ever-changing UBC campus easier to navigate. The winning innovation? A web-based solution called Prof2U to encourage collaboration between professors and students.
After signing in to the accessible Prof2U app, professors would receive suggestions for teaching techniques to best meet the needs of students in their class. Students would be able to record and live-stream lectures with dynamic post-captioning, move through slides at their own pace, and sign up for group-work through the app. A “Tips and Suggestions” functionality would allow students to share constructive feedback with professors.
Our congratulations to the winning team of Jason Speidel, Jorden Heatherington, Rohit Singla, Liam Sharkey and Charlene Leung (below, with RHF Ambassadors Karen and Rachel), as well as to all the participants!
The evening finished with a talk on the latest innovations in access technology, and a personal story of how innovation has enabled one individual with a disability to live a fulfilling and active life.
Students said that working alongside people with disabilities on a real-world challenge was “eye-opening” and made them look at things from another perspective. Many remarked that they would like to get involved with access projects in the future, while one commented, “I wonder why I haven’t thought about these ideas before?”
We hope that the event inspired everyone to think creatively about access and inclusion for people with disabilities!
The event was organized by the Rick Hansen Foundation, UBC YoungWISE, UBC Patient and Community Voices, and the Neil Squire Society. Event sponsor Boston Pizza provided a much-appreciated dinner for all who attended. A big thank you to all the participants, as well as our guest speakers, expert panel and volunteers.
If you would like to host an Access Innovation Competition at your school or university, please contact the Rick Hansen Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org