Margaret Sanderson knows there’s someone at Brock who has an award-winning idea about improving accessibility.
It happened last year when Brock nursing student Hilary Tyler was a top finisher in the provincial IDeA (Innovative Designs for Accessibility) student competition for her initiative to promote empathy to break down attitudinal barriers for people with mental illness.
But after a lack of Brock entries in this year’s edition of the contest that encourages students to identify and develop a plan to address accessibility-related issues and create an innovative solution for them, Sanderson is keen for the University to earn its rightful place on the podium again.
“Some of the other engineering schools seem to be loading up on this baby but you don’t have to be an engineer to do this,” said Sanderson, Brock’s accessibility co-ordinator.
Instead, she’s certain a student in Applied Health Sciences could nail the competition, which features $3,000 in cash prizes plus a bonus $1,500-prize this year for the top para-sport and active living submission.
Or maybe there’s another nursing student with an idea for IDeA. Education, science, humanities and social sciences students? Sanderson has faith in them all to come up with ways to break down attitudinal, technological, or physical barriers affecting people with disabilities.
She’s even hopeful some professors might make an IDeA entry a course project next term, given entries aren’t due until the spring.
“We talk about accessibility and our commitment to that and now students can be part of that,” she said.
More than money up for grabs, there’s serious glory, she noted. This year’s winning entry got national television news coverage with a spot on Canada AM.
“And it’s a matter of school pride,” Sanderson said. “When Brock was third that first year (with Tyler’s entry), there was pride.”
As for Tyler, her Everybody Hurts campaign was also recognized by the Niagara Regional Accessibility Committee for promoting accessibility locally.
She landed a spot on the committee and has worked on several projects with members, including organizing an event that attracted Niagara politicians and professionals from throughout Ontario who were keen to broaden their knowledge of accessibility issues.
Tyler is now working to establish a sub-committee focused making Niagara an age-friendly community. And she’s helping a Council of Ontario Universities working group to design its Mental Health 2.0 awareness contest, an idea born out of seeing mental health included in accessibility issues presented at the 2012 IDeA event.
“I have always been passionate about mental health issues,” Tyler said in an email. “Our mental health is who we are and how we relate to the world…. We need to find ways to not only improve and understand our own mental health but to also empathize and care for those who are struggling or who live with mental illness. The greater our understanding of these issues, the greater our strength as a community grows.”
IDeA, inspired by the goal of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to make Ontario the most accessible province by 2025, is hosted by the Council of Ontario Universities and submissions are now being accepted at Brock for pre-judging for the 2014 contest.
For more information about the contest, contact Sanderson at firstname.lastname@example.org or x5454.