A pair of recent graduates from Carleton University’s Industrial Design program have won one of the top prizes in this year’s Innovative Designs for Accessibility (IDeA) student competition.
Mandy Hui and Liana Meere, who finished their degrees this past spring, developed a labelling system and app to help people with visual impairments select, sort and wash clothing.
Their concept, Closet, uses labels with QR codes to convey the size and colour of a garment as well as care instructions.
It took first place in IDeA’s attitudinal/systematic barriers category—the latest in a long list of contest winners from Carleton students over the years and part of the university’s overarching culture of accessibility.
Administered by Universities Canada, IDeA challenges university students across Canada to use their creativity to develop innovative, cost-effective and practical solutions to accessibility barriers for people with disabilities. Prizes were also awarded on July 21, 2021 for projects that addressed architectural/industrial design barriers, technological/communication barriers, and virtual learning/distance education.
Hui and Meere started working on Closet in their third-year studio class, thanks to a suggestion from Prof. Chiara Del Gaudio, but the 2020 IDeA competition was rolled into this year’s contest because of the pandemic.
“One reason we were drawn to visual impairment as our focus is that once we started doing a little bit of research, it became clear that this was an interesting challenge to try to address through design,” says Meere.
“For sighted people, smart tech is cool, but for people with visual impairments, it can be a path to independence.”
“Our program always encouraged designers to take on different perspectives,” adds Hui, “and to empathize with the people we’re designing for.”