The winning ‘idea’ for accessible living space

Ryerson students create designs for those with paraplegia

Ryerson students design spaces for those with paraplegia (Robyn Fiorda)

Ryerson interior design and engineering students worked together to design spaces for those living with paraplegia at this year’s Interior Design and Engineering Affiliation (IDEA) competition.

On Oct. 8, over 90 students were given six hours to design a two-storey living space in the form of a floor plan and virtual prototype. The students had to create a design that would make everyday tasks as easy as possible and include one solution to a medical issue caused by paraplegia.

Sidrah Noor, chair of IDEA and president of the student group Cranial Nerves, said the main goal of the competition is to get students working together.

“I want to get Ryerson on the map and I want to see how our intelligent students can come together to solve these real-life problems,” Noor said.

Prior to the competition, students were told this year’s challenge was a problem in accessibility, but the challenge wasn’t disclosed until the competition date. Students worked in groups of three to six people, with at least one engineering and one interior design student in each group to develop innovative, cost-effective and feasible solutions to present to a panel of industry professionals.

Nancy Xia, an educator at Spinal Cord Injury Ontario, said finding affordable space that is wheelchair-accessible can be challenging for victims of paraplegia, who are often returning war veterans or people with spinal cord injuries.

According to Xia, if designers can create solutions that are costeffective, more people will have access to better living spaces. Xia said she hopes students will keep accessibility in mind for future projects.

“If you start off with accessibility in mind, then many years down the road all buildings will be accessible for people who use wheelchairs.”

The groups with the top three designs won cash prizes of $1,000, $750 and $500.

The winning team designed a unique off-grid accessible mobile home that addressed bed sores, staying dry and making sure muscles are regulated with proper blood circulation.

“We mostly focused on catering to the user as well as how it’s going to perform in the future. We also made sure that it was going to pay itself back,” said computer science student David Jardine.

The competition was hosted by Cranial Nerves, the Ryerson Communication and Design Society, the Engineering Student Society and the Centre of Engineering Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Last year’s competition led to the redesigning of the Recreation and Athletics Centre to make it wheelchair accessible. Noor said she hopes this year’s designs will also be implemented into real life solutions. 

“It’s a real life problem for a reason and I’m going to be encouraging the students to take their designs to the next level.”

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