Design Exchange, in partnership with the Government of Ontario, announces its 7th annual post secondary design challenge.

This provincial, post secondary design challenge seeks to explore design that is accessible to the greatest number of people, to the largest extent possible, regardless of age, ability, across all design disciplines.

The concept:
This year, students currently registered at Ontario universities and colleges studying environmental design, urban planning, graphic/interactive design, architecture, interior design, and industrial design to develop creative solutions focused on the accessible navigation of public spaces such as trails, beach access routes, parking, service counters, and fixed waiting areas, eating areas, play spaces, and paths
of travel.

Submissions should be accessible to the greatest number of individuals, and entrants are asked to acknowledge the seven universal design principles, the requirements of Design of Public Spaces standards (Part 4.1) of the Integrated Accessibility Standards under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, 2005, and encouraged to consider cost, time, and dignity. All students are invited to submit proposals for innovative projects that demonstrate how the universal design principles and compliance with mandatory requirements of the Design for Public Space standards can be applied to create complete accessibility for all.

Among the projects that can be considered: infrastructure, print and digital wayfinding, shelter amenities, and physical support.

Competitors are encouraged to apply themes and learning priorities specifically related to their own curriculum, making it easier for students and instructors to incorporate the competition into their current course-work.

Participation is open to all currently enrolled students studying design-focuses programs (industrial, architecture, graphic, digital, interior, and landscape) and related programs (social work, occupational health, disability studies) in the undergraduate and graduate levels in Ontario in a college or university program.

All submitted projects must be completed during the student’s 2018-19 course of study in an Ontario undergraduate or graduate program.

Projects may be completed independently or as course work, and group or individual projects are eligible for entry. In the case of group projects, all members must be enrolled in a 2018-19 course of study in an Ontario undergraduate or graduate program.

  1. A completed competition registration form, available at
  2. A one-page concept statement that includes: Entrant name, mailing address, school, and Program. Text should be between 16 and 24 points, depending on selected font.
  3. Summary of the design concept, its objectives, and description of how the project addresses the competition theme (no less than 250 words, no more than 500 words). Text should be between 16 and 24 points, depending on selected font. Text must be separate from image.
  4. A minimum of three (3) or maximum of five (5) full-colour sketches or renderings of the proposal submitted as a single PDF. Please reserve one image per page. Image must have 1920×1024 resolution. No text may be included in the images.

For additional guidance, please consult Access Ability: A Practical Handbook on Accessible Graphic Design by the Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario.

Entrants are encouraged to consider making submissions accessible to members of the public who are blind or partially sighted, have mobility aids, have hearing loss, have invisible disabilities and more. Think: use of braille, tactile overlays, accessibility checker, closed-captioning, etc.

Entries must be received by midnight on April 2, 2019.

Late entries will not be accepted.

Design Exchange will only accept digital submissions sent to
Questions should be directed to the Competition Coordinator at

A panel of experts from the design community, selected by Design Exchange, will review all valid entries. Jurors will select the best projects based on the following key criteria:

The project is designed in a way that is usable by the greatest number of people, to the largest extent possible, regardless of their age or ability.

Unique and innovative design concept.

Well-executed renderings and clearly identified project documents.

Clear and concise project statement.

The goals of universal design are addressed and the project can be implemented

Winning entries will demonstrate the application of the universal design principles in projects that consider accessibility as central to the design process.

One overall winner will receive $2000; three first place entries will receive $1500; three second place entries will receive $1000; and three third place entries $500 respectively. All winners will be featured in an exhibition at Design Exchange, as well as being invited to attend a one-day mentorship program where they will learn from leaders in accessibility and design.

Design Exchange will work with the winner and accessibility advocates/educators to develop a hands-on workshop that draws from the winning submission and will be implemented into the 2019-20 Tours & Workshop program. This program is offered to elementary, high school, and post-secondary students, as well as to adult groups.

Deadline: April 2, 2019
Mentorship Session: April 2019
Reception and Awards Ceremony: May 24, 2019

Ontario’s Accessibility Laws

By entering the competition, the entrant: (i) agrees that the Government of Ontario and Design Exchange will have the right to use and/or publish in any medium and for any purpose, without compensation, the submitted design, (ii) certifies and warrants that the submitted design is the entrant’s own original work and that the design, including its eventual publication by the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility, and/or Design Exchange, does not and will not infringe any right of any third party, including intellectual property rights and rights of privacy and (iii) agrees that the Government of Ontario and Design Exchange may use either during or at any time following the competition, but in relation to the competition, the name, educational institution and photograph of the entrant without restriction or compensation. Design Exchange and the Government of Ontario reserve the right to suspend, modify, terminate or cancel at any time.