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Inclusive Design Institute helps UBER develop accessible transport

Friday, January 8, 2016 - 8:45pm

In fall 2015, Jutta Treviranus, director of OCAD University’s Inclusive Design Institute (IDI), moderated consultations between UBER and its stakeholders to develop improved transportation services to people with disabilities. uberWAV, launched this week, provides accessible vehicles at no extra cost to UBER users.  

“Torontonians with disabilities experience many transportation service gaps,” said Treviranus. “Equitable transportation is essential to participating fully in our community.”

In addition to stakeholder meetings aimed at developing community-identified design criteria, the IDI organized a Hackathon at the IIDEX conference to address design challenges presented by UBER and hosted UBER’s general manager, Ian Black, as a speaker at the annual DEEP conference.


OCAD University students triumph at Digifest 2015

Photo of Areen S. Khan
Photo of James Rollo
Friday, May 8, 2015 - 7:45pm

Two OCAD University students took home awards at the Best of the Best Student Showcase held at Digifest 2015.

Areen S. Khan won the Mobile App Development Award for her project “Hatter: Empowering Buskers through a Social App.” Currently completing her master’s degree as part of OCAD U’s Digital Futures program, in which she is focusing on the impact of a cashless society on busking, Areen’s Hatter app would enable patrons to support buskers without the bother of fishing for change.

James Rollo emerged victorious in the Visual and Interactive Art category. A fourth-year student in the Integrated Media program – as well as a new media, installation and performance artist – James’s project “I Can’t See What You’re Doing” is an interactive installation that challenges notions of presence in the physical and virtual realms.

Both Areen and James were also among the 20 winners of the 2015 OCAD University Medal, the university’s highest award. They also both exhibited their projects to great acclaim at the recent 100th-anniversary Graduate Exhibition. 


Screenshot from Postcard Memories. Image courtesy Martha Ladly

A new iPad app developed by OCAD U researchers in the Mobile Experience Lab uses sensitive inclusive design to foster positive wellbeing and enhance cognition in elders with early onset Alzheimer’s disease, and also help them connect with friends and family. Postcard Memories is a research project led by Dr. Martha Ladly, an OCAD U professor and recent Associate Dean, Graduate Studies, who is on a visiting fellowship at the European University Institute in Florence this term. The project focuses on supporting the skills elders have and can maintain and even build, instead of dwelling on memory loss. It’s a unique approach that combines collected personal memories in both physical and digital artifact formats, with mobile technology.

The project was inspired, in part, by Ladly’s experience with her own father’s memory loss. After heart disease suddenly left her father with vascular and memory problems, and with no trouble remembering events from his youth, she wanted to find a way to help him access important events and stories that he was having trouble remembering from the recent past. She created a book for him about a holiday that they took together to visit his family home in Newfoundland, which included annotated postcards to help him remember the trip.

“It worked very well,” said Ladly. “He looked through that book often, and he was able to recall and speak about the people and places we visited. It was about making the memories physical and tangible again.” Ladly’s father was also interested in learning how to use an iPad, so she made a digital version for him. “I was interested to see if he could learn a new skill, and he found it quite magical. It surprised me that he could learn to use the iPad because he had never really used a computer.”

Postcard Memories beta

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease elders who are having memory problems can still actively engage in recalling events with families and friends, and photos, notes and postcards (in both physical and digital form) can help in this process by providing prompts. “There are ways to build memory scaffolds for people who would like to participate in activities to improve their memory,” said Ladly.

Postcard Memories uses the Montessori learning paradigm, which encourages active engagement and sharing. This is how the app works:
-A family member or friend creates a group and a memory event
-Group members are invited to send postcards (physical as well as digital images, music files, video or audio recordings)
-Group members can access all the postcards received and arrange them in a digital gallery and/or physical book
-Group members share the postcard galleries and books with their elder, and encourage them to engage with and enjoy the collected memories
-Both the individual postcards, and a personalised memory book can be printed out by the family members for the elder and for themselves.

Partnerships, user testing and taking it to market

Ladly worked with Dr. Ron Baecker, Director of the University of Toronto’s Technologies for Aging Gracefully Lab (TAGlab), in the early stages of the project. She and her team have since forged partnerships with Dr. Frank Rudzicz at the Toronto Rehabilitation InstituteThe University Health Networkfor the project, which is supported by the GRAND Network of Centres of Excellence. Another new technological and potential business relationship is with Canada Post, which will enable the app users to send and receive printed postcards. 

The app, which has been under development with Ladly’s research team of OCAD U graduate students for a year, is in the approval phase for user testing with groups of Alzheimer’s patients and their families, with a testing scheduled for summer 2014. The goal is to test and then refine the app and bring it to market.

“We’re hoping to see multiple applications for this technology, not just for elders,” said Ladly about the broader possibilities of the app. “We’ll start by testing with elders to see how they interact with the digital and physical, find out how their families become involved and also observe the impact on memory. We’re also going to test the emotional impact, to see if this makes people happy — if it’s enjoyable and pleasurable for them to recall events together. We’re hoping it brings some support, efficacy and enjoyment to people with memory loss and their carers, families and friends.”

Learn more:

OCAD U’s Mobile Experience Lab 

Martha Ladly 

Interview with Martha Ladly

OCAD U celebrates green design in the student-run Sustainable Design Awards

Monday, April 23, 2012 - 4:00am

Green Space App, Sustainable Library and Public Transit Food System designs take top honours

(Toronto—April 23, 2012) Three projects have shared top prize in the 2012 Sustainable Design Awards, a student-conceived and led design competition that challenges young designers to approach their projects through the lens of ecological sustainability and social consciousness.

The competition, the brainchild of Industrial Design student Mike Lovas and now in its second year, has attracted the attention of artists and designers as well as environmental organizations across North America. This year's competition, presented by SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building, included an inspirational talk by Allan Chochinov, Editor-in-Chief of the leading online design magazine Core77. Chochinov, who teaches at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, also participated as a juror.

The awards drew a three-way tie for the $2,000 purse, plus an honourable mention and a student-choice award from the 51 submissions. The winners are:

Three-way tie for the top prize:

  • Green Space App by third-year Environmental Design student Hannah Smith;
    Concept: To empower the green movement from the ground up by harnessing the power of networking and community to help plan community gardens and improve parks.
  • Public Transit Food System by third-year Graphic Design student Laura Headley and first-year Environmental Design student Ian Brako;
    Concept: To leverage existing public transportation such as GO Transit and the TTC to get locally grown food into the city.
  • Sustainable Library by Benjamin Gagneux, a Spatial Design major on exchange from L'École de Design Nantes Atlantique in Nantes, France;
    Concept: The Library, built out of recycled wooden shipping pallets, created a space for students to have access to resources about sustainable and socially responsible design.

Honourable Mention:

  • International Non-Consumptive Currency by fourth-year Graphic Design student Elliot Vredenburg;
    Concept: A jewellery-based carbon-credit micro-trading currency system that enables autonomy, stigmatizes unsustain­able habits, and rewards non-consumptive practices within the current para­digms of society, industry and politics.

Student-Choice Award:

  • Obot (The Robot) by fourth-year Industrial Design student Matthew Del Degan;
    Concept: a low production run non-toxic toy with five opposable parts made out of a transparent soybean resin called EcoPoxy.


View work by all the winners online.

In addition to Chochinov, the jury included local furniture designer Jason Dressler of Brothers Dressler, Graeme Stewart of ERA Architects, Partner and Co-Founder of Public Displays of Affection Katherine Ngui, and Susan Spencer Lewin, Principal and Director of Sustainable Strategies at CS&P Architects.

Organizers of the Sustainable Design Awards extend their thanks to their generous sponsors: SUSTAINABLE.TO Architecture + Building; OCAD University and its Faculty of Design; the Ontario Association of Architects; Vans; CS&P Architects; Engineered Assemblies; 608 Designs; Association of Registered Graphic Designers of Ontario; the Ontario Crafts Council; the Association of Chartered Industrial Designers of Ontario; the OCAD Student Union; ERA Architects Inc.; Public Displays of Affection; archiTEXT; the Interior Design Show; the David Suzuki Foundation; the Design Exchange and Angell Gallery.

About OCAD University (OCAD U)
OCAD University ( is Canada's "university of imagination." The University, founded in 1876, is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. OCAD University is building on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, OCAD University community members will be uniquely qualified to act as catalysts for the next advances in culture, technology and quality of life for all Canadians.

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Download this release as a PDF document.

For more information contact:

Sarah Mulholland, Media & Communications Officer
416-977-6000 Ext. 327 (mobile Ext. 1327)

OCAD U rolls out Guardly campus safety app as new school term begins

Images of the Guardly app
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 - 4:00am

(Toronto—August 28, 2012) Students, faculty and staff at OCAD University have an innovative new personal safety tool available to them for free this fall: the Guardly Safe CampusTM mobile application for smartphones.

The new service promises to dramatically impact the accessibility of campus security to students and staff. "Guardly puts our services directly into students' pockets, on a platform they are especially comfortable with," explained Vicki Brown, Director of OCAD U Campus Services & Security.

The rollout is the result of two years of collaboration between OCAD U and the makers of Guardly. The company is a graduate of OCAD U's Mobile Experience Innovation Centre incubator program, where a six-month residency led to the development of the technology's core infrastructure and Guardly's first iPhone app. The software was rigorously tested in a pilot program across campus by student and staff volunteers over the past six months.

The university's campus has expanded in recent years to include 12 buildings along the McCaul and Duncan Street corridor, stretching from Dundas Street in the north to Richmond Street in the south. "Our growth created a need for an innovative approach to campus safety that could transcend physical infrastructure," said Brown. "OCAD University is a leader in the mobile sphere, so it makes us very proud to be the first campus in Canada to offer this new service to our community."

The app works with Guardly CommandTM, a web-based incident management system that helps dispatch personnel to monitor, manage and respond to emergencies within campus boundaries, defined by a geofence. The system provides real-time caller location, identification and profile information, such as allergies, medical conditions, medications and other information specified by a caller in their profile. During an incident, dispatchers can speak with a caller by phone or engage in a conversation by secure instant messaging. For privacy purposes, location tracking is only enabled once a caller triggers an alert.

What's more is that the app isn't limited to use on campus. Outside the OCAD U geofence, the application can be used to notify 9-1-1 services and a caller's personal security network, further extending the value of the service to OCAD U community members. The app also makes it easier for anyone with physical disabilities or sensory impairments to reach help.

Students and employees can register and download Guardly Safe CampusTM for free through the OCAD U website.

About Guardly
Guardly is a platform for emergency communication that facilitates rapid social, mobile and location-aware responses to calls for assistance. An incubator company of OCAD University's Mobile Experience Innovation Centre (MEIC), Guardly developed its core infrastructure and its first mobile application for iPhone during its six-month incubation. It was also during this key period that Guardly, through discussions with key personnel at OCAD U's campus security and security teams at other universities, learned about how the technology could help higher educational institutions keep campuses safe. The Guardly app works on iPhone, Android, BlackBerry and Windows 7 phones.

About OCAD University (OCAD U)
OCAD University is Canada's "university of imagination." The University, founded in 1876, is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines. OCAD University is building on its traditional, studio-based strengths, adding new approaches to learning that champion cross-disciplinary practice, collaboration and the integration of emerging technologies. In the Age of Imagination, OCAD University community members will be uniquely qualified to act as catalysts for the next advances in culture, technology and quality of life for all Canadians.

- 30 -

Download this release as a PDF document.

Media are invited to attend. To RSVP or for more information, please contact:

Sarah Mulholland, Media & Communications Officer
416-977-6000 x327 (mobile x1327)