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New awards honour efforts five outstanding young researchers at KITE

The Focus on Accessibility Awards were introduced at KITE Research Day in 2019

TORONTO-KITE and the Ontario government are working together to recognize students whose research is making a difference in the lives of people living with the effects of disability, illness and aging.

The Focus on Accessibility Awards, which honour the unique achievements of our young researchers, were introduced at KITE Research Day in 2019. Winners of the awards play an instrumental role in Ontario’s culture of accessibility by developing innovative yet practical designs, technologies, programs and solutions to improve quality of life. The awards are financially supported by the Ministry for Seniors and Accessibility.

The following five researchers were granted awards at Research Day for their contributions to disability prevention, restoration and independent living.

Konika Nirmalanathan: Bathing and Grab Bar Safety

Konika was recognized for her work assisting seniors and individuals with mobile or sensory impairments. Konika’s research supports healthy and independent living for individuals and supports the design of bathing and grab bars. By improving the accessibility and safety of accident-prone bathrooms, Konika’s research aims to allow people to age in place safely.

Mahzar Eisapour: VR Rehab for Dementia

Mahzar imagined a world where people with dementia would be able to stay active and engage in a variety of new and immersive exercises for the mind and body. Mahzar created custom-built virtual reality exergames specially designed for older adults with dementia with the goal of stimulating both physical and cognitive functions. Updating these exergames according to user feedback, Mahzar is helping redefine the ways dementia patients lead their lives.

Carly Barbon: Swallowing Disorders

Dysphagia is a swallowing impairment that is common in elderly people with neurological diseases that affects 8 per cent of the world’s population. Carly’s research has helped develop recipes for the preparation of barium for use in the swallowing assessment, matching flow characteristics to liquids prescribed to patients with dysphagia, using the IDDSI flow test. Her work has been revolutionary in ensuring patient safety that is simple and affordable.

Ivan Solano: Walkers and Assistive Technology

Living with a learning disability himself, Ivan has a personal understanding of disability and its impact on people’s everyday lives. Ivan’s research focuses on assistive technologies, specifically walkers for the elderly. His work investigates whether or not people are matched with a suitable assisting device. Ivan is an advocate of barrier-free access and has organized various learning disability workshops with Integra.

Iris Levine: Bathing and Grab Bar Safety

Iris is a TRI-KITE fellow and a mentor for students working on projects that support healthy and accessible living for adults with mobility or sensory impairments. These projects include designing technologies for bathing and grab bars. She is also involved in research designed to improve pedestrian accessibility outdoors. Iris is recognized for her dedication to accessibility as well as her supportive role assisting graduate students.

Researchers and students at KITE and the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute are making new discoveries, creating innovative solutions and leading dynamic projects designed to help people with disabilities live happier, healthier lives. The Focus on Accessibility Awards were created to recognize and reward those who inspire change and make a significant impact in the world of accessibility.

Congratulations to the Focus on Accessibility Award Winners

Congratulation to the Focus on Accessibility Award winners

Geoff: The Focus On Accessibility Awards were developed by the accessibility directorate of Ontario. And there's a guy in that directorate a director of a division of it called Alfred Spencer. A real character, a really enthusiastic person who wants our students to help make the lives of people with disabilities, fuller, happier. And he sees the possibilities in, in encouraging our students to make that difference.

A lot of people have disabilities and they make a big difference in their lives and in fact almost all of us will have a disability at some point in our lives as we grow older. So anything that we can do to, apply science and technology to make people's lives different to make them better, helps them, helps society, helps their relatives, helps everyone. It's a meaningful thing to do.

Carly: I mean a lot of patients are as you know, sent from the hospitals to home with no tools, on how to prepare their diets and their liquids. Swallowing disorders are what we call Dysphagia. It's from stroke, brain injury, head and neck cancer, ALS, Parkinson's disease. When I heard that I won the Focus on Accessibility Award I was proud of my field of research and the ability to really make it accessible for patients.

Konika: We were hoping that my project will provide evidence on guiding Grab bar installation standards and that so we can make our homes more accessible but also safer for individuals at home. Our health system is getting better at treating individuals and sending them home a lot faster. However, our homes are not necessarily equipped to be safe in continued care. So knowing that my project can make that better is inspiring me to continue in this work.

Iris: Where our research is helping with is helping people improve their bathing disabilities. By providing more accessible bathing environments. Working on KITE, is such a great experience for me as a post doctoral fellow, because I get to work daily with such a great team. From the scientists who inspire me to the support staff who are able to make every technical thing I can think of, possible.

Mahzar: The VR game that we created is it's helping people with Dementia to stay active while they are enjoying some activities. Like sorting apples in a farm environment or rowing the rowboat in a lake. It can improve their physical fitness and also their quality of life. However, it can be challenging for them to engage in exercise. So in my research we try to use new technologies to overcome some challenges that these people face.

Geoff: I think that young people are getting into this field because they realize that they can do something useful. Actually we get the best students. And they're motivated to make a difference in part, because they've got parents, and they've got grandparents. But also because they have a big view, a generous view of their responsibilities to society in general.