2024 2024: CVPA students win awards at "Design-athon"

2024 2024: CVPA students win awards at "Design-athon"
CVPA students win awards at "Design-athon"

Universal Design Symposium event focused on accessibility and universal design

Winners of the Universal Design Symposium

Four College of Visual and Performing Arts (CVPA) students recently won 1st place for designing a wayfinding system at the Universal Design Symposium's Design-athon event on campus. This marked the second time CVPA's interior architecture + design (IAD) program hosted the symposium on campus.


Apeksha Prasai '25, Monika Kristjansdottir '25, Christine Sebastiao '26, and Makayla Princiotta '25, under the guidance of Associate Professor of Art + Design, Michelle Bowers, won the "Judge's Choice award.

Professor Stephanie McGoldrick and Judge's Choice winners Makayla Princiotta '25, Apeksha Prasai '25, Christine Sebastiao '26, and Monika Kristjansdottir '25
Professor Stephanie McGoldrick and Judge's Choice winners Makayla Princiotta '25, Apeksha Prasai '25, Christine Sebastiao '26, and Monika Kristjansdottir '25. (Photos courtesy Emily McMahon)

Interior architecture + design students Lexi Lopez '25, Mandy Bellassai '26, Abbie Ferree ‘26, Morgan Carr '27, and Aubrey Trahan '25 were awarded a People's Choice award for their design of a rotating cabinivator system. 

People's Choice award winners

The all-day event consisted of speeches from notable speakers and activists, idea generation, and teamwork. UMass Dartmouth civil engineering, biomedical engineering, graphic design, computer science, fashion design, and interior architecture + design students were in attendance, developing practical solutions to improve daily living for all.

"The event struck me personally in many ways," said Prasai, an IAD major who hopes to bring accessible designs back to her native country of Nepal after graduating. "This issue is my 'why,' in IAD. There is so much to learn and research regarding accessibility, and as one of the speakers at the event said, universal design is a never-ending challenge. I'm thankful for the opportunity to learn more about this issue and deeply grateful that UMassD brought this event to campus."

Teams of students were asked to come up with fresh ideas or products to assist the lives of individuals with disabilities and present them to judges in 4 hours. Prasai's team focused on wayfinding for the visually impaired, proposing visual symbols, patterns, texture, and coding for floor levels in the CVPA building. These elements seek to help people who struggle to differentiate color, depth perception, and people with partial to entire blindness.

"Accessibility and universal design are important considerations for all disciplines," says IAD Assistant Professor Stephanie McGoldrick. "We should include diverse voices in the design process, whether addressing spatial, graphic, technological, or engineering solutions. This event provided a platform for students and faculty to engage in this collaboration and heighten their sensitivity towards those who experience disabilities."

The event judges included CVPA Dean, Lawrence Jenkens, UMassD Alum Genevieve Gannon '23, who now works for an accessibility consulting firm KMA LLC, Lisa DiBonaventura, Massachusetts Statewide Director of Vision and Vision Loss Services, Lucy deOliveira, Director of Day Services from CO-OP, and Deepak KC, Accessibility consultant, architect, and MIT Fellow.

"Universal design is integrated into all facets of the IAD curriculum, starting with Studio 1 where students are exposed to the concept that we design for ALL," says IAD Associate Professor and Program Coordinator, Rose Mary Botti-Salitsky. "We incorporate codes and compliance and are educating the next generation of socially responsible designers. Accessible design is critical to every design solution, creating inclusive spaces for all to enjoy."

The event's featured speakers included Dustin Giannelli, CEO and Founder of HearsDustin LLC, and Deepak KC, an architect, accessible design consultant, and disability rights advocate in Nepal. The event was made possible thanks to IIDA New England, ASID New England, Cooperative Production, Massachusetts Vision and Vision Loss Services, KMA LLC, and various UMassD departments.

"I learned how important it is to put yourself in someone else's shoes and ask the question, 'what can I do?'" says computer science major, Percy Williams '24. "It gave me perspective and challenged my understanding of making daily necessities truly accessible for everyone."