Congratulations to Elevate for taking home the $5K Accessibility prize
In addition to the $130,000 awarded to startups at the Velocity Fund Finals on July 25, students were encouraged to develop and pitch innovative solutions for accessibility challenges. The Government of Ontario partnered with the University of Waterloo to provide students with the opportunity to win a $5K prize to help grow their startup. The purpose is to support startups who aim to tackle accessibility issues and create awareness of the economic and social benefits of incorporating accessibility into a business idea.
Out of the 10 teams that applied for a $5K prize, Elevate was selected as the winner by a team of esteemed judges. Elevate pitched their game based e-platform that empowers individuals with Down syndrome to develop independent living skills. Pablo Amaya, a recent graduate of the MBET program, came up with the idea for Elevate because his sister has Down syndrome and his family struggles with finding her affordable, effective, and easy to access educational resources.
After meeting with 80 potential customers, Pablo confirmed that the currently available solutions are costly, time-consuming and not engaging. Many games on the market do not teach adults life skills and are better suited to children. Another big problem is that that there aren’t many schools or education programs in Canada to assist individuals with Down syndrome once they become adults. Elevate aims to bridge the gap by teaching 15-35 year-olds tangible life skills so they can become more independent and learn what to expect in a variety of real-life situations.
Through in-depth research and a collaboration with the Waterloo Regional Down Syndrome Society, Pablo became aware that the best way for individuals like his sister to learn is through role-playing, games and hands-on experience. Elevate’s game-based e-learning platform will include modules like going to the bank and taking the bus. As an individual uses the platform, Elevate’s machine learning will customize games to prioritize weaknesses, and adjust difficulty.
“The $5K money will be very helpful in aiding game development. Assets used for game development are fairly expensive and I would like to see various games that tackle many common daily tasks that an individual with Down syndrome may need guidance with – for example going to the supermarket.” – Pablo Amaya, Founder of Elevate
Next, Pablo plans on developing a proof of concept with the Waterloo Down Syndrome Society and Kidsability. With a prototype set to be available in late August, Pablo plans to have Elevate on the market by November.
“Once we prove that individuals can learn from these games, we can apply for more grants and start developing the larger game. The larger game will help individuals with Down syndrome to learn skills that do not come naturally to them. In the future we hope to release games that address situations like taking the bus, cooking, going to the doctor, and getting a job.”