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Posts Tagged ‘deafness’

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WARNING: Major spoilers for the movie Orphan, including the twist.

Orphan movie poster'

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Since this past weekend was my birthday (I got several games, including one I’m ashamed to have taken so long to get to), this week’s post is another trilogy of disability-related gaming news.

A woman with long dark hair stands in front of a factory wearing a white, backless, sleeveless dress. She is facing right, looking off into the distance.

A woman with long dark hair wearing a white, backless, sleeveless dress. She is facing right, looking off into the distance.

Heather Kuzmich, a finalist on cycle nine of America’s Next Top Model who won nine CoverGirl of the Week awards and has a form of autism called Asperger Syndrome, is studying video game-art design at the Illinois Institute of Art. In an interview with founder of Voodoo PC Rahul Snood, she said:

To be honest, I always wanted to do something that included art and creating stuff with my hands. At first I wanted to get into costume design, but that soon changed to game design, especially since I frigging love games and love doing weird designs for characters.

The news, review and community site for gamers with disabilities AbleGamers.com announced on January 30 that Mythic Entertainment’s MMORPG was the most accessible mainstream game released last year. Right from its September 18, 2008 release date, Warhammer Online

include[d] options for the physically disabled such as mapping nearly all actions to the keyboard, or playing the entire game just by using a mouse or special controllers. There is also text for all key events to aid the hearing impaired and the game has also been made accessible to the colorblind.

Despite the features available upon launch, members of the disabled community still had one concern: Warhammer did not work with the On-Screen Keyboard. This is a tool gamers with physical limitations use to type data on screen with a mouse. It is one of the few MMOs that missed this feature.

According to Mythic, a new patch will be released within the next two weeks taking care of the On-Screen Keyboard.

In “Subtitles: Increasing Game Accessibility, Comprehension” over at Gamasutra, Gareth Griffiths provides 16 guidelines to help make video game captions usable by everyone from Deaf and hard of hearing gamers to HDTV owners. One of my favorite recommendations is to make the button that controls the subtitles different from the “action” button, so that players who are reading through conversations quickly don’t accidentally start those conversations over or choose a response they don’t mean to.

(Crossposted at GameCritics.com)

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The NEC Foundation of America has awarded a $32,000 grant to the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) “to support the dissemination and use of therapeutic video games to serve children with severe sensory and motor disabilities,” according to NJIT’s press release.

The website for NJIT’s Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) says that:

The video game platform contains games with programmable graphics objects. Each game piece behaves in a preprogrammed fashion, following specified rules. These rules may alter movement pattern, changing shape, color or size and even disappearing altogether. Each game piece is capable of assessing its environment and calculating its distance from the nearest object in a specified direction.

The games will use a webcam to analyze player input, and also that this input will be judged on color rather than body movement:

A color detection algorithm for red green and blue markers has been developed to act as the user’s input. A colored marker can be anything the child can grasp, wear or attach to themselves like colored tape or a Velcro band.

Judging responses on color rather than body movement will make it easier for people with non-standard ways of moving to play.

According to director of the RERC Richard Foulds, PhD. “The game will improve neuro-plasticity through intensive and repetitive training.” More than 50 partners will receive and test the software.

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At the Longwill School for the Deaf in Birmingham, England, students study in both British Sign Language (BSL) and English. According to a Futurelab article, they communicate in these two very different languages with the help of PlayStation Portables.

Last year, the school borrowed some units from the Birmingham East City Learning Centre; the deputy head thought that, among other things, the PSP would be good for teaching sign language to the students’ hearing siblings. For instance, an instructor could make sign language videos for the kids to play on their systems, and the kids could practice by signing into their PSPs’ integrated video cameras. The PSP has also become a portable notebook for the school’s pupils. BSL and English have completely different grammars and sentence structures, and written English is still focused on how words sound. (For a more in-depth analysis of the problems deaf people can have with written English, see What Really Matters in the Early Literacy Development of Deaf Children).

What does the Sony PSP have to do with English literacy? Teachers giving writing assignments can ask students to do a draft of their work by making a video in sign with their PSPs’ cameras; then, when they bring their PSPs back to school, they can work on English translation with the teacher’s help. As Longwill’s deputy head Allison Carter says, “[English writing is] becoming much more manageable for the children and you’re getting a much higher quality of work because they can reflect in their first language.” To see more about how Longwill is using technology in the classroom, including images of PSPs in action, see Nathan Monk’s Design Diary.

In related (if much older) news, you can turn your PSP into a portable Teletype (TTY) device.

(Cross posted to GameCritics.com).

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Via Second Life for the Visually Impaired

The Novint Falcon may look like a space helmet with a robot arm sticking out of it, but it’s really a kind of joystick that lets players “feel” the games they’re playing: “When you hold the Falcon’s detachable Grip and move your cursor to interact with a virtual object, environment, or character, motors in the device turn on and are updated approximately 1000 times a second, letting you feel texture, shape, weight, dimension, and dynamics.”

Anyone who’s played Nintendo 64 games with the Rumble Pack or turned on the rumble feature in their PS2 DualShock controller has some idea of how force-feedback or haptic technology can influence gaming, but the Falcon takes this technology to a whole new level: (more…)

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