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Posts Tagged ‘visual impairment’

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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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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According to an article in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill magazine Endeavors (“Fair Games”), UNC computer science students are designing games for players with low vision. The games were field tested at “Maze Day,” when 70 kids with visual impairments came from all around North Carolina to play:

(more…)

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There’s been a lot of disability-related goodness going on at Ubisoft lately. After taking action against an ableist slur in MindQuiz last year, the publisher announced this past September that all its games developed in-house will be subtitled. Also, Ubisoft is partnering with organization Handicap International for a campaign called Ability Together. This campaign raises awareness of the problems disabled people face, particularly those in developing countries. And it includes Handigo The Game, a series of free minigames starring characters with different impairments: one is blind, one uses a wheelchair and one has learning difficulties.

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Now, I’m not a fan of how disability simulations are normally done—the “sit in a wheelchair/wear a blindfold for a day!” type-stuff that thrusts non-disabled people into situations they don’t have any coping skills for, or even help with. (Actual disabled people, including those who become disabled later in life, usually have both). Such exercises breed fear and pity, not understanding.

And yet, doing similar things in a video game intrigues me. My spatial impairment is, for me, a fun game design problem: could you make a level where, say, each thing looked totally different depending on which angle the player views it from, or where objects materialize out of nowhere and change the whole appearance of the place? I think a video game about disability interests me because games are themselves simulations. As disability rights advocate Valerie Brew-Parrish points out in The Wrong Message: “Simulations are phony. To ‘simulate’ means to assume the mere appearance of– without the reality.” Video games are “the mere appearance of…reality.” We can do all kinds of things in games that we don’t have the skills to do in real life; they are a safe space to explore various places, ideas, and lives. Books, television and films help us do the same thing, but at a distance. We watch other people do the work, and maybe imagine ourselves in their place. But our game avatars are us, yet not-us. I see Mega Man on the screen, I know he isn’t me, but when he slides into a pit of spikes I think, “I died.”

A yellow creature in a wheelchair is going down a path in a park. There's gray bearlike creature walking too and a line of red stars.

This liminal identity-space that games occupy makes them especially suited to do what real-life disability simulations can’t quite accomplish: they encourage us to solve problems. Some problems disabled people run into can be solved with ingenuity (using a wheelchair to get around, for instance), while others are, frankly, analogous to bad level design (e.g. Why is there a huge flight of stairs here, but no ramps?). I wish more people understood all the ways that the disability experience is about bumping into bad level design: how society decides what kinds of skills are important for life and which are not, how people can be disabled in some environments and not others, how some things are inaccessible just because nobody thought of us in the first place. Video game worlds, being entirely man-made, are uniquely able to highlight disability problems that are environmental or societal, rather than intrinsic to the disabled person.

A cabinet door is open in a bathroom; an orange toothbrush and some red and white pills float down in front of it.

Does Handigo The Game do everything I hope a virtual disability simulation would do? Of course not—for one thing, it represents blindness as darkness that lights up as the player navigates. But it’s an interesting first step, one that shows disability as a natural part of human experience. I hope the game is a harbinger of things to come.

(Cross-posted to my GameCritics.com blog).

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Via Gameculture.com

On August 27, 2008, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and Target announced a $6 mil settlement in a class-action lawsuit concerning the inaccessibility of the Target.com website to blind users. (more…)

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