Special Effect is a charity which specialises in aiding those with disabilities by finding the games they can play, and also to work out how they can play the games they are unable to play. They can provide this necessary assistance in the following ways -
- By adapting, developing and modifying cutting edge technology in their GamesLab and enabling young people to try out in a session in their GamesRoom.
- By supporting hospitals, hospices, special schools, etc. in finding the right leisure technology for those young people who need it most, when they need it most, through their Roadshows.
- By loaning and supporting specialised games technology to young people through their Loan Library.
- By loaning and supporting gaze-controlled computers to people who have been paralysed due to a sudden injury or illness through their StarGaze Project.
- By providing information and training both at their Accessible Games Centre and through their website, in particular their Accessible GameBase.
The team behind Special Effect are specialist professionals who have many years of experience in designing and adapting technology to help young people with physical and learning difficulties. Success with using this technology can lead to huge gains in self-confidence and motivation, and can provide a way for young people with disabilities to compete with others on a level playing field.
Special Effect are dedicated to providing the expertise necessary to enable everyone to enjoy the fun, friendship and challenges that can be found in the world of computer games and leisure.
The Special Effect Loan Library is there to find a way for everyone with a disability to find a way to play the games they love. Without specialist help, it can be almost impossible for parents and the young people themselves to match the game that they would like to play with a control device that they need. As a result, many young people can only sit and watch while their brothers, sisters and friends have all the fun. Through the SpecialEffect Loan Library, control devices and games and be loaned and tried out by anyone with a disability so that they can test them out before purchasing. You can find out more about this service by checking out this .pdf document.
StarGaze Plus builds on SpecialEffect's hugely successful StarGaze project which was ran to find out the extent of the need for gaze-controlled computers by people who had been paralysed suddenly. Within a very short time of starting this project, it soon became apparent that the project was so important that it had become a service. StarGaze is, perhaps, the most labour-intensive and demanding element of SpecialEffect's work. A huge amount of care and sensitivity is required to ensure that the person we support has a gaze-controlled computer system - as quickly as possible - that is personalised to meet their specific and often complex needs and to also ensure that those supporting them locally are fully trained, with ongoing high-quality support provided by Special Effect - whenever they need it.
Special Effect also holds various Roadshows - one of the aims of these is to achieve greater inclusion and more fun out of life for the young people involved. SpecialEffect 2011-2013 Roadshows will also aim to gain an insight into the specific benefits of games technology for a wide range of young people who are either suffering from a severe illness, have a severe disability or are recovering from a serious injury.
Matt Hampson, ex-England Under-21 rugby player, suffered a spinal injury while training in 2005. When he regained consciousness he was unable to either move or speak – all he could do was move his eyes. It is difficult to imagine the fear, frustration and desperation of not being able to communicate, and it’s at this critical point that a computer that can be operated by eye movement alone would have provided a huge asset – giving Matt a vital means of getting a message across to medical staff, family and carers.
Tens of thousands of people each year suffer a sudden injury or illness that leaves them completely paralysed – unable to move any part of their body other than their eyes. Gaze-controlled and brain-controlled technology enables these people to operate a computer for independence, work and leisure. The purpose of the StarGaze+ project is to raise £316,000 to loan and support the use of this technology for such people when they need it most – immediately following their personal tragedy. This project will provide these opportunities for others who suddenly find themselves in the position that he was - by the loan of a system, with the necessary expertise and support, straight away.
The charity aims to purchase cutting-edge gaze- and brain-controlled computers and, when a system is required, the hospitals concerned will contact SpecialEffect, who will collaborate with the hospital team, friends and family to provide the training and support to ensure that the person who needs it has a personalised and fully functioning system as soon as possible. During the loan period of a system, it’s confidently anticipated that the quality of life of the person involved will have improved considerably and they will have had the time and support necessary to discover if the technology would be beneficial to them over the longer term. They will have gained the evidence they need to be able to fundraise for themselves or apply for statutory funding. At this point, the SpecialEffect system can be loaned to another person who needs it and the training, support and personalisation process can begin again.
Matt feels very strongly that this kind of cutting edge technology is exactly what is needed by people who find themselves in a similarly terrifying situation to the one he found himself in. He says, "Even if you can't have all the technology available immediately, it's when you're there in hospital that you need to know that this technology is out there and this project will do just that."
This appeal was formally launched by Matt Hampson and Mick Donegan in April 2011. You can learn more about it by clicking on this .pdf document.
Special Effect also specialise in providing controller modification solutions to those with disabilities - even to the point of creating custom-built controllers for someone with a specific disability. One such example is the Xbox 360 One-Handed Controller - as its name implies, the controller can be played with just one hand in either left or right-handed configurations. Disabled PC gamers also catered for with a One-Handed Controller of their very own. There is a vast array of controllers which can even be controlled with the chin, mouth or tongue, enabling more disabled gamers to enjoy the pleasure of videogaming.
Tips For Developers
When it comes to options in videogames, sometimes developers may exclude certain options which would be essential for disabled gamers to play their games easier. Special Effect encourages developers to include more accessibility options in their games. The top five game accessibility tips are as follows -
- Add Speed/Difficulty Settings - consider a very broad range of abilities.
- Visual Aids - such as colour-blind and high-contrast options.
- Audio Aids - e.g. subtitles and separate volume controls.
- Control Schemes - remapping and control simplification options.
- Display Accessibility Features - let people know what accessibility features your game has by openly describing them.
A list of games which have a variety of game accessibility options can be found here.