I’ve been using Atlas Games’s Once Upon a Time in my speech-language therapy for years.

Once Upon a Time, the card game

Every player is dealt cards with story elements (see also, Burke’s Dramatistic Pentad for an arrangement of these cards by story function), as well as an ending card. Players narrate a story that is constrained by the cards that were randomly dealt to their hand, and win the game by playing their ending (which has to make sense in the context of what has come before).

It would be easy, except that players take turns constructing the story and everyone has different endings they are trying to achieve.

I love this game for a number of reasons. It’s great for teaching story grammar (obviously), but there is also a strong executive function element to it in that you have to plan your moves ahead if your ending is going to make sense. Lately, one of my students has been using it to elicit connected speech from a young client who is working on generalizing speech artic. therapy into conversation. You have to talk a lot to play this game.

Here are some other game-based therapy activities:

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Accessible Video Games

January 29, 2011

I’m so happy that some game developers are thinking about making their controls and gameplay modes customizable, because this is what is needed in order to adapt controllers for gamers with disabilities.

Hardcore gamers also frequently ask for customizable controls (hardcore gamers are a notoriously difficult demographic to please). You can accommodate disabled gamers by doing the very thing that the most abled gamers want anyway! It’s a win across the board.

What makes the games in this post exceptional is that they are both console games, not PC games. Video game consoles are traditionally very limited in their flexibility, and unlike a PC, cannot run the user’s custom software to assist with accessibility.

MLB 11 custom Dualshock controller

Two examples listed below.

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Tactile display

August 12, 2010

Tactile display.

Sorry, time constraints limit me from talking much about this. Thinking of applications will have to be an exercise left to the reader.


A spot on Attack of the Show about designing game controllers for people with disabilities brought the Wii Assist team at University of Delaware to my attention.


University of Delawarehttp://vimeo.com/6365551


April 21, 2010

taxiAnd you thought it was hard to hail a cab if you’re African-American! (I know, bad, overgeneralized stereotype–perhaps not an inaccurate one— but there’s a point here, I promise).

It’s worse if you’re in a wheelchair since, even if one were to stop, 98% of them aren’t designed to accommodate wheelchairs anyway.

The New York Times reports on a report about wheelchair-accessible hired transportation. This includes cabs and also for-hire rides that you call to pick you up.

It turns out that most of the for-hire rides are subcontracted out. And while the for-hire companies are prohibited from charging riders more for using a wheelchair, the subcontractors are not prohibited from charging the livery company more.

The end result being that it is really, really hard to get a ride in New York if you have a disability. And the agency responsible for enforcing the pertinent rules/laws/policies hasn’t been doing so.

That’s not to say it’s all bad news. You can call 311 from anywhere in New York City and get an accessible taxi to come pick you up. The 311 service is exactly the sort of accommodation that I’m talking about when I get all soapboxy on society being accommodating toward people with disabilities. It’s something that is functional and practical for people without disabilities, too.

Design note after the jump.

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Braille Rubik’s Cube

March 17, 2010


texture cube

A sighted person would find this one easier.

Tech for reading help

January 21, 2010

This was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas this year.

This isn’t the first I’d heard of it, but now it’s off the drawing board and on sale.

Fast Company article

On being a Cyborg

November 13, 2009

I’ve blogged on Aimee Mullins before. People like her really reinforce my thinking that we need to reassess how we define “disability” as a society. It’s not about differences between what one person can do compared to “normal” people.


She recently wrote an essay about athletes like Oscar Pistorius, who I’ve written about, also. We are augmenting ourselves with technology—both the abled and disabled—and it isn’t going to stop.

The fact is, no two people are the same. And there isn’t one “bell curve” that we can sort people onto, there are countless. Everyone is good at, and poor at, different things for different reasons. And our traditional view of “normal” totally breaks down for individuals who are truly exceptional… beyond 99th percentile (or far below 1st percentile).

As another example (also from South Africa), consider runner Castor Semenya, who is intersexed. Semenya has male genes and features, but she competes as a woman. Unfair? World class athletes are genetic freaks of nature anyway; why are certain specific genetic oddities “unfair” and others are acceptable?

You have to look at how people to how they coexist with their environment. Semenya isn’t “disabled” and, other than having no legs, neither is Aimee Mullins. And just like how materials scientists can engineer carbon fiber legs, architects can add ramps and elevators, surgeons can implant sensory devices… society is comprised of us. We are the raw materials. We can engineer ourselves and our relations with one another to make for a more hospitable world for everyone, even those beyond the top and bottom 1%ile.

Mobility for Toddlers

October 2, 2009

It has always astonished me how long it takes kids to get powered mobility. Not being able to move around has profound effects on cognitive and language development. Check out these robots:

(However, please don’t read the YouTube comments. YouTube comments are probably the most cognitively impaired language output on the planet. )

Snow Leopard

August 28, 2009

Snow Leopard, the development nickname for Macintosh OSX version 10.6, is available for sale today.
It has new accessibility features.

PCWorld article on these.

I’m particularly interested in the mirroring the screen with the trackpad feature. The trackpads on the new unibody laptops are huge. And I recall that Apple has patents on some haptic feedback touchscreen ideas. Could a built-in braille reader in the Macbook be possible?

Must remember to do a blog post about Windows 7 when it comes out.