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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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 Delaware


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.

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. )

Combat helmet design and TBI

September 1, 2009

From the New England Journal of Medicine: (edited for brevity).

Among surviving soldiers wounded in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, TBI appears to account for a larger proportion of casualties than it has in other recent U.S. wars. […]22 percent of the wounded soldiers from these conflicts […] had injuries to the head, face, or neck. This percentage can serve as a rough estimate of the fraction who have TBI [T]he true proportion is probably higher, since some cases of closed brain injury are not diagnosed promptly.

In the Vietnam War, by contrast, 12 to 14 percent of all combat casualties had a brain injury, and an additional 2 to 4 percent had a brain injury plus a lethal wound to the chest or abdomen. [B]ecause mortality from brain injuries among U.S. combatants in Vietnam was 75 percent or greater, soldiers with brain injuries made up only a small fraction of the casualties treated in hospitals.

Kevlar body armor and helmets are one reason for the high proportion of TBIs among soldiers wounded in the current conflicts. By effectively shielding the wearer from bullets and shrapnel, the protective gear has improved overall survival rates, and Kevlar helmets have reduced the frequency of penetrating head injuries. However, the helmets cannot completely protect the face, head, and neck, nor do they prevent the kind of closed brain injuries often produced by blasts. As insurgents continue to attack U.S. troops in Iraq, most brain injuries are being caused by IEDs, and closed brain injuries outnumber penetrating ones among patients seen at Walter Reed[…] All admitted patients who have been exposed to a blast are routinely evaluated for brain injury; 59 percent of them have been given a diagnosis of TBI[…]. Of these injuries, 56 percent are considered moderate or severe, and 44 percent are mild.

So the design and engineering of armor has changed the nature of the injuries that happen on the battlefield.

the MKU Instavest prototype

the MKU Instavest prototype

Design. Engineering. Acquired disabilities. That sounds like this blog.

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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.

Can we teach computers to co-construct in the way that people do? MIT Media Lab think so.

Braille e-book

April 20, 2009

This isn’t out on the market yet, but this is a promising design.

This goes in the design and society blog because it really shows how far we’ve come in our attitudes toward disability. Prosthetic legs used to be designed to conceal the fact that they were prosthetic. Never mind that their design wasn’t much good for anything except sitting down and looking “normal.”

Ellie May’s prosthetics don’t look like natural human legs at all and they don’t have to! They are her legs. We judge them based on their function, not appearance. They let her walk and play like her peers, without the hindering pretense of hiding her disability. We don’t have to do that anymore.

I’ll bet in the near future we are going to see more designs that serve useful functions without being tied to traditional forms. However, it is hard to break free of doing things the way we always have (I should know; it’s what we are trying to do with communication systems at Penn State right now.)