Luis Peña, a video game buff and a quadriplegic, is a former U.S. Border Patrol agent in Casa Grande. Injured on the job in 2007, he missed playing video games after he recovered so he created and patented a video game controller for people with similar injuries. He formed a company called LP Accessible Technologies, which focuses primarily on building game controllers for disabled people. The LP Pad is similar to an Xbox remote control, only it is much bigger. Compatible with the Xbox 360, the controller operates through Bluetooth technology, and can also be hooked up to a “chin stick” for users with very limited motor skills in their hands. Although it is big in size, it weighs less than 1 pound. The controller is made to sit on the gamer’s lap, and features large buttons that work by brushing a hand across them. This works for people with spinal cord injuries who can only push with pressure for a couple seconds.
Peña hopes to have this device fully developed within a year, with a licensing agreement from Microsoft. Peña is currently showing the capabilities of the video game controller to disabled people across the country. The controllers sell for $399.99 and can be purchased here.
This publication form The AbleGamers Foundation includes detailed explanations of common problems for gamers with disabilities, solutions for those problems, printable checklists, developer exercises and personal letters from industry insiders to the game industry. Mobility, hearing, vision, and cognitive disabilities are all addressed. In addition to the PDF version of the guide there is also a companion website, www.includification.com, that has the same information without the fancy graphics and explanations. This website will be a resource for developers to quickly find specific solutions to accessibility problems.
Accessibility features are becoming more prominient and widely accepted in all aspects of life. From theatre to video games, product designers are recognizing the importance of inclusive design. Duncan McKean has managed to apply these concepts to one of the most popular and mentally challenging board games – chess.
Although this game was created with intent to include those with visual impairments, a seeing person could also play this game. In making this set accessible, McKean uses features that appeal to physical perception as opposed to only visual. Each piece is held in it’s place on the board by a magnet, while the different values of each piece is characterized by different weights. Having different physically perceivable patterns on each piece makes it easy to recognize which is being moved. Player pieces are distinguished by the material the pieces are made of – one player has hardwood pieces while the other has metallic steel.
The unfortunate reality is that the most popular game companies in the gaming industry don’t always create games with accessibility in mind. With a goal to raise accessibility awareness within the gaming industry, this year’s Global Game Jam – a collaborative gaming development session – featured an accessibility challenge in an attempt to break existing barriers.
With the help of Ian Hamilton, Designer and accessibility consultant, this event was able to debunk the stigmas suggesting that creating accessible games is problematic, costly, and time-consuming. At the session, many issues were discussed, such as how to appeal to people who have motor, cognitive, or visual impairments.
Universal Design (UD) is an approach to design that increases the potential for developing a better quality of life for a wide range of individuals. It is a design process that enables and empowers a diverse population by improving human performance, health and wellness, and social participation (Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012). It creates products, systems, and environments to be as usable as possible by as many people as possible regardless of age, ability or situation.