UK charity putting fun and inclusion back into lives of people with disabilities

UK charity putting fun and inclusion back into lives of people with disabilities

By Ellise Hollie Hayward, 21, Disabilities Correspondent, Jill Dando News

(Ellise Hollie Hayward is the Disabilities Correspondent for Jill Dando News and the Good News Post. She started the role after giving yet another motivational talk - this time at Priory Community School Academy in Weston-super-Mare, the school that paved the way for JIll Dando News)

A UK-based charity is putting fun and inclusion back into the lives of people with physical disabilities by helping them to play video games.

The charity Special Effect is achieving amazing things for people across the country.

There are Bubble Buster robots for children to use at home, Eye Gaze games, video games and much more from the inspirational charity.

There's no one-size-fits-all way of doing this, so their specialist assessment teams work with people individually to find out exactly what they want to play and what they need to play it.

They then match or modify technology to create and loan personalised gaming control setups, and back this up with lifelong follow-up support.

Founder and CEO Dr Mick Donegan started the charity back in back in 2007 because he realised there was a largely unfulfilled but crucially important need amongst severely physically disabled people – the need to play.

Video games had the potential to offer a virtual opportunity for people with physical disabilities to compete in, experience and enjoy real-world activities they’d otherwise have limited or no access to, so he set up SpecialEffect to meet the challenge.

Initially the charity ran on a voluntary basis with a very small core group of staff but over the years it’s expanded and we now employ approximately 25 staff.

Their specialist assessment teams aim to spend as much time with each person as is needed, which makes it possible to tailor our accessible gaming setup loans to their unique situations.

Dr Mick said: “That’s a real privilege but also probably the biggest challenge we face; the fact that everyone’s needs, aspirations and abilities are so different!

“It can be time intensive matching up the right pieces of equipment to suit someone’s physical needs as well as their personal preferences.

“The trickiest setups involve a mashup of all different types of access – eye control, switches, voice control – and it’s crucial to ensure that they all work together seamlessly, reliably and comfortably within the person’s environment.

“We also recognise that people’s abilities may change over time, so we offer lifelong support for everyone we help. There are some gamers we’ve been working with for well over a decade now.”

The benefits they see go far beyond simply having fun:

Games offer an unparalleled opportunity for the people they help to participate as an equal in astonishingly rich competitive gaming environments and social communities.

This results in greater independence, self-esteem, confidence, achievement, an opportunity to demonstrate to others the best of themselves… the list goes on.

Mr Mick added: “Everything useful that we learn through our assessments and research has the potential to be repurposed to help others worldwide, resulting in resources like EyeMine, and Eye Gaze Games.

“It’s also a privilege to be able to share our accessibility experience with developers to help make their games more accessible and to collaborate with manufacturers like Microsoft in the creation of internationally available accessibility products such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller, and of course resources like the SpecialEffect DevKit.”

All the help and advice the charity provides, whether it’s to individual gamers or multinational studios, is given at no cost so they are 100% reliant on fundraising to maintain our services.

To help the charity click here

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