SpecialEffect: Helping disabled people play computer games

Finalist category: Accessibility Award 2014


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Accessibility Award, Winner, Winner of Winners, 2014

SpecialEffect’s mission is to enable anyone, whatever their physical disability, to enjoy video games and leisure technology. It’s not all for the sake of fun, though as SpecialEffect believes in the power of gaming to kick-starting rehabilitation, build self-esteem and, most importantly, promote inclusion. Their team of specialists use a wide range of modified and off-the-shelf technology, including custom games joypads, eye-control systems, mouth/chin controllers and voice control software.

Sometimes the solution might involve remapping a game controller’s buttons to areas of the body that the person can control. At other times a combination of switches, voice control and eye-gaze might be suitable. Occasionally the team will create bespoke software to meet a particular need. At all times the focus is on enabling the person to play the games that they want to play, whether that’s the latest football title or racing titles, online board games, or educational games.

Founded in 2007, SpecialEffect quickly found that there was a huge demand for help and advice. Since then they’ve rapidly grown, and currently work with up to 500 people across the UK of all ages and medical conditions, on an intensive basis in hospitals, hospices and in their own home. They’ve also worked with organisations like Great Ormond Street Hospital, Stoke Mandeville Hospital and The Children’s Trust.

“The impact of what we’re doing is amazing. Video games are, at the very least, a doorway to social inclusion and friendship, especially for young people. But SpecialEffect’s highly personalised combinations of technology and games are also enabling therapy, rehabilitation, independence, self-esteem, competitiveness, escapism from disability, distraction from pain, and even providing respite time for carers.”
Mark Saville, Web and Communications, SpecialEffect

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