Work for Skoogmusic

Image of the Skoog musical instrument (a white spongy cube, each surface with a different coloured dome element) with four silhoutted hands on it. The text reads, 'twist, strike, squeeze, press'.

Are you a bit of a genius with computers and audio, or know someone who is? Fancy working on the most exciting accessible musical instrument made this century? If so, Skoogmusic are looking for you. Job application details here.

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Part of the Syndrome to Be

I've got a Volvo by the way! Not this one though. Image of an old yellow brick estate Volvo with some toffs in the background with shot-guns. The boot is open, with a couple of dogs jumping out.

"Years ago when I taught more students with Down Syndrome I was moved by the essay, "If People with Down Syndrome Ruled the World." I was moved not only because it was so true, but also because it was so funny. If you have ever loved an individual who has Down Syndrome you will see them in that essay. (Heck even if you have just seen, "The Ringer" you will know some of what that essay is talking about.)

But what about of all the other syndromes and conditions that make up our classrooms? What would the world be like if they ruled it? If people with CP ruled the world their would be a warning before every loud noise, but enough time after to let the fun of a startle work for you if you want. If people with CVI ruled the world everything would be in yellow, red, black and white with excellent lighting. If girls and women with Rett Syndrome ruled the world eye pointing was be an assumed and preferred form of communication. If people with Cockayne Syndrome ruled the world their would way more affection and laughter. If people with autism ruled the world intense hobbies and interests would be the norm and everyone would keep track of the kind of car everyone else drives. If people with Leigh's Disease and other Mitochondrial Diseases ruled the world energy conservation wouldn't mean turning off the lights when you left the room it would mean napping when you need to.

In a discussion with a friend today we joked that one syndrome was the syndrome to be, but aren't they all? Isn't it great to think of all the positive things about our students and the ways we can re-frame the not-always-positive?"

From: Kate Aherne's Blog


Guante Pulsador

Image of a switch adapted translucent blue joypad, next to a white gloved hand, that has a wire, and tow contacts stitched into the thumb and forefinger area. Text reads, Access Able Games.

AccessAble Games have recently unveiled a simple touch sensitive switching system that can be stitched into the likes of gloves, sweat-bands and so on. It's an inexpensive solution that may well suit many. AccessAble Games are happy to support people around the world looking for alternative set-ups, as well as in helping them to find suitable games.

Very happily added to the Tailor Made Game Controllers section of the Accessible Gaming Shop. Link via: Accessible GameBase.


It's a Jungle - Basildon's threatened Spaces

Water-colour of Basildon green-land. Lots of vivid blues, and bright greens. Late Summer morning sun casting long shadows.

Love this piece of art, entitled "It's a Jungle", from Jet Stream Trader author and, artist, Roy Simmons. Linked to Basildon council's selling off of green spaces to pay for the town's new Leisure Centre. He added these words...

"It's a Jungle
to a 3 year old
and as important
as a Rain Forest."


"LIFE! It Must Be A Comedy"

Image of an Ornate marble surround, framing Robert Florio's book 'LIFE! It Must Be A Comedy. An image of Robert in his 20's with a paint-brush in mouth, with spikey hair and attitude. Above, a child-hood photo of him laughing.

Long term supporter of Game Accessibility, and life in general, Robert Florio is an artist, comedian and now novelist, having just seen his autobiography, LIFE! It Must Be a Comedy published. He's a really interesting bloke with plenty to say. I'm really looking forward to reading a copy.

A while back, my mother-in-law lent me a copy of  "No Man an Island", a biography of Peter Spencer, who also learnt to paint using his mouth. Peter, had a similar zeal for life, but written back in 1970, I'm guessing Robert's book will be somewhat more in your face.

Available from CreateSpace.


Indie Kombat

Fish Fish Bang Bang. Hugely colourful game screen shot, baddie fish homing in an Octagonal pattern towards the goodie gold fish in the middle.
I've been shabby in not reporting on Indie Kombat and the recent mash-up competition between two superfly one-switch compatible games, Rob Fearon's SY!NSO! and Farb's Fishie Fishie. I'll try to put that right here, as it's turned out two stunning new one-switch games.

Farbs concocted Fish Squid Time Machine, a game unlike any I've ever seen before. It's an Xbox 360 game for one to fifty players. It layers SY!NSO! and Fishie Fishie (and a flying donkey) where you can see bits of SY!NSO! underneath as parts of the screen get torn up. It's hypnotising, and available for a free demo run too, so you can see if you've got the tracking skills to play it.

Rob Fearon created the rival Fish Fish Bang Bang, taking extra inspiration from Vectrex classic Bedlam (love that game), Llamasoft's psychedelics and humour, and Chip Shops. This is a 15 level demo version for PC's and it's pretty wonderful. Highly accessible as is (again you'll need good tracking skills), the game will even play itself! I hope Rob, will offer a range of difficulty levels (keeping the current difficulty, as that's perfect for many), as I personally wanted it to be tougher. Sweet as, though.

Definitely recommend getting both games through Indie Kombat.

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Accessible Gaming at EuroGamer Expo 2010

High up photo of the EuroGamer Expo hall in 2009, full of people and games machines. The text reads 'EuroGamer Expo 2010, partnered with HMV. Links with the attendance of the Accessible GameBase.

Accessible Gaming will be making a showing at the public EuroGamer Expo 2010 in London's Earls Court thanks to the Accessible GameBase. I'll be there helping to run our stand on Friday the 1st and Sunday the 3rd of October. If you'd like a sneak preview of what gear we'll have there, just click the large picture above. Really looking forward to this one, and getting the word out at a mainstream event. Should be fun!

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Light Pressure Switches and Switches Galore

Image of five light pressure Altec accessibility switches.Recent additions to the Accessible Gaming Shop Switches section include: Altec's Ultra Light Pressure Switches. These are said to activate on very gentle pressure, have a reusable sticky underside to assist in mounting, and are a little wider than the width of the average finger. They come in at a very reasonable price too ($20 for one, $90 for five from Marblesoft - use for a currency conversion).

I have a link to Kate Aherne's fantastic Picassa album of over 160 accessibility switches, where you can get an idea of many switch options at a glance. I've also added a link within the switch mounting solutions area of some of her recommendations and suggestions for cheaper D.I.Y. solutions.

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My Golf Game

VTree's My Golf Game has been on my keep-an-eye-on list for some time. Well it's out and looks very nice indeed. Accessibility features include a range of input methods, including a one-switch mode (game-play only - not for the menus I'm sorry to say) and a range of difficulty levels. There's a promo over at AbleGamers to get a cheaper copy which can save you a few quid.

More golf accessibility? It's possible to play Everybody's Golf for PSone and PS2 in one-switch style (again without fully accessible menus) using a PC, emulator and 4Noah utility. For something much easier to get going, I'd highly recommend trying out the 2D mini-golf accessible classic Mini Golf 1-Button Style by Danjo, which is fully one-switch compatible.

For those thinking of producing their own accessible golf game, I recommend taking a look at the IGDA's GASIG's Top 3 Accessibility Tips for a Golf game.


AbleGames 2010

Image of a young man beaming, flanked by two on-lookers, whilst he plays an adapted pinball machine using a single accessibility switch.
Image of a jokey/nervous helper hiding behind a vecro vest from a Nerf Foam Bullet barrage, triggered by people using accessibility switches to fire at her.
Two young children playing a Wii Mario Kart. One using a standard steering wheel, the other using a cap mounted controller, enabling alternative access to the game.
Image of a young lad beaming brightly whilst playing a Wii Ski game using a chair controller. Flanked by two helpers who are also smiling broadly.
Image of an ex. Denver Nugget basketball player and a young lad playing against each other on Hoop Stars, one-switch basketball game. Both smiling, but with intently competitive looks on their faces.The photos above are just a small sample from the hundreds taken at the AbleGames 2010 event. Following last years amazing event, I was really curious to see if Assistive Technology Partners' could live up to the 2009 show. They definitely did and more!

I was delighted, and touched, after receiving this e-mail below from ATP's Gavin Philips giving me a run down of the equipment used, and how things went.

6 Nintendo Wii stations

Each projected onto a wall for the “big screen” effect.
2 with our “seating system on a Fit Board” contraptions.
2 with switch adapted Guitar Hero (one with drums and microphone).
2 with WiiMotes strapped to hats, arms, etc. for racing and sports.

6 Computer stations

Each with a switch interface and switches, a variety of adapted mice/joysticks and head trackers. One with a cardboard carrel to block light/glare and remove distractions, for kids with vision impairments.
Each with the following games: Aurikon, Hoop Stars, Mario Dash, One Switch Mini Golf, Star Wars, TIG Duels, Sonic Zoom (for kids with vision impairments), Peggle, SEN Switcher, Whack-A-Monty-Mole.

2 Switch adapted Nerf machine-gun stations
Both with Velcro tipped darts, targets, and vests for moving targets to wear. Mounted on “universal mounts” (Bogen arms).

2 Switch adapted pinball tables
Stern's Spiderman and William's Medieval Madness. One standard height, one with legs cut down to kid/wheelchair height. Adapted so that one switch jack controlled both flippers.

1 “Splatball” station
A homemade slingshot that could be fired by pressing a large board, which shot paintballs at targets. Several people recommended paintball for kids with vision impairments, due to the sound, smell, and tactile feedback.

Plus a large variety of switch toys, iPads with games and other fun apps, switch adapted “colour spinner” painting toy, etc.

"A local Boy Scout troop served lunch, and one of them helped organize for his Eagle Scout project. The daughter of one of our therapists ran a “kids corner” for siblings of participants and children of staff and volunteers. Two retired NBA players from the Denver Nuggets came to play Hoop Stars with the kids, pose for pictures, sign autographs, and play as Nerf gun targets. At the end of the day, each participant got a certificate with his or her personal title (Best Smile, Basketball Champ, etc.), a trophy, and a CD with all of the computer games and some other resources. We gave away the computers from the computer stations, and are keeping a list of people who want computers, so that I can continue to prepare donated ones as I get them, and give them out.

Everyone seemed to have a great time, and I think we had something that each participant could enjoy. I think we are hoping to split into two sessions next year, so that we can double the number of participants from 20 to 40.

Thanks as always for your support, advice, and huge selection of one switch games to share! You made this possible in the first place.

Now I just have to find a nice selection of Mac-compatible games for one of our participants who uses one at home…"


One Button Challenge

Image from an old Chemical Brothers promotion, reading 'My Finger Is On The Button. Galvanise.'
Image of a man's hand reaching out to press a red push button, above which is the word 'Doubt'."From September through October 2010, open source software educator Openlab Workshops and digital arts agency Cybersonica challenge anyone interested in makings things for themselves to conceive, design and build a device with a single button input. What this device actually does once its button is pressed is entirely up to them."

Link with thanks to Heather Kelly of Kokoromi.


PlayGamer Magazine featuring Accessible GameBase

Image of PlayGamer issue 15 for PS3. Featuring an article on gaming charities including SpecialEffect's Accessible GameBase.
Image of Bill Donegan looking around from an accessible gaming set-up that includes a One Hand Controller, head-tracker, eye-tracker and large yellow domed switch. Fantastic to see my colleague Bill Donegan, the guy behind the bulk of content on the Accessible GameBase, recognised in the gaming press. PlayGamer magazine have published a four page spread on gaming charities in issue 15 which is still in UK shops now.

Column inches are shared between the SpecialEffect Accessible GameBase, GamesAid and CODE. I of course don't believe accessible gaming is purely something for charities to tackle alone. In my view, it's simply the right thing for developers to be taking into account from day one. But until that day...

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Things to Listen To

Image of a happily deranged person aiming a megaphone directly into their ear. Monochrome stencil over a brain scan film, by Australian artist, Meek. Three things for your ear holes today: 1. The latest Access Collective Number 6 podcast has arrived (no Electronic Soup Podcast - I was busy getting married and on honeymoon). 2. The August Ouch! Podcast. 3. Justin Bieber slowed down 90% ish for ambient heads (link via Bill at the Accessible GameBase).

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Quasicon Axis Basile

Quasicon Axis Basile. Josh Basile grinning with his large Quasicon accessible game controller, positioned on his wheelchair tray.
Full overhead image of the Quasicon Axis-3 accessible arcade stick with analogue controls.
Closer view of the Quasicon Axis-3 accessible arcade stick with analogue controls.
Pictured above is the rightly chuffed looking Josh Basile with his Quasimoto built Quasicon Axis Basile (aka Axis-3). It took him many years of searching and testing before finally getting a game controller that suited him. I ran a few questions by Josh to find out more...

How did the Quasicon Axis Basile come about?

"I designed and customized this controller with the Quasimoto team based on my physical limitations and the type of games I like to play [e.g. Tiger Woods Golf, Madden, Call of Duty]. "

Are you 100% happy with this, or are there any adjustments you'd like made to it to suit you even better?

"This new controller has opened the door for me to resume my love for gaming. I am 100% happy with my new controller. I'm now working with Quasimoto to design a special attachment that extends the main section with all the buttons near an individual face in order to push the buttons with a mouth stick while freeing up an individual's hands to control both analog joysticks. "

If game developers could make their games more accessible for you, how might they do so?

"Game developers could provide more settings that word allow a user to customize what each button does and how each joystick functions. "

I can vouch for Quasimoto gear too. Superb build quality, and highly compatible with multple game platforms. Prices break down as $349.99 plus shipping for an Axis-1 or Axis-2, and $599 plus shipping for an Axis-3 (use to convert the currency). For all, you can request metal extension rods to the analogue joysticks (with 1", 1.25" or 1.5" balls on the end) for $13.99 each.

Added to the Accessible Game Shop.

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Sophie's Switch Accessible Toys

Image of Sophie Patmore using her switch adapted Thomas the Tank Engine set. A large helium balloon is tied to the train to make it more fun to use.
Close up of Sophie's set-up of two accessibility switches connected to a remote control unit. One to GO and one to STOP.
Left image: Close up of the Thomas the Tank Engine set-up with some of Sophie's favourite toys taking a ride. Right image: Sophie activating her switch adapted bubble machine, surrounded by bubbles.
Image of Sophie and her Dad squirting something (or someone) off picture with a switch accessible water pistol he adapted for her.The pictures have been re-published here thanks to Sophie Patmore's Mum and Dad from their truly lovely web-site, The Sophie Story.

Sophie's Mum bought a switch adapted Gazillion Bubbles Machine from me a while back, which I was really happy to learn that Sophie loved. Later, Sophie's Dad tracked down and switch adapted a water pistol himself (a Saturator AK47 from the looks of it). Most recently, they asked me to adapt a Thomas the Tank Engine train-set for switches, which you can see Sophie using above.

It does make me very happy to see this kind of stuff finding such a good home. Click on the pictures for more.

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Happy Day

In high seas or in low seas
I'm gonna be your friend,
I'm gonna be your friend.
In high tide or in low tide,
I'll be by your side,
I'll be by your side.

(I heard her praying, praying, praying)
I said, I heard my mother,
She was praying (praying, praying, praying)
And the words that she said (the words that she said),
They still linger in my head (lingers in my head),
She said, "A child is born in this world,
He needs protection,
God guide and protect us,
When we're wrong, please correct us.
(when we're wrong, correct us).
And stand by me." yeah!

In high seas or in low seas,
I'm gonna be your friend,
He said, "I'm gonna be your friend."
And, baby, in high tide or low tide,
I'll be by your side,
I'll be by your side.



Electronic Soup Podcasts Help Sheet

Image of a blurred tennis court, where only the nearest player on the bass-line and the ball is clear. Text reads, SpecialEffect electronic soup podcast 1 to 4. Audio Games and playing with a Visual Impaiment Help Sheet.
A help-sheet that ties up the first four "Electronic Soup Podcasts" on audio games and playing with a visual impairment is now available at the Accessible GameBase. It includes links to most of the games and events discussed for further exploration, as well as a one-point stop to grab all the podcasts and available transcripts.

As a side note, we were really chuffed when Damon Rose described ESP as, "the most unusual sounding podcast I've ever heard! Wow!". It's good to be different!

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Reconfigurable Controls

Image of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue's initial controller reconfiguration screen. Offering control over Vibration and both player 1 and player 2 joypad set-ups. Nice!
Image of Gran Turismo 5 Prologue's main controller reconfiguration screen. Everything looks like it can be remapped pretty much where ever you want it. Very nice!
So few games offer reconfigurable controls, which is bonkers when you consider: 1. How many alternative controllers can be attached to modern games consoles. 2. How many different people there are in the world who may like to use a different set-up (small hands, left-handed, limited use of hands, those using one-handed controllers, etc.).

Really good to see on the Accessible GameBase that Gran Turismo 5 Prologue has a pretty versatile set-up system. Even better would be a latching accelerator and auto-braking, but even so, great work Polyphony! More please everyone else!!

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