At times: We're all disabled. We're all enabled.

A young boy uses a box to play Donkey Kong

Enabled by a box to play a game of Donkey Kong. Inaccessible otherwise.

Taito Space Invaders with box to make the game playable by shorter people.

It's interesting to see the term "gamer" being redefined, in part by the tentacular shite-storm of gamer-gate. It's now quite a loaded term with negative connotations for some gaming types.

For 10+ years the game accessibility movement have commonly used the terms enabled and disabled gamers. Or gamers with disabilities by some (although to me that's attaching the "disability" to the individual, rather than pointing the finger at the design barriers presented by the game/game platform). What would be more appropriate now? People disabled by gaming barriers. Not all that catchy is it? Disabled Players. Maybe better.

It's true though, that everyone is a disabled person at times. If there's a barrier preventing you from doing something you want to do, then you're disabled (from doing that thing). Remove the barriers and you're enabled. I'm not talking about medical definitions of disability. I'm not a doctor.

I remember being six or seven in 1979 being too short to see the bottom of the screen on an upright Space Invaders machine. In that respect I was disabled. It wasn't uncommon though to find a milk or beer crate next to arcade games for people like me. That "assistive technology" removed the barrier for me, and stopped me being disabled in that way.


Three excellent accessible music solutions above are of the Robotar, Skoogmusic ii-Music and Apollo Ensemble's Ensemble Dice.

The Robo-tar will work with standard switch accessible equipment for changing chords. You currently need to hold your switch down to hold the fingering on the fret-board, unless you have a latching solution to suit.

ii-Music is a pointer based version of the Skoog, which will work with anything that can move the on-screen pointer. You can Try ii-Music for free. It's around £150 GBP excluding VAT in the UK.

Apollo's Ensemble work is a little older but I've omitted to include them here before. Unlike the Skoog, you can connect a very broad range of controllers to it. Great idea.

Added this link to the OneSwitch Music section.


One Handed Pinball: Almost Any Machine

This nice accessible pinball mod from Ben Heck enables a person to play pinball using one side of the pinball machine, activating a wireless servo button pusher on the other side. This kind of thing could be doubled up for use with accessible assistive tech, such as switches.


One Handed Radio Controlled Car

One handed adapted radio controlled car.

SpecialEffect were approached a little while back by a guy called Dan who wanted to race RC cars again. He found traditional controllers tricky so was looking for an alternative solution.

I wanted to find an off the shelf-solution for him and others and wondered about a Futaba One Handed Flight Stick. It worked great, but unfortunately it could only transmit on an illegal frequency for cars. Using the car would run the risk of accidentally taking control of an RC plane and crashing it into the ground. Not good.

So, unable to find an off the shelf method, I went back to the Mark Heath method, of hard-wiring a game controller thumb-stick to the pots on a standard hand-set. I used a Cirrus 3CSX 40MHz 3-channel hand-set from eBay and an Xbox standard 10k Ohm thumb-stick from SparkFun with mounting break-out PCB board.

Mark used Wii nunchuk thumb-sticks, but I'm guessing the principle is  the same for all 10k joysticks. I needed to cut the traces on the board and draw off independent wires to ensure that each of the six connections was unique and not shared. Then it's a matter of deciding how to run a lead out from the hand-set to your mini-joystick, and also how to house that.... Dan's swiftly moved on from this to an even more impressive car. Looking forward to seeing this working too.

Update: 10k sticks work great for Playstation and Xbox, at least on the hand-sets I've adapted so far. I'm using VGA connectors with pins 1, 3 and 4 for steering and 11, 12 and 13 for throttle. N.B. Do not use 27MHz/40MHz transmitter/receiver sets with powerful 2.4GHz cars as there is no safety cut out should you turn the hand-set off before the car or the batteries fade. Adapt 2.4GHz kit for improved safety (power off / power fades and the car goes into stand-by mode, doing nothing).

Cirrus 3CSX RC handset with view of both potentiometers.

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Light-Pressure custom gaming: Mojo and zSensors

Mojo 6, zSensor and Rainbow Compass

Accessible Gaming hardware: Rainbow compass to aid playing a car game.

Mojo Modular Joystick light pressure controls diagram for accessible gaming.

Mojo ultra light pressure joystick with custom stick.

Mojo ultra light pressure joystick with custom stick for game accessibility.

Mojo joystick base for magnetic connections.

Mojo 2 from Celtic Magic. Brains of the ultra-light pressure set-up.

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of trying out a "Mojo" with a variety of accessories at SpecialEffect HQ.

The MoJo (short for Modular Joystick) is the expandable brain of a super-light pressure gaming set-up. The majority of the light controls make use of industrial quality "strain gauges" said to need less than 0.1 milligrams of force to use when at maximum sensitivity.

These gauges can be mounted in various ways, to be positioned at any part of the body that can use them. If there's movement, if only a flicker, this should prove to be a fantastic way to keep playing games, either alone, or as a blended mix of access technology.

The joysticks I tried had a low profile base, with magnetic attachments that you could easily custom build. I'm very excited about merging these with the likes of JoyToKey to make for powerful gaming set-ups.

There was much more beyond this as alluded to in the pictures and videos above, but I'll share more when I finally get my hands on a set to really play with.

Many thanks to Graham Law and Jackie Harrison of Celtic Magic who gave such a comprehensive overview of what the Mojo can do.

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Super Velcro

Velcro Suits on a Velcro inflatable wall.

Recently learnt of TX9 Velcro from Ability World in the UK. It's super-strength velcro that has to be levered off with something like a screw-driver. No doubt it will need super-strength glue too, but could be very handy for certain applications.

Added to the Accessible Gaming Shop: Mounting Solutions.




Air Hockey Robot: Accessibility Possibilities

Robot Air Hockey - with ideas for one-switch air-hockey and eye-gaze air hockey.

The Air Hockey Robot Project above is currently used to create a robot opponent to a single human player. JJ Robots are selling parts of the kit to build your own.

An exciting potential upgrade to this project would be to allow for the robot to be controlled by an otherwise disabled human. You could put the puck under the control of a head-tracker, analogue joystick and other controllers quite easily I'd guess. With an added assist algorithm eye-gaze and one single button would be possible. How? By implementing the system first seen in the mobile phone game Jamdat Air Hockey.

This one-button mobile phone game designed by Steve Wetherill can be played by a person who can hold and release a single button. The rough video below gives a glimpse of this below through a Java phone emulator and the Enter key alone.

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KORG WaveDrum MIni

KORG WaveDrum Mini

The Korg WaveDrum Mini is a drum machine that allows you to use any surface that will transmit a vibration to the little clip. That means you could clip it to a wheelchair tray, a door, a plastic bottle of drink and many other things.

Reminds me a bit of Let's Tap on the Wii. Actually having those two hooked up together might be hugely entertaining cause and effect (splatter ink paint on screen, and sounds from the Korg).

Found via: Applaud Interactive.

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D.I.Y. Accessible Environmental Control and R/C Toys

The video above shows some early testing of a USBox which allows you to control four (or more) relays using key-board shortcuts. In this clip, I've set a single switch to alternate between latching SPIN on/off then latching GO on/off on a switch adapted Hitari Tumbler car. It's a little bit laggy, but it works.

The USBox is from Canada's Compusult, and links to Japan's (I believe). I'm hoping they'll add a momentary mode, to really broaden out the use of this device.

As is, this system (I'm using it with a switch adapted joypad and JoyToKey) offers a way to bring highly affordable D.I.Y. environmental control to a wide range of users. It could also open up a lot of otherwise inaccessible toys and radio controlled devices. Fingers crossed!

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File System Aging – 1. Defragmentation

Thoughtful, quiet piece on video gaming memories from Rab Florence over at Rock Paper Shotgun.




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