[Athen] Accessible games and simulations

Kestrell kestrell at panix.com
Mon Mar 26 09:25:39 PDT 2007

The BBC either just recently launched or is just about to launch accessible educational games, so obviously it can be done. Wearing my hats as a blind computer user and media studies scholar, I recently consulted on another accessible game proposal with educational ties, and am certain it can be done. The issue is that accessibility has to be considered from the design stage, and most educational software is purchased through educational companies that consider accessibility in the final stages or as an afterthought, which makes accessibility difficult to impossible.

Here is the article which discusses the BBC accessible educational games.


- ISSUE 85, JANUARY 2007.

Technology news for people with vision impairment


http://www.headstar.com/eab/ ).

Sticky By Name, Sticky By Nature

by Mel Poluck.

Audio and other accessible games for the blind have been around for

some time and many have a loyal following. But although they could

provide the ideal medium to engage children while learning, they are

rarely used in the classroom.

Very soon that may be set to change however, with the launch of BBC

Jam's new accessible learning materials: a set of online, fun and

compelling games for learning National Curriculum topics, some of

which were showcased for the first time last week at BETT, the

world's largest conference on educational technology.

Sonic Science, to name one of these resources, aimed at vision

impaired and sighted children of around seven years old, is a game

using graphics and speech output for learning about Physics, providing

teachers and pupils with a lesson about pressure. Using stereo sound

and the directional keys - and peppered with puns perhaps only

children could appreciate - the player, in the form of protagonist Harris

Hotle must 'push' a cart by holding down the 'up' key for the correct

amount of time before releasing to hit another cart at just the right

speed so as not to cause a nasty accident. A talking power meter speaks

the results to players.

"Usually people create resources then try to make it accessible. We're

trying to work out something that will work for a lot more children,"

Jonathan Hassell told delegates at BETT.

But this development phase hasn't always been easy, particularly as far

as Maths and Science-themed games are concerned. "How do you

visualise an abstract concept? That was the challenge," said Hassell.

One aspect of the project Hassell and his team have found particularly

tough was creating literacy materials for vision impaired pupils he said.

"It's different for them - they always have to have someone to give

them feedback." Despite this daunting challenge, the team has devised

'Benjamin's House,' named after its narrator, British poet Benjamin

Zephaniah, which lets blind children develop Braille reading and

writing skills as they explore Zephaniah's virtual house.

Using his vivid poems, he introduces us to rooms and objects in his

home including the hoover, a spider and even well-known literary

characters such as Dr Zeus, who happens to be in the sauna at the time.

The whole game, which was tested among schoolchildren in Surrey,

England, is replete with sound effects, activities and stories.

"We're trying to produce materials children can use on their own,"

Hassell said, although notes for teachers and parents will be available.

And these resources encourage learning outside of the classroom too as

users will be able to log in from any computer and everything

previously created can be accessed again.

The Jam team have received assistance on accessible gaming by the

Bartiméus Accessibility Foundation in the Netherlands where

developers have created such games as Demor


http://www.demor.nl/ )

which uses Global Positioning System (GPS) and 3D sound to guide

players around a large physical area in which the game takes place.

Throughout Jam's development, learners with various disabilities have

been considered, including hearing impaired pupils who will soon have

access to a literacy game whose animated characters use British Sign

Language. "We can do something a lot of companies are afraid to do -

take into account children with all kinds of needs," Hassell told


All materials will be available for free, since the entire project was

funded by BBC licence-payers, although the downside of this is that

materials will not be available for users beyond the UK, although

Hassell said this could change in future. "People in other countries

who've seen what we've done are desperate for this," he said.

"We're re-imagining everything that happens in computer games," said

Hassell. "We're re-inventing computer games for people that may have

never used them before."

NOTE: BBC Jam's accessible games for learning go live in March.

----- Original Message -----
From: Stacy L. Smith
To: athen at athenpro.org
Sent: Monday, March 26, 2007 10:21 AM
Subject: [Athen] Accessible games and simulations

Listers -

I received this email from a co-worker, and I figured you can answer it
better than me. Any thoughts?


I'm doing research for a whitepaper on simulatioins and
games in eLearning...and came across an article by Kieran Pitts
and Andrew Ashwin titled "Online games and simulations as aids
to learning ethos, challenges and evaluation." Here, they talk
about how educators have a harder time making simulatiions and
games accessible....and cite SENDA (2001) and the DDA
(1995)....which may well be something in the UK... (The
University of Bristol published "interact" in Oct. 05, Issue 31,
pp. 12 - 13). Anyway, I wonder if you had any information on
the accessibility piece as that seems like something we may have
to consider if we head towards this at some point. This may be
years down the line...

Any help would be appreciated.


Stacy Smith
Adaptive Technology Specialist
Disability Support Services
202 Holton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhattan, KS 66506
Phone: 785-532-6441
FAX: 785-532-6457
Email: stacylee at ksu.edu

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