Thursday, July 7, 2011

We Learn Through Play - Blind Gaming And Children's Apps Accessibility

Watertable ©2011 Michael O'Morah
The Blind Community and Persons with Vision Impairment are somewhat in Society when it comes to certain aspects of daily life. Fortunately the perseverance of the Human Spirit constantly discovers or invents new ways to overcome the obstacles for broader integration into our Sight centered world. In the iPad, iPhone and Macintosh community there is Apple's Universal Access which empower developers to create and offer avenues of usability in their apps to the Vision Impaired and Blind. While much forethought and planning goes into integrating Universal Access when developing Productivity, Business and many Educational apps, when it comes to games, accessibility is often overlooked. Happenstance and afterthought can sometimes provide a level of accessibility as can the happy accident but, often the speed or complexity of action is more than any reasonable person could expect to adapt as a "Blind Friendly Game"
"Play energizes us and enlivens us. It eases our burdens. It renews our natural sense of optimism and opens us up to new possibilities."
Stuart Brown, MD
Contemporary American psychiatrist
There are many games that could easily be made Vision Impaired Friendly and Low Vision Friendly simply by enabling, a Game Speed Control, Zoom, choice of Cross-Hairs for aiming or even Auto-Aim or God Mode when Universal Access is active in the Settings on the Home Screen. For grid based games the assignment of underlying text would be beneficial. In Angry Birds for instance, a getting hot or getting cold Audio or Vibe Indicator for "grabbing" the Bird and "tapping" the Bird  would not be very difficult to incorporate into the game.
These same accessibility ideas should applicable to children's Games and Educational apps. Play at an early age is highly important in building coordination and motor skills. The Brain loves to learn through play and quality gaming is something all children love and need Sighted, Blind or somewhere in-between.
As I review and Build a list of games and educational games I intend to categorize them in three Categories: VI+F = Vision Impaired Friendly, LV+F = Low-Vision Friendly and B+F = Blind Friendly.  No two people play or see exactly the same therefore any recommendations are just that, it will always be a trial and error process. What works for my may not work for someone with serious Macular Degeneration etc... "It's all fun and games til someone loses an eye!" But, for now, we'll keep an eye out for some good games  and keep playing!

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