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Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Online Sources for Accessible Computer Games for the Blind

For most gamers, the process of setting up a game and starting to play is pretty straight forward: install the game, skim over the instructions, and start playing. Unfortunately, people with disabilities find this process considerably harder.

The difficulty starts at the store. A disabled purchaser has no idea if a game is accessible to them or not. There are no ratings on the box that will indicate if the game is closed captioned or supports alternative input devices. In many cases, game ratings in the popular media do not address the accessibility issue, so for many purchasers, buying a game is very much a gamble.

After the game is installed, the player needs to often customize the settings to support their system and adaptive hardware. This is often not addressed in the documentation and most help desks have little experience dealing with these problems.

Once in the game, further problems can occur. The difficulty level may not be controllable, making it impossible for a person with mobility problems to play. Vital information may be given in cut scenes without closed captioning, making it impossible for the deaf to succeed in the game.

Unfortunately, many games fail to address the needs of a disabled gamer, and as a result prevent them from playing. The solution to this problem is to make games more accessible. The Wikipedia defines accessibility as "a general term used to describe how easy it is for people to get to, use, and understand things."

On a regular basis, the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) receives requests from individuals seeking sources of accessible computer games. We did some looking around and found various commercial suppliers, as well as Internet sources, from which these can be purchased--or, in some cases, downloaded for free.

The first place to look for games for the blind is audiogames.net. This site keeps track of all the games that are accessible to the blind or visually impaired. This is also the place to find Audyssey, an electronic magazine that keeps readers up-to-date on the latest games.

Top 25 Sites for Blind Gamers

7-128 Software has published a list of the 25 best sites for blind gamers. The list is based on market research and is based on several criteria including number of games, site longevity, popularity, and informational value. Not surprisingly, PCS Games is number 1, largely due to their complete list of accessible game developers and games. Each site includes an annotated description.

Click this link to view the Top 25 Sites for Blind Gamers list from 7-128 Software.

Puzzle Daily Brain Teaser

I can be cracked,
I can be made.
I can be told,
I can be played.
What am I?

Answer:

A Joke!

Click here to visit this game filled site: http://www.braingle.com.

The ADA Game

So, you're upset because your city just isn't with it when it comes to the ADA? How can you make a difference? Find out if you really can bring on changes to make the ADA stronger in your community by playing The ADA Game.

This free, online game is available to play at anytime and simulates how advocacy can promote positive changes in communities. Players take on the role of advocates for disability rights and work together to improve compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in their virtual communities.

After a successful login to the ADA Game, you can earn points by correctly answering questions about the ADA. The more points you earn, the more actions you can take to improve the accessibility of your virtual city. A maximum of five multiple-choice questions per day can be answered.

  • Work together with other advocates to improve ADA compliance and build a more accessible community
  • check your statistics to see how well you and your city are doing
  • visit the message board to chat with fellow advocates, plan strategies, and discuss ADA-related issues
  • take actions that promote disability awareness and advocate for accessibility.

Click here to visit the ADA Game home page, and good luck!

There are few software programs for the blind and some of them are cumbersome and difficult to use. But through a UNC computer science course called Enabling Technology, UNC students are developing programs for blind people from age 2 up. For the very young children, the programs help them learn directions and sounds. For older people, the programs can help them complete graduate research papers. Hark The Sound is a really simple sound game intended for young kids who are visually impaired, and is free for educational and fun use.

The object of the game is to name a sound or tune that is presented as a prompt. A typical round in Name That Animal goes like this:

  1. You hear "Can you name this animal?"
  2. Then an animal sound is played, for example a dog barking.
  3. You use the left or right arrow keys on the keyboard to move through and hear the possible answers. In this case they might be "Cat", "Dog", "Elephant", and "Horse".
  4. In some games, the down arrow key will give a hint about the correct answer.
  5. When you hear the correct answer, you press the up arrow key to guess.
  6. If the chosen answer is correct, you will hear a reward sound which might be a crowd cheering, or a musical fan fare. If the answer is incorrect, you will hear "Try again.".
  7. The process then repeats playing another one of the sounds for the four animals.
  8. When all the animals in the group have been played, the game begins another round with four more animals.

There are fifteen games that follow this same pattern of game play. These games include:

  • Braille Letters: The question is "Can you name this Braille letter?". The prompts are the dots of a letter. The answers are the letter along with a word that begins with that letter to make it easier to hear.
  • Braille Whole Word Contractions: The question is "Can you name this Braille whole word contraction?" The prompts are the dots in a Braille letter that is a whole word contraction. The word is the answer.
  • Counting: Counting repeated animal sounds for numbers one through nine.
  • Multiplication drills: The full multiplication table up to 12 times 12. The question is "What is this product?". The prompts are products like "2 times 3" and the answers are numbers from 0 through 144.
  • Name That Animal: Animal sounds are the prompts. The animal's names are the answers.
  • Name that capital's State: A challenging game of State Capitals. The question is "Can you name the state whose capital is...", the prompts are the names of capital cities. The answers are the names of the 50 states.
  • Name that Classical Tune: Midi versions of famous classical music are the prompts. The composer's name and the name of the work are included in the answer.
  • Name that color: The question is "What color is this?", the prompts are common objects, and the answers are their colors.
  • Name That Country Music Tune: Country music classics rendered in Midi. Composer and name are the answer.
  • Name that holiday: Identify holidays from hints.
  • Name that Kids Tune: Midi tunes like "Head Shoulders Knees and Toes".
  • Name that Rock and Roll Tune: Classic rock and roll tunes rendered in Midi with the artist and title for the answer.
  • Name that Sound: Environmental sounds, such as "clock ticking" and "glass breaking" are the prompts
  • Spelling Words: The prompt is a word spelled out. The answer is the word pronounced.
  • State Nick Names: A challenging game to identify the nick name for a state given its name.

To get more information about this game, including specific instructions on how to install and customize the game, follow the link below.

Click here to visit the Hark The Sound Information and Download page: http://www.cs.unc.edu/Research/assist/Hark/

San Francisco's KQED Public Broadcasting completed a TV show on video games that are accessible for everyone for their multimedia series on the environment, science and nature entitled QUEST.

It's a very interesting look at accessibility issues in gaming, and the KQED people did a nice job with it. Check it out. Click this link to download an MP3 of the QUEST program.

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