Home Safety Castle- designing for people with disabilities

Original Author: Ann-Cudworth

Earlier this year I was developing a scale model of a 4 sim build for a virtual world, utilizing a portable sim scenario called “Sim-on-a-stick”.

When I had finished that model, which was a prototype for the Federal Consortium of Virtual Worlds Con 2011.

With all the best intentions, I described how I would build a castle, set up home safety hazards, and work with the attendees on how to make it work as a game.  Ener stopped me in my tracks when she said “I’m a big fan of section 508, Will it be ADA compliant?”

Safety Castle

I have to confess, up until that point, I had never even heard of section 508, and had never considered the accessibility of my builds for people with disabilities.  This looked like a really large can of worms to me, and I had a very short deadline.  Nevertheless, when someone throws down the challenge glove, I cannot resist.  So I dug in and tried to figure out how to make my Home Safety Castle accessible to people who are hearing impaired or visually impaired.  Very quickly, I learned that this means layers: layers of sound on the visuals, layers of visuals on the scene and some way to keep them organized, functional, and loading in time to make the game play smoothly.

Here is a short walking tour of what has been done so far- it is still a work in progress-

Future Applications

Slowly it dawned on me that what this meant, was a new way to think about how to design a game. In fact, thinking like this could show us how to improve the game as well and to deepen and enrich the experience for the player.  I started think about other things, like red/green color blindness, and how people with that can see more and are less distracted by the shades of colors.

I also started to think about we saw avatars being moved by mind control, one small part of  Team Orlando’s efforts with Army Research.  I asked myself questions about gaming and what it means for people with disabilities when they can play a game without hands or fingers.  I began to wonder how someone like Stephen Hawking could create a virtual model of their theories in cyberspace, just by using their brainwaves.

And finally, I started to think about how we will make games in the future, and what that means for the design of them

What if you lived in a land where people could move things with their minds, or they could see secret patterns on things, or they could hear the sound of butterfly wings? What kind of games would they play?

“O brave new world that has such people in it. Let’s start at once.” (Shakespeare-The Tempest)

Ann Cudworth / Founder- Alchemy Sims