How Media­Tech pro­mo­tes the par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of peo­p­le with disabilities

Gam­ing can pro­mo­te the social, equal par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on of peo­p­le with various disa­bi­li­ties and help over­co­me the obs­ta­cles to making cont­act. But how? This was the sub­ject of the “INCLU­SI­VE GAM­ING” Inno­va­ti­on Day on 18 Novem­ber, 2019 ahead of the Media­Tech Hub Con­fe­rence in Pots­dam. Tog­e­ther with the Digi­tal Health Hub in Nurem­berg-Erlan­gen, BIRNE7 e.V. and in coope­ra­ti­on with the Medi­cal Val­ley EMN and the HPI School of Design Thin­king (Pots­dam), Design Thin­king was used to deve­lop ide­as and con­cepts of how peo­p­le with a wide varie­ty of disa­bi­li­ties can get bet­ter access to gam­ing. Not an insi­gni­fi­cant task, given that gam­ing is now con­side­red a cul­tu­ral asset. 15% of the world’s popu­la­ti­on expe­ri­ence some form of disa­bi­li­ty. The UN Con­ven­ti­on on the Rights of Per­sons with Disa­bi­li­ties (CRPD) advo­ca­tes the full inte­gra­ti­on of the­se peo­p­le into socie­ty - a social challenge.

About 40 peo­p­le with and wit­hout disa­bi­li­ties were invi­ted. Four teams were estab­lished. Each team was men­to­red by two Design Thin­king Coa­ches. The teams had five experts that could con­sult, two blind peo­p­le and three in wheel­chairs, one of them being para­ple­gic from the neck down. Some of them had tra­vel­led from afar to be there. 

One team used the Design Thin­king method to explo­re con­cepts in order to achie­ve bet­ter a pre-con­fi­gu­ra­ti­on of games for para­ple­gic peo­p­le via the mouth-ope­ra­ted Quad­Stick con­trol­ler, sin­ce the “soft­ware” for crea­ting game pro­files (Goog­le spreadsheets) isn’t intel­li­gent at the moment, and, to some ext­ent, it’s very time-con­sum­ing try­ing to adjust the Quad­Stick to work with a new game. One of the team mem­bers was Den­nis Win­kens from Vier­sen, near Mön­chen­glad­bach, a pas­sio­na­te gamer, who foun­ded the self-pro­clai­med inclu­si­ve Whee­ly­World gam­ing “crew”, plays with his mouth and was able to report from prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence about the obs­ta­cles he has faced. “Basi­cal­ly, ever­y­thing is pos­si­ble,” he said. “But the more input you need and the fas­ter the game gets, the more dif­fi­cult it then gets for me.”

A second team was loo­king for solu­ti­ons to see how gam­ing can bring peo­p­le with disa­bi­li­ties tog­e­ther with able-bodi­ed peo­p­le. A third group dealt with the ques­ti­on of how peo­p­le in wheel­chairs and visual­ly impai­red peo­p­le can have bet­ter chan­ces of par­ti­ci­pa­ting in Vir­tu­al Rea­li­ty (VR), and how vibra­ti­on, for exam­p­le, could be used. This would also inte­rest Den­nis Winkens. 

The fourth group focu­sed on the spe­cial game for­mat of Tre­asu­re Hunt and the ques­ti­on of how peo­p­le with disa­bi­li­ties can be more invol­ved in the online game – i.e. how one can deve­lop an adapt­ed and thus well-balan­ced modu­le accor­ding to the spe­ci­fic disa­bi­li­ty and plug it into a stan­dar­di­sed inter­face. “The game could then be laun­ched and play­ed around the world with all sorts of dif­fe­rent peo­p­le wit­hout and with the most diver­se of rest­ric­tions.” And: “You are stee­ring someone through the Nia­ga­ra Falls. The blind per­son pays more atten­ti­on to sounds and offers tips on “hid­den sounds” via the voice con­trol modu­le, someone else sees some­thing ‘flas­hing’ and clicks on it, etc. … A game like that can be play­ed tog­e­ther, glo­bal­ly and with ever­yo­ne as ‘an equal among equ­als’,” says Bahad­din Bat­maz, IT expert from Mar­burg, who is blind hims­elf, stu­di­ed Com­pu­ter Sci­ence, pro­gram­mes pro­fes­sio­nal­ly, deals with the usa­bi­li­ty of web pages, con­sults and trains in inclu­si­ve media, con­tent and working tech­ni­ques, i.e. he is a pro­fes­sio­nal. The­re was a cen­tral issue in all of the four groups: accessibility. 

The work­shop day was short, but the par­ti­ci­pan­ts were all in agree­ment that it was an important step in the right direc­tion. “Some good ide­as were deve­lo­ped in the short time available,” Den­nis Win­kens stres­ses. “That’s some­thing you can give pro­gramm­ers to work on.”

The work­shop was sup­port­ed by the HPI School of Design Thin­king. Its methods for Design Thin­king were used to find solu­ti­ons. “We were hap­py to get invol­ved,” Ste­fa­nie Schwerdt­fe­ger from the HPI School of Design Thin­king points out. “We are con­stant­ly deve­lo­ping our approach to Design Thin­king. The work­shop pro­vi­ded us with important ide­as on how to inte­gra­te par­ti­ci­pan­ts with disa­bi­li­ties,” says Ste­fa­nie Schwerdtfeger.

Bahad­din Bat­maz just thinks it’s a pity “that the­re weren’t any gam­ing start-ups the­re this time round. It would have been nice to get some net­wor­king from start-ups. But the­re were many inte­res­ted peo­p­le to meet from the fields of tele­com­mu­ni­ca­ti­ons, radio, film and tele­vi­si­on. Ever­yo­ne took some­thing away from the event!” “Many of the par­ti­ci­pan­ts had never been invol­ved in inclu­si­ve gam­ing befo­re,” adds Den­nis Win­kens. And Jonas Jung from Medi­cal Val­ley EMN, who also works on a vol­un­t­a­ry basis for BIRNE7, stres­ses: “It was gre­at that we were again able to pay more atten­ti­on to the sub­ject through this event orga­nis­ed by the Media­Tech Hub Pots­dam. We want to build on this. We were able to broa­den our scope, streng­then awa­re­ness. In addi­ti­on, some par­ti­ci­pan­ts spo­ke direct­ly, open­ly and impar­ti­al­ly with gamers with disa­bi­li­ties for the first time. They also all lear­nt that other approa­ches are nee­ded with Design Thin­king when you are working with peo­p­le with disa­bi­li­ties so as to 

About MTH Blog

The media technologies of the future are already being used today – not only in the entertainment sector, but also in a wide variety of industries. Christine Lentz meets up with tech enthusiasts, established companies and researchers for our monthly MediaTech Hub Potsdam blog to tell the stories behind the innovative business models.