How to use gamification to impact special needs lives.
Alistair was born without his sense of hearing. Doctors diagnosed him deaf but there was something else. He was different from the other hearing-impaired children; hyperactive and unable to grasp sign language. His caregiver Angela, felt like she had failed him.
One day, his teacher planned a trip to the mall and Angela panicked, but the teacher was sure her method would work. So 3 days before the trip, she realized that in order to penetrate Alistair’s “defences”, she needed to give him information. Information on what was going to happen to him.
They showed him images of the things he would experience on that day:an image of getting into the car, driving to the mall, arriving at the mall, browsing through the stores, getting back to the car, driving back to school and then going back home.
Alistair was unusually calm on the day they went to the mall. Unlike other times, he did not go running around and touching everything. He knew what was going on. He had information and that gave him peace.
Through Alistair’s story, Catalina came to the conclusion that not every person diagnosed with the same disability needs the same treatment. So every design solution has to be flexible to fulfill the custom user’s needs.
And what better way than through gamification. In our previous article, we defined gamification and how it could be the key to a smarter generation.
A fine example of gamification is Catalina De La Rocha, a Mexican woman who came up with an educational game that teaches hearing families and friends, Mexican sign language.
Catalina used visual elements that were understandable to both hearing and non-hearing players, therefore, bridging the gap between sign language and written language. The game also incorporates signwriting and augmented reality, thus creating a 3-dimensional experience of sign language.
Imagine a world in which your major form of understanding and interpretation of communication is through your eyes. Then imagine yourself being moved around without seeing where you are going and what you are going to do.
Coming up with uniquely tailor-made solutions goes a long way to positively impacting people’s lives just like Alistair’s life was transformed.
To date, most researchers on educational computer games forget to include people with special needs thus leaving them excluded. This could be any one of us or a loved one. That is why it is important for game developers to start thinking with inclusivity in mind.
In schools, universal design is crucial in the promotion of inclusive and accessible learning resources for all. I was first introduced to the concept of universal design through a friend.
Dr. Agnes W. Wanjau is the owner of an institution that trains Kenyan sign language interpretation to future sign language instructors, the hearing impaired, and the loved ones of the hearing impaired.
I am slowly growing accustomed to the concept of universal design which is essentially the design and composition of products so that they can be accessed, understood and used by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability.
So as Game Developers, let us consider creating flexible gamified solutions that enable our local special needs institutions to deliver teaching material in more engaging, fun and effective ways. And one by one we will be able to delightfully impact the lives of people with special needs like Alistair.
This article was inspired by Catalina De La Rocha’s Thesis for her masters of design in inclusive design. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ca/
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