Recommended Reading for January 10th

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AbleGamers: 2009 Accessible Game of Year – Dragon Age: Origins

Dragon Age: Origins offers some of the most astounding accessibility options seen in any game this year. With only one accessibility complaint, Bioware far exceeded expectations for an accessible title. However, the relatively small font size was immediately addressed by Bioware, bringing the number of accessibility problems to zero.

Alex at Border House: Interview with Mark Barlet of

What are some important things to look for when determining the accessibility of a game?

It is very hard to say “THIS” is what we are looking for. Depending on your disability game accessibility can mean anything. So what we look for are options. I am not deaf and do not need subtitles when I play, but is there an option for subtitles? Steve [Spohn, Associate Editor of AbleGamers] does 99% of his interaction with his PC by use of the mouse, so a game must be playable using just a mouse. That said, others can not use a mouse at all, so we look to see if a game can be played by using the keyboard.

Tiffany at Disaboom: BBC to debut groundbreaking wheelchair dancing reality show

The celebs will be paired up with wheelchair dancers, and most of the wheelchair-users will be new to dancing too. After training, they’ll compete a variety of classic ballroom dances, from the Paso Doble to the Cha-Cha-Cha, all performed within the parameters of Wheelchair Dance Sport, a official sport requiring at least one dancer to use a wheelchair. The winning couple will go on to represent the UK at the Wheelchair Dance Sport European Championships in Israel this Fall.

Wow. This actually sounds official. Like it’s a real competition or something, not some pity-party looking for a sympathy vote. LOVE it.

Meris Stansbury at eSchoolNews: Five key trends in assistive technology

“NCTI hears this plea from … parents and caregivers as well. Too often, the sophistication of the features or interface of new devices precludes easy use by direct consumers or their parents, teachers, and friends. With more students being served in general-education classrooms of up to 30 students, devices need to offer as little complexity and facilitate as much independence for the user as possible,” the brief says.

“It’s not just about adding new features to the stuff we already have,” explained Tracy Gray, director of NCTI. “We must ask the question: What do we need to solve, and how can we do that?”

Fox News: Mind-Reading Systems Could Change Air Security

The WeCU system would use humans to do some of the observing but would rely mostly on hidden cameras or sensors that can detect a slight rise in body temperature and heart rate. Far more sensitive devices under development that can take such measurements from a distance would be incorporated later. […]

One system being studied by Homeland Security is called the Future Attribute Screening Technology, or FAST, and works like a souped-up polygraph.

It would subject people pulled aside for additional screening to a battery of tests, including scans of facial movements and pupil dilation, for signs of deception. Small platforms similar to the balancing boards used in the Nintendo Wii would help detect fidgeting.

New York Times: The Americanization of Mental Illness

Modern-day mental-health practitioners often look back at previous generations of psychiatrists and psychologists with a thinly veiled pity, wondering how they could have been so swept away by the cultural currents of their time. The confident pronouncements of Victorian-era doctors regarding the epidemic of hysterical women are now dismissed as cultural artifacts. Similarly, illnesses found only in other cultures are often treated like carnival sideshows. Koro, amok and the like can be found far back in the American diagnostic manual (DSM-IV, Pages 845-849) under the heading “culture-bound syndromes.” Given the attention they get, they might as well be labeled “Psychiatric Exotica: Two Bits a Gander.”

13 thoughts on “Recommended Reading for January 10th

  1. Some of those security measures look terrifying. I mean, picking up on fidgeting and nervousness? Being in crowded rooms of people often triggers my anxiety, and you can damn well bet that, with anxiety already triggered, if they pulled me away for one of those screenings I’d have a panic attack and be unreachable.
    .-= PharaohKatt´s last blog ..20th Down Under Feminist Carnival =-.

  2. I have a complaint with Dragon Age: Ever since The Guy brought it home he has done nothing else. 😉

    That isn’t a real complaint. I am no longer contending for computer time.

    In all seriousness…the game is effing beautiful, and there is so much to control game-play wise that he hasn’t really played through much of the content yet (we’ve had it a week, he usually beats a game in a few days). He keeps starting over to see how he can do something different, play a different character, do different quests. The font is still a little small for my liking, but over all, this game has won us over.

    These are the same people who put out Mass Effect for anyone keeping score, and IIRC it ranked for accessibility as well?

  3. I’ve a complaint with Dragon Age – roomie has the game, haven’t been able to play it myself yet, his laptop is still out of comission – but the way it handles trans people (women in this case) and sex workers needs to be heavily worked on.

  4. A.W.~ Like I said, we haven’t gotten too terribly far in game play because someone *ahem* keeps creating new characters and starting over. I hadn’t encountered that nor was I even aware that it would come up in the game…but thanks for letting me know. That is complaint worthy, and something to take seriously…like writing letter to the company seriously. If they are like Ubisoft they take this sort of thing from fans of their games seriously if enough people write them.

  5. To be fair, he hasn’t gotten that far in the game, either. I stumbled across the problem when I was googling the game itself for playability on my end. They’ve got screenshots and …stuff. Other than that, it seems to be a decent game from what I’ve seen previously – but yeah – I haven’t gotten a chance to play it either, and roomie wasn’t that far along. They do seem to be a decent company, though, so hopefully they’ll take the issue seriously.

  6. Yay — he mentioned Asheron’s Call! That always makes me happy. :> (I worked on that game.)

    I like to think we were as accessible as we could be at the time, but we weren’t thinking about accessibility at all. We *were* thinking about options, though, which was something at least.

  7. The “mind-reading” thing… urgh.

    The actual game Wii Fit often tells me that I’m fidgeting two or three times in a row before it actually manages to weigh me. And this is when I’m in the comfort of my own apartment, not a scary airport that makes me more fidgety!

    And that’s not even getting started on the number of times I’ve been mistaken for having been not entirely truthful, just because I found eye contact uncomfortable.

    But nobody ever considers these sorts of things when planning these systems, of course.

  8. DA (Dragon Age) is pretty good with options to make the game itself accessible as far as I can tell, but no better than other games regarding disablism in the content.
    I love the game, but really don’t like the ways some NPCs are portrayed. **SPOILERS**
    The whole story behind the dwarf Ruck that you can encounter for a quest in the Deep Roads, for example. And then to top it off, depending a bit on who your party consists of, at least one, if not all of your party members are of the opinion he’s better off dead than living like that, so you should kill him then and there.
    Then, of course, there is Sandal. A “simpleminded” young dwarf who is initially abandoned but picked up and kept on as an adopted son by a merchant because he has…. *drumroll* … a super-special talent.

    There are other things too, also other things wrong besides disablism, but these two things I made sure to specifically remember, so I had some examples to bring up with people and possibly write up something coherent to send to Bioware some day. I hope they will listen. Looking at the stuff they produce, and changes you can track from the early games to recent ones, I do have hopes that they will not just dismiss any concerns fans might have.

    And that mind-reading security thing sounds nightmarish. I don’t think I would dare go near it for fear of what they might do to me when I go through it.

  9. The thing that bothers me the most about Americanization of mental illness is that the American research and understanding of various mental illnesses or disorders still has a long way to go. Like how the field handles DID. Ugh. I’ve actually seen other countries do better with the concept of plurality than the United States, so adopting American understandings and research would actually be a step backwards. And that’s regardless of the wipe-out of various cultural influences.

  10. And that’s not even getting started on the number of times I’ve been mistaken for having been not entirely truthful, just because I found eye contact uncomfortable.

    But nobody ever considers these sorts of things when planning these systems, of course.

    Of course. The funny thing is, they quote psychology as the influence – while completely ignoring another aspect of psychology that deals with the exact same behaviors: mental disorders. Way to see only what you want to see, guys! Ugh.

  11. What about people who fidget and have pupil dilation because of severe pain? I know when I fly I am constantly shifting around in line, looking all over the place, pupils probably going crazy, because of stabbing pain / trying to comfortable / trying to get to a calming place in my mind for a few minutes. Sheesh.

  12. Cheers for the link to the Dragon Age review – site was quite useful.

    We have a regular boy’s night where we mostly play console games – trouble is one of the guys has your basic red/green colour blindness, which makes finding playable games a complete shit, particularly first person shooters.

    The only one we’ve ever seen is Perfect Dark Zero, which has a toggle to switch to a colour blind friendly palette (works OK, according to our friend, if anyone else can use that info) – never come across another FPS with that feature, and we’ve been searching in vain for something else with something similar for ages, as most shooters are simply unplayable for him without it.

  13. Dragon Age: Origins does have narrative issues with ableism and is not particularly trans friendly.

    That said, for the most part the writing is terrific, the game is deep & accommodates a lot of different play styles, and Bioware has been very responsive to fan feedback. I am contemplating dropping them a line congratulating them on the excellent handling of accessibility and general awesomeness, and pointing out to them some of the things that still grate.

    (I can handle, for instance, an NPC or two in the party having ableist attitudes, provided there is a counterbalance and options for dealing with that. I think that’s the case with the Ruck issue, and NOT the case with Sandal. And the trans thing needs work, bigtime.)

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