“As someone who spent six years bringing up a severely disabled child, when you’ve found something that makes them feel included, it’s a magic moment. What Mick and his team do is provide magic moments all the time.” - David Cameron MP
“SpecialEffect started because it had to!" says Dr Mick Donegan, Founder and head of the charity. "I've worked in the field of disability and technology for many years and, time and time again, parents of children with disabilities and people with disabilities themselves kept saying that they found it difficult or impossible to access mainstream video games and leisure technology.”
"There was nowhere to go for independent and expert advice and support to help them use technology to actually have fun!"
SpecialEffect was founded in 2007 and within months it became obvious that there was a huge demand for help and advice. Since then we've had no option but to grow in size to meet that demand, and now we have eight full-time and three part-time staff members, along with a welcome army of volunteers and an active group of SpecialEffect Ambassadors.
Funding hasn't been easy. “We don't charge for the work we do,” says Mick. “Anyone, anywhere in the UK can ask us for help and, if appropriate, we’ll buy and lend the necessary video games and access technology to try out for themselves.”
Our first office was a tiny unheated upper room in a remote Oxfordshire village (left), but in 2009 we moved to the market town of Charlbury where we opened the UK’s first accessible games room for people with disabilities.
With the number of people enjoying video games steadily increasing, there’s going to be no fall-off in the number of support requests. But at the heart of the charity is a determination to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to help each individual.
“It’s why we’ve no need to play the numbers game when it comes to the quantity of people that we support,” says Mick. “On the one hand, our website is giving information worldwide to many people who might need immediate specialist advice about accessible games and controllers. On the other, we have an increasing list of very severely disabled individuals who have complex problems that we know will take us years of support visits and equipment loans to begin to solve.”
"But that’s why we’re here. If the charity had been set up to support just one person, it would have been more than worthwhile."