What do we do?
We're a charity that uses specialist technology to enhance the quality of life of people of all ages who have severe physical challenges, whether as a result of a disability, traumatic injury or debilitating illness. Our specialist multi-professional team provides face-to-face assessment and support wherever it is needed, whether in a hospital, a rehabilitation centre or a home. We share our expertise globally through online training materials and resources. We also advise software and hardware developers from all over the world on how to make their technology more accessible for all. In this way, what we learn from the intensive, multi-professional lifelong assessment and support service we provide to each individual we work with, transforms the lives of many thousands of disabled people everywhere.
Access to video games
Who do you help?
We'll work with anyone in the UK of any age who would like to play a specific video game but is prevented from doing so primarily by a physical disability.
How do I ask for help?
We accept requests for help directly from you - the person who needs equipment. If you’re of school age we prefer to receive a referral from your family. The best way to contact us is through this form on our website. If you’re unable to do this yourself, please ask someone to complete the form on your behalf.
I'm a health/education/social care professional. Can I refer someone to you?
Following an enquiry, we need to gather very detailed information about a person’s physical abilities, the games they play/want to play and what they’re finding difficult. We’ve found it’s best if we do this and arrange any subsequent contact/follow-up support directly with the person themselves. Please pass on our details to the person requiring our services and ask them (or a family member/carer) to send an enquiry via our website contact form
I'm a private consultant. Can I ask you for your advice in relation to a client I’m working with?
For a number of reasons, we have a policy to only provide information and advice to individuals who have gone through our referral process. Please, therefore, either ask the individual to refer themselves directly to us for help or, if they’re unable to, to ask a family member or personal carer to do so on their behalf.
What happens then?
Once we've had a look at your request, we'll do our best to either help you ourselves if we can, or suggest other sources of help. If we can help, our therapists will contact you to discuss your challenges and gaming aspirations and, if appropriate, arrange a visit at our Games Room in Oxfordshire. If you are unable to travel to see us, we could potentially arrange to travel to see you if you live in the UK.
If our specialist team can work out a successful gaming control setup for you, can potentially loan you the equipment for a period of time to make sure it’s right for you. We’ll then give you information about where to buy the components of the setup, and take back our loan equipment so we can use it to help someone else.
If your physical abilities or gaming aspirations change over time, let us know and we’ll help you again if we can. It’s a lifelong service.
Is there an age limit?
No. We've introduced children as young as three to video games that will help to develop their recognition of cause and effect, and we've worked with senior citizens too.
What types of games do you give advice about?
We're working to introduce all forms of technology-based leisure, including popular video games like FIFA, Call of Duty and Minecraft. But we're also there to help with casual games like computer chess or sudoku.
How much will it cost?
We don't charge for any advice, support visits or equipment loans, so the only cost to you will be for the equipment you decide to purchase at the end of your loan depending on your requirements. Please note that we don't sell equipment or provide funding.
How long will I need to wait for an assessment?
If it's appropriate for us to offer help in the form of a visit to where you are, or a visit to our Games Room here in Oxfordshire, our waiting list times usually vary between two and three months. That can be be longer, for example at times of greater demand such as the run-up to Christmas and the run-up to the summer holidays. We do always try to offer help as quickly as possible.
We work with people with disabilities. Can we visit you - or can you visit us - to help
our clients with gaming access?
Because we’re receiving an ever-increasing number of these kinds of requests from all over the world and have only limited staffing resources we've decided that the most effective way to help an optimal number of people is to provide an up-to-date online resource of training materials and information. You’ll find our growing library of training videos and information here, along with a number of stories about people that we’ve helped. We also have a searchable blog here. If, having researched these materials on our website, you have any specific questions about the information provided please get in touch and we’ll do our best to help.
Can I arrange a group visit?
Our assessment team is currently committed to working exclusively with individuals so we don’t offer group visits. However, if any of the people you’re working with have difficulty playing a specific game or games because of a physical disability, please ask them to contact us via our website so we can consider a way to help them individually. For accessible gaming ideas that you could use yourself Please also check out our YouTube channel.
Can you help with funding my gaming equipment?
We aren’t able to help with funding for equipment. The way we work is by loaning equipment so you know it’s going to work for you. After the loan period ends, we ask you to find your own funding to buy your own replacements.
I have a sensory or learning impairment, not a physical impairment. Are you able to help me?
We focus primarily on physical rather than sensory or learning difficulties in helping people to access games, so we're unable to give advice on video game access for those with sensory or learning impairments.
The StarGaze Project
What is our StarGaze project?
Our StarGaze project provides the introduction, support and loan of special technology when it matters most - usually in intensive care immediately following a traumatic injury (eg one that causes paralysis), severe stroke or sudden illness (e.g. Guillain-Barré syndrome or rapidly progressive MND). If a patient is unable to speak or access technology as a result of their condition, We help them to use gaze control or similarly powerful assistive technology to achieve whatever is most important to them.
How can I make a referral?
If you are a relative or a professional supporting someone who might benefit from our StarGaze project, and are unable to find the help they need from other sources, for example because existing services are unable to provide the technology they need quickly enough, please contact us to find out if we are able to help.
I’m a video games developer and would like to find out about how to make my games more accessible
Because of the ever-increasing requests for advice from games developers throughout the world, we are creating an online resource specifically designed to share good practice with developers so that games can be created in a way which makes them more accessible at source. We are hoping that we will have this resource up and running by Autumn 2020.
I’d like to arrange a call to discuss accessible gaming with one of your team
Even though we’re only a small team, we’ve now established a reputation as a global organisation and, as a result, we regularly have requests for online calls and shadowing from all over the world. As a small team, the way we share our knowledge and experience is through Game Access Info. This is by far the most effective way to inform as many people as possible as effectively as possible - not just one at a time but thousands of people at a time. We add more information and videos to this website on an ongoing basis.
Research and Filming
I’m working on a project which I think would be of interest to you, would you like
to be involved?
Thanks for considering us, but all of our staff are working at capacity trying to keep up with our own current range of projects and commitments, so we are unable to take up your offer. However, please feel free to send us any information or links which you think might be of interest to us.
I would like to meet/interview/carry out research with some of the disabled gamers you work with
We have enquiries from many people from all over the world wanting to be introduced to the people that we work with. Rather than either the SpecialEffect team or those we help being overwhelmed by such requests, we create case study videos to provide a invaluable insight into their challenges and successes. You will find these videos on our YouTube Channel.
Could you introduce me to one of your contacts?
We have regular enquiries from many people from all over the world wanting to be introduced to people that we work with. Unfortunately, we have to decline such requests to prevent the risk of reducing the already limited amount of time we have available to carry out our mission to help severely disabled people..
I want to help disabled people to game in my own region/country. Do you provide training or shadowing?
As more and more people hear about our work, we are asked this question more and more frequently. Because we are a small organisation with limited resources, we’ve decided that the most effective way to help is to provide online information and training resources. For example, you can look on our YouTube channel for training materials and our case studies. There is also a rich source of information on our Game Access Blog.
As well as this, we are making the software that we develop ourselves, eg Eye Gaze Games and EyeMine, freely available. This will not only enable globally significant numbers of people with physical disabilities to play games using a variety of control methods, but will also provide a resource for local professionals and organisations to use in order to help many more people play video games.
Furthermore, the time that we’re spending on collaborating with developers is also intended to make it easier for such organisations to help people with severe physical disabilities, by making mainstream games easier to play for everyone from the get-go. For example, our collaboration with Xbox resulted in the development of the Xbox Adaptive Controller which will improve access to the Xbox for many people all over the world.
I’d like to organise a gaming event involving disabled people. Can I ask SpecialEffect
to be involved in the event in some way?
Unfortunately we can’t come along to these kinds of events, as we're a small organisation with limited resources. However, if at the event you come across someone who has difficulty playing because of a physical disability, please ask them to contact us via via this website so we can consider a way to help them individually. For accessible gaming ideas you could use yourself, check out our YouTube channel.
Working and representing us
How can I become a SpecialEffect Ambassador?
Our official ambassadorships are sometimes awarded following an extended period of voluntary support, whether it be through fundraising for us or volunteering to help at events. If you’d like to offer to volunteer to help the charity then please complete the form on our Volunteer page.
Do you have any job vacancies?
Please don't send us requests for employment, an internship or work experience unless it’s in response to a specific job which is advertised on our Work For Us page. If and when the our Trustees are looking to employ new staff, they will invite applications from people with a specific combination of skills, qualifications and experience to match a detailed job description that is made available to everyone through this website and elsewhere as appropriate.
Do you offer work experience?
Because of the way we work, the sensitivity and urgency of some of our cases and the high demand for our services we’re unfortunately unable to take on any work experience placements.
Is it ok for me to do a street collection in your name?
While we’re really grateful to you for wanting to raise funds towards our work, we have a policy of no street collections. We ourselves organise the very occasional bucket collection at specific events (such as a big football match or musical concert) but we don’t hold general street collections. There are many other ways you can fundraise for us though! Have a look at our Events page on our website for more information.
I have an old console/games that I would like to donate to you. What is the best way to do this?
While we really appreciate these generous offers, we're unfortunately unable to accept them as we have limited storage space, and generally need the most-up-to-date consoles. As an alternative, we'd be grateful if you'd consider selling them and then donate the money to us instead, for instance selling them through GAME stores or perhaps eBay.
Our charity would like to do a joint video games related fundraising event with you. Is this something that you would be interested in?
This is a question that we are frequently asked as a result of our special relevance and appeal to both the games industry and their communities which has built up over many years. From experience we know that the prime motivator for choosing to support SpecialEffect fundraising is because supporters know that 100% of everything they raise goes to a cause which is closer to their hearts than any other. To team up with another charity for a video games related fundraising event would unfortunately put such wholehearted support at risk and jeopardise our unique relationship with our supporters.
Would SpecialEffect like to be involved in an esports event specifically for people with physical disabilities?
Here at SpecialEffect our primary goal has always been to help people with disabilities to play the games they want to the best of their ability. Our work is focused on the specific needs of each person we work with and providing bespoke access solutions just for them. Once they are playing, it’s up to the individual to decide where they want to take their gaming journey. They might be content just working through a game on their own and at their own pace. They might want to play co-op with their friends and family. They may wish to play and socialise online. They may even want to play competitively. Whatever they want to achieve in gaming, we will do our best to continue to help them for as long as they want us to.
In a nutshell, our mission is to provide a specialist service that is focussed on meeting the needs of the most severely physically disabled people across the globe, whether we work directly with individuals or in partnership with developers to make videogames more accessible at source. Because this work is so labour intensive, it requires 100% of our time and energy and, as a result, we are unable to be involved in specific esports tournaments. We aim to level the playing field as much as we possibly can for as many gamers with disabilities as we can, so they can choose to use their skills in whichever ways they wish..
I’m interested in advertising on your website.
Sorry, we don't host third-party content or adverts on our website.
I work in the charity sector and I would like your advice on how to engage with
the games industry.
It's our special relevance to both the games industry and their communities, built up over many years, that has made us such an attractive charity partner. Unfortunately, therefore, there is no general advice that we can give to other charities, nor are we able to provide introductions to the games industry.
Can I apply to you for funding?
We’re not a grant-giving organisation so are unable to fulfil these kinds of requests. Our charity is devoted to helping people with severe physical challenges to access technology for fun and social inclusion and, because of this, we’re only able to use our funds for the specific projects listed on our website. However, we very much hope that you’ll find a grant-giving organisation whose application criteria will match your needs.