Frequently asked questions

Answers to many of the most commonly asked questions about our work and how we can help.

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About SpecialEffect

What do we do?

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?

We have a policy to only provide information and advice to individuals who have gone through our referral process. Therefore, please either ask the individual to refer themselves directly to us for help or, if they’re unable 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, offer a visit at our Games Room in Oxfordshire. If you are unable to travel to see us, we could potentially arrange a video call remote assessment or travel to see you if you live in the UK. NOTE THAT ALL OUR ASSESSMENTS ARE CURRENTLY VIDEO CALL BASED DUE TO COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS.

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 supported children as young as three and we’ve worked with senior citizens too.

What games do you cover?

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 have to wait for an assessment?

We are currently only offering online assessments due to COVID-19 restrictions. When it’s safe to do so and 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 a small organisation with limited resources, the most effective way for us 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 gameaccess.info website and the SpecialEffect DevKit.

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.

In addition, 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. 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.

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 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 for 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 exclusively on technology for people with a physical disability and are unable to help those, for example, with sensory, behavioural or learning difficulties. However, if you would like to take a look at our searchable gameaccess.info website we hope that you might be able to find some information which may be of interest to you.

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 (eg 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 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.

Accessible Gaming

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’ve created a DevKit specifically designed to share good practice with developers so that games can be created in a way which makes them more accessible at source. You can also find information and tutorials about specific games and equipment at our gameaccess.info website.

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 our gameaccess.info website. 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.

I’m a student/researcher/professional interested in accessible video games and I want to find out more. Can you help me?

We are a small team and we are receiving an increasing number of requests for information and consultations from people all over the world. Because of this the way we share our knowledge and experience is through gameaccess.info as this is the most effective way to inform as many people as possible as effectively as possible. We add more information and videos to this website on an ongoing basis.

We would therefore recommend that you take a look at this searchable, browser based, freely available resource and very much hope that you find out about the kind of information you’re looking for. If, having studied the website, you have any additional questions which you think haven’t been covered then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

In addition, we have created a range of case study videos which provide an invaluable insight into solutions to a range of challenges experienced by a wide variety of gamers with disabilities. You’ll find these videos on our YouTube channel.

Research & 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.

Could I 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 our 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.

Can I have permission to use any of the photos of people SpecialEffect has helped, eg for advertising/promoting a product?

We have been given exclusive permission to use photos which show people we have helped to support the work of the charity only. We are therefore unable to give permission for their use by anyone else and unable to pass on any contact details of our service users.

Training

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 gameaccess.info website.

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.

In addition, 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.

Attending Events

I’d like to organise a gaming event involving disabled people. Can I ask SpecialEffect to be involved?

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 & 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.

Supporting us

Can I organise 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 Fundraising page 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 of interest?

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?

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..

Advertising

Can you advertise/share information about myself/my company on your website?

Sorry, we don’t host third-party content or adverts on our website.

Charity

I work in the charity sector and 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’s no general advice that we can give to other charities, nor are we able to provide introductions to the games industry.

Grants

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.

Campaigning/Promotion

Can we ask SpecialEffect to endorse a campaign we're running?

SpecialEffect devotes all of its time and resources to service delivery, research and development and the provision of training resource and does not involve itself in campaigns of any kind.

Can you share information about our product, project or event on your social media?

In order to fulfil our commitments to our projects, we are unable to consider requests to share information on social media. Any information we do share is related to our own work.

Can I have a quote or use the SpecialEffect logo to endorse my product?

If we have been involved in a project and/or the development of a product we may sometimes feel it is appropriate to share information about our involvement publicly. Apart from these specific situations, we are unable to offer quotes, endorsements or allow the use of our logo to promote a product.