Our teams of therapists and games technology specialists travel the length and breadth of the UK to visit people who can't make the trip to our Accessible Games Centre in Oxfordshire. And our door is always open to technology companies that would like specialist advice on making their products inclusive to many more people.
Francis, our Technical Assistant, joined us in 2016.
With several years of adaptive gaming technology expertise, Bill welcomes enquiries from developers and gamers about the specialist technology required to help people with disabilities to enjoy computer games. His expertise ranges from the latest first person shooters to sports and casual puzzle games.
Dr Mick Donegan
Dr Mick Donegan has many years of practice-based work as a teacher and an Assistive Technology specialist. He has extensive experience in assessing, teaching, training, and supporting people with complex communication difficulties. Mick was Deputy Head of Wilson Stuart Special School in Birmingham and Deputy Director of the ACE Centre, Oxford. He is an Associate Senior Associate Research Fellow at SMARTlab, University College, Dublin, and is Adjunct Professor in the Department of Assistive Design at OCAD University, Ontario. Read moreRead full profile
Tom is our Fundraising Events Coordinator. He has extensive experience in event and volunteer organisation and is our goto man for all things literative and cultural.
Pam is at the the heart of SpecialEffect, keeping our charity running smoothly and efficiently. She handles the accounts, the administration and the antics of our rowdier staff with quiet and diplomatic aplomb.
Barrie has been searching for ways to make the world of leisure and creativity more accessible since 1994 when starting work in an Essex day centre for profoundly disabled adults. The trek so far has been from enabling a handful of adults with the likes of ink-gun art, switch music and one-switch games on the PSone, to discovering a small world of like-minded people in 2002 after setting up OneSwitch.org.uk, to now reaching and enabling thousands of people by becoming a team member at SpecialEffect.
Barry brings with him almost a quarter of a century of fundraising and supporter care experience. His roles have taken him from Oxfam in the UK to the United States and Europe with American not-for-profit, Habitat for Humanity. Barry was a trustee of SpecialEffect since 2007 before joining as staff in July 2014. He loves football (a big FIFA fan and lifelong West Brom supporter), Elite, cricket and dogs but also collects antique and contemporary fountain pens and loves to bake. Strange chap really, but he’s good to have around.
Becky joined the team in February 2017 to help out with events administration and volunteer coordination (you can find her at our event stands, possibly wearing a silly hat of some kind). In her spare time, Becky can be found on Steam playing obscure indie games or trying to train her two pet tortoises to do tricks.
Newly graduated as an Occupational Therapist from Bournemouth University, Nomi's experience of gaming started back in the days of Pokémon Crystal, which sparked her love of video games. And although her interests now range from Super Mario to Horror games, she still has a space in her heart reserved for the beloved electric mouse.
Alison has had an immensely varied career that has included being a reporter and assistant editor on a rock'n'roll magazine, a Personal Assistant, and a Community Relations Manager at a radio station. She juggles many roles here at SpecialEffect, including grants and trusts fundraising, and donor care.
Jacob is an occupational therapist who graduated from Coventry university in 2018 before starting work at SpecialEffect in the same year. He enjoys playing challenging RPGs such as Final Fantasy and Dark Souls, but also loves an old-school, colourful platformer such as Spyro and Ratchet & Clank. He also enjoys a spot of exercise, mainly gymnastics, trampolining, and (weather permitting) cycling.
Camilla, one of our Occupational Therapists, joined us after graduating from Bournemouth University in the Summer of 2016. Camilla has been playing video games since the days of Nintendo64 and Gameboy.
Mhairi qualified as an occupational therapist in 2016 and has experience and a passion for improving the quality of life for people with multiple support needs.
Joe is an occupational therapist who completed his degree at Bournemouth University in 2015, and after an eight-week placement with SpecialEffect he joined them full-time later that year. He has been playing computer games since he was four years old.
Harry, a psychology graduate from the University of Gloucestershire, helps with the tech aspects of SpecialEffect from equipment setups to testing and R&D. He's been an avid gamer since the days of the N64 and the Gameboy, and has a particular passion for RPG’s.
Kate joined SpecialEffect in August 2016; having previously worked with children with special needs. Kate helps Fran and Pam support the team in any way possible (as long as it’s not too technical, she says).
Frankie is one of our occupational therapy team. She graduated from Brunel Sept 2014 and joined us in November the same year. She’s a keen gamer and tackles titles on the PlayStation 3 along with classics on the Nintendo 64. She’s also one of the sportiest of the team, and can’t resist the challenge of a tough run, a tough mountain bike ride, or the occasional tough mudder.
Liz graduated from Oxford Brookes University with a Masters in Occupational Therapy in 2017. As a kid, she was partial to Tony Hawk Pro Skater 3 on Nintendo GameCube. She's also been playing and losing Crash Bandicoot since the late 90's.
Fran joined the SpecialEffect team in June 2015, as an Administrator helping out all areas of the charity. After working in Public Relations for the last five years, a desire to be part of something that makes a difference brought her to SpecialEffect.
Nick is a highly experienced fundraiser who has been involved with the charity since it was formed in 2007. He is passionate about the charity and the difference it makes to people's lives.
Gillian is a highly experienced therapist who has many years of experience advising on seating, positioning and assitive technology that helps gives access to computers.
Hannah is a multi-talented media and graphic designer who's involved with video production, photography and other elements of our research and information work.
Simon runs a consulting company and sits on the board of several life sciences and Web2.0 companies.
"From the outset I have been bowled over not only by the hard work, dedication and patience of SpecialEffect staff, but also by the courage and humility of the people we help. It is my honour and pleasure to serve as a trustee, and to do whatever I can in my capacity to help."
Paul spent many years with the UKMoD latterly in Quality Assurance. Now retired he provides assistance to a telecommunications company with installation and maintenance of their ISO 9000/14000 Quality/Environmental systems and advice on Health & Safety matters.
“My wife and I first became involved with SpecialEffect about three years ago and continue to be impressed by the dedication of this motivational team and rewarded by seeing the joy it brings to so many.”
Caroline has worked as a family lawyer for many years, but now works in family mediation.
Nick is the CEO and owner of the ProLabs Group, a leading global provider of compatible network infrastructure and connectivity products. He is also a director and part-owner of Hardware Group, a leading supplier of IT solutions and services.
"I've known Dr Mick Donegan for many years and became increasingly aware of the inspirational work he was doing at SpecialEffect, so I was very motivated to help. My first significant contributions were to help raise funds by completing the charity's Three Peaks Challenge in 2009, and the Athens Marathon in 2012."
"I've been really impressed by the way that SpecialEffect has developed, by the accolades it consistently and justifiably wins, and by the uniting spirit it engenders amongst a diverse group of people who are all keen to help."
Simon is the founder of New Star Games and creator of New Star Soccer. He's been a valued supporter of SpecialEffect for many years.
"When you spend your life creating and playing games it's easy to take them for granted, so when I try to imagine having this hobby and passion taken away from me it makes it all the easier to see what wonderful work SpecialEffect are doing."
Louise Wiltshire has been a teacher in primary schools for many years. She has had links with SpecialEffect from the very beginning due to a personal family link.
“I’ve always felt extremely privileged to be part of such an amazing charity. Everyone involved with SE devote all their working time to improving the lives of others, which is very humbling. They help to open 'inclusive doors' for those with various limiting conditions, making a difference to their lives."
David is the Founder and CEO of Frontier Developments. He and his company have been incredible supporters of the charity over many years.
“SpecialEffect is a great charity. It is wonderful to see the delighted expression on the faces of the people being able to play games for possibly the first time. I love games as they enable you to enter a parallel world, and I would hope with many it will be a great positive in their lives.”
Carl is co-founder and CEO of Sumo Group plc, having previously held senior roles at Gremlin Interactive and Infogrames. He has been involved in the making of video games for well over two decades and also serves on the Board of TIGA, a trade association representing the video games industry.
“Video games are a wonderful way to enrich the lives of those that play them and to provide this opportunity to everyone especially those that might otherwise be excluded without the work of SpecialEffect is truly magical”.
John is SVP Commercial Publishing at SEGA Europe Limited.
"SpecialEffect are amazing and I am continually moved by your impact in changing people’s lives. Everyone at SpecialEffect is incredible; the work you do, the people you help, your tireless energy; it’s been a privilege to be associated with you over the years."
Brendon is MD of STL Communications and has helped us in a number of ways, including the organisation of the Twin Town Challenge events which have so far raised over £800,000.
"While there are many small charities doing extremely worthwhile work in and around Oxfordshire, it's impossible not to be inspired by the passion of Dr Mick Donegan and his team for the work that they do. After a tour of their offices I was hooked. I hope that I can use my business contacts to heighten awareness for Special Effect and help generate continuing income to support Special Effect and the disadvantaged people the charity so ably supports."
John spent his career as a corporate finance adviser helping companies to develop and implement their growth strategies. He was a Managing Director of international bankers Lazard. He has served on the Fundraising Committee of the Board of Sargent Cancer Care for Children and of CLIC Sargent and as a Governor of Downe House School.
"I have been enormously impressed by the utter determination of Mick and the team to find solutions for profoundly disabled people, whatever it takes. It’s simply awe-inspiring to see a young person say “thank you for giving me my life back”. "
Harry is a former rugby union footballer who played scrum half for Leicester Tigers, England and the British & Irish Lions.
Richard Everard OBE DL
Richard Everard OBE DL is the Chairman of Everards Brewery. He was High Sheriff of Leicestershire and in 2003 was appointed Vice Lord Lieutenant of the county. In 2007 Richard was appointed Honorary Colonel of the Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland Army Cadet Force. He has held senior roles with several local charitable organizations including Age Concern Leicestershire and Rutland, Leicestershire Police Charitable Trust and Leicestershire and Rutland Crimebeat.
Craig is the CEO of Multiplay, whose amazing support in many ways over many years have been pivotal to the growth of the charity.
"It's been a real pleasure to be involved with SpecialEffect to raise money for the perfect charity for gamers. It's hard to watch their YouTube videos and not be moved each time! I’m looking forward to helping change the lives of even more people unable to do what many of us take for granted."
Tim Foster MBE was a member of the Great Britain coxless four rowing teams that won gold in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and Bronze in the Atlanta 1996 Olympic Games. Tim has kindly raised both funds and awareness about SpecialEffect through a number of talks about his sporting experiences.
Rupert is an actor, writer and director, who is best known for his roles as Mr. Wickham in the 2005 film Pride and Prejudice, Lieutenant Kurt Kotler in the 2008 film The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Prince Albert in the 2009 film The Young Victoria, and Peter Quinn in Showtime's multiple Emmy Award-winning television drama, Homeland.
Lizbeth is Chair of Creative Technology Innovation and Professor of Inclusive Design at University College Dublin, She specialises in working with people who do not have physical voices, enabling the use of new creative technologies for expression vocally, in writing, and with movement and music. She was the founder of www.smartlab-ie.com
Alan is Head of the Forza Franchise for Xbox.
"Gaming can be the great equaliser - a place where people from around the world can play, compete, meet and socialise. What I love about the work SpecialEffect does is that they not only bring joy to so many, but they provide a north star for the entire gaming industry as we strive to create a level playing field for every gamer."
Roy was a Director of Leicester Tigers Rugby Club since for many years. He is the Chairman of Trustees of the Matt Hampson Foundation.
Miles Jacobson OBE is studio director of Sports Interactive, the team behind the Football Manager series of video games, and creators of the original Championship Manager.
Nick is the Managing Director of Focus Oxford Risk Management Ltd.
"I am truly honoured at being asked to become an honorary vice-president of SpecialEffect. I have been involved with a number of charities in Oxfordshire over the years both personally and through business and all do great work and are deserving causes. I was introduced to Dr Mick and the team back in 2015 and was instantly captivated at the positive work they do for people, changing lives for the better through play and improved communication."
Chris is an angel investor in several leading mobile game studios. He was previously co-founder at Media Molecule and FreeStyleGames, as well as Vice President at Activision and Electronic Arts. Chris is also co-founder of playhubs and was named in MCV’s Top 100 most influential Brits in the Games Industry.
“I’m constantly overwhelmed by the life-changing projects that SpecialEffect make happen. I’m a great believer that games are to be celebrated for the joy and connectivity they can bring. There’s no better example than the work at SpecialEffect. It’s a privilege to be able to help them enrich so many lives and bring friends and family together."
Ian Livingstone CBE
Ian is a 40-year veteran of the games industry. He co-founded Games Workshop in 1975, co-authored the hugely successful Fighting Fantasy gamebook series, and launched Lara Croft:Tomb Raider when serving as Executive Chairman of Eidos. He is a Patron of Creative Skillset, Vice Chair of UKIE, an adviser to the British Council, and founder of the Livingstone Foundation.
“Play is natural, fun and rewarding and should be enjoyed by everybody. The incredible work that SpecialEffect does by using technology to modify games devices to give people with disabilities a quality of life they would otherwise miss out on is extraordinary. The joy that brings to people is truly inspirational. It is an honour and privilege to act as an Ambassador for the amazing charity that is SpecialEffect.”
Rupert is the founder of Gamer Network - the games media business behind the successful EGX event and websites such as Eurogamer and GamesIndustry.biz.
"SpecialEffect is a wonderful charity and I'm proud that Gamer Network has been able to support it over the past few years by introducing hundreds of thousands of gamers to the incredible work they've been doing. Their tireless determination to ensure everybody can enjoy games, no matter their disability, is an inspiration."
Johnny Minkley is an award-winning games writer and broadcaster, and former editor of Eurogamer TV.
Peter is the CEO of Liverpool Football Club. He has more than 30 years of experience in gaming, entertainment and consumer products. Prior to joining Liverpool, he served as CEO of EA, President and COO of SEGA of America, and Senior Vice President of marketing at Reebok International Ltd.
"I’m a huge fan of SpecialEffect and what the charity does to help gamers with disabilities after first seeing a story of how they helped a fellow Liverpool fan (Tom) game again. As such, I’m absolutely delighted and honored to be a SpecialEffect Vice President."
Andy Payne is an experienced computer and video games professional of 30 years. He formed games production specialist The Producers in 1988 and Flight Simulation specialist Just Flight in 1997 and those companies still exist as part of The Mastertronic Group, of which Andy is chairman. Andy started Get Games in 2009 which is an independent digital games distribution platform and also leads the NESTA initiated games developer consortium, AppyNation. Andy is also chairman of UKIE, sits on the BAFTA video games committee and was a founder of games industry charity GamesAid.
“I have been privileged and lucky enough to have been on the journey with SpecialEffect right from the very start in 2007. The work the charity do is not only ground breaking, but it is essential. To see the hugely positive effect on disabled people playing games is not only heartening, it is overwhelming. To see them play on a level playing field, many for the first time ever, is truly transformational. ”
Kirsty Payne has been involved in the games industry for over twenty years enjoying stints at various publishers including Codemasters, Mindscape and Activision before co-founding Rocket Media, a specialist PR and Marketing agency working with clients such as Sony Computer Entertainment, Konami, GAME Group and Mastertronic Group, amongst others.
Fred is the Insight and Marketing Director at Game Retail Ltd. He joined GAME four years ago as Director of Insight after several roles in marketing and insight at Kimberly-Clark and British Airways. He has been a gamer since the eighties.
Jim Rosenthal has had a long broadcasting career as a sports presenter on British television, covering many sports including football, rugby, boxing and athletics.
I first become aware of the ground-breaking work of SpecialEffect when I was a Director at Oxford United and the club raised money for an amazing little three-year-old girl called Charlotte who had lost her lower limbs through Meningitis. The charity found new and exciting ways for her to rebuild her life and play again with her family with friends using leading-edge computer technology. The range of technology the charity uses to help disabled young people from eye control technology through to specialist controllers to help children like Charlotte play really is something special. I was then honoured to don my boots for the charity in a fundraising match when even the managerial prowess of Ron Atkinson wasn't enough to stop us getting beaten 7 - 5! I am delighted to become an honorary Vice President for this very special cause.
Tania graduated from Exeter University with a degree in Mathematics and Psychology before pursuing a 15 year career in equity derivatives, working in London and Paris. In recent years Tania has been very involved in running the Rotherwick family estate, Cornbury Park, developing its property portfolio and new revenue streams including establishing Cornbury as the home of the highly acclaimed Wilderness festival. Tania is a longstanding Patron of ROSY (Respite Nursing for Oxfordshire’s Sick Youngsters) and a keen supporter of the arts, becoming a trustee of Modern Art Oxford in 2014.
Kate Russell is a journalist, reporter and author who has been writing about gaming, technology and the internet since 1995. Best known for weekly appearances on the BBC technology programme Click, she is a frequent face on TV, radio and in magazines as a technology expert, with regular columns in National Geographic Traveller and BBC Focus. For more information visit http://katerussell.co.uk. (pic courtesy Fashot.tv)
“When I first heard about the work Special Effect do it resonated deeply with me as my own life was somewhat turned around by computer gaming as a teenager. Gaming is often dismissed as a frivolous waste of time. But when you see first-hand the joy it gives families struggling to deal with a degenerative disease or life-changing accident of a loved one, bringing them together in an act of fun and allowing those with limited body-control to play on a level field with friends and siblings, it’s hard to deny that the little slice of normality it affords is having a massively positive impact on the whole family. I’m beyond thrilled to be joining the team at Special Effect and look forward to working with this amazing charity to bring the healing power of ‘having fun together’ to more and more families in future.”
David is the GM and EP for the FIFA, NHL and UFC console games at Electronic Arts.
"I’m totally humbled to have been asked to be a VP of SpecialEffect. The work that Dr. Mick and the team do and the impact they have on the lives of these amazing gamers is incredible. Please support these wonderful people in any way you can."
Frank is CEO at Codemasters, a British game developer and publisher with a long history in racing spanning 30 years. The company is best known for games such as the Formula One Championship Series, DiRT, GRID, Micro Machines, Colin McRae and TOCA amongst many others. Frank was previously at Electronic Arts and is an ambassador for BAFTA Games.
“SpecialEffect is a remarkable charity and I could not be more proud that Codemasters has been able to support their outstanding work over the past few years. When I first saw the smile on people’s faces who were able to enjoy playing games with their friends, I got truly inspired by SpecialEffect’s raison d’être and understood the profound impact of their tailor-made work on people’s lives. I am delighted and honoured to be a SpecialEffect Vice-President”.
Tim Schafer is the President and CEO of Double Fine Productions, makers of many critically acclaimed games including Psychonauts, Brütal Legend, Costume Quest, Stacking, Iron Brigade, Kinect Party, and The Cave. Prior to Double Fine, Tim was a Project Leader at LucasArts Entertainment Company, where he was responsible for several classic PC adventure games, including Grim Fandango and Full Throttle. Tim also co-designed Day of the Tentacle, and served as a writer and assistant designer on The Secret of Monkey Island 1 and 2.
“I am amazed and inspired by the great work that SpecialEffect does every day. I have always believed video games have the power not just to entertain, but really reach and connect. Thanks to SpecialEffect, they are able to connect even more people.”
Philip has been a professional musician for more than twenty years, primarily as the drummer in Oxford-based band, Radiohead, and more recently as a singer and songwriter of his solo material. He lives locally to SpecialEffect’s home in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds and became a supporter of the organisation in 2013.
“When I first visited SpecialEffect in Charlbury, I realised how easily I take for granted the pleasure my three sons get from playing their video games and the sense of connection it gives them to their friends. I was immediately impressed by the practicality and ingenuity of SpecialEffect, as they work to bring this same fun and inclusion to people with physical disabilities. I was bowled over by the passion and tireless commitment of all the staff, and I’m very much looking forward to being part of the organisation.”
Andrew Stalbow is the Co-founder & CEO of Seriously.
"Everything about SpecialEffect is inspiring, no more so than their mission, helping people with disabilities all over the world enjoy gaming by building custom controls and more.
The talented team at SpecialEffect are as passionate as they come, as seen in their efforts to bring awareness to the unique work they do, or looking to raise funds in authentic and creative ways, as they galvanize the games industry and beyond to offer time and money to support the project.
Both I and my colleagues at Seriously have had the privilege to work alongside the team at SpecialEffect. We consider ourselves lucky to be partners, and we are awed by their compassion and clarity of focus on the impact that gaming can have to improve people’s lives."
Kelvin Thomas is the Chairman of Northampton Town Football Club and co-owner of Shaq Fu Radio. One of his previous roles was as the Chairman of Oxford United FC, where he met the SpecialEffect team.
“I am very proud of my involvement with SpecialEffect. Having spent some time with Dr Mick and the team it’s so easy to try and help out. As the Chairman of Oxford United Football Club, the Charlotte Nott/SpecialEffect Day was one of my proudest moments. Standing on the pitch that day watching Charlotte kick a ball around with her dad, and seeing Oxford United fans texting donations in the stands was just fantastic. The work that is done at SpecialEffect is so powerful and inspirational, and this comes about due to the hard work and dedication of everyone there.”
Justin Tomlinson MP
Justin Tomlinson MP was the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Disabled People within the Department for Work and Pensions. He was first elected to Parliament in 2010 representing the North Swindon constituency, and prior to that was a nightclub manager and former small business owner.
As an avid fan himself, Justin served as the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Video Games during his first term in Parliament.
Mark is CEO of the Yogscast and an avid gamer throughout his life. He has been a long standing supporter of SpecialEffect, and leads some of the world's most successful video broadcasters in the world each year, who spend their December encouraging their audience to donate money to charity, raising well over $2.5 million in the process to date.
"Games allow us to escape our world to visit another, experiencing anything and everything and loving every second of it. SpecialEffect give the gift of gaming to people who thought it was lost from them. The tireless work and passion to help that Mick and the team display never ceases to amaze me."
Jo Twist OBE
Dr Jo Twist OBE is the CEO of Ukie, a trade body for games and interactive entertainment businesses in the UK, She was previously Channel 4’s Commissioning Editor for Education. Jo is a London Tech Ambassador, sits on the Bafta Games Committee, is one of the Top 100 UK Women in Video Games, on the MCV 100 Brit list in the games industry and is a BIMA Hot 100 in digital.
“I am humbled to have been asked to be a SpecialEffect Vice President. The innovative work they do to enable young people enjoy the games they love is incredibly inspiring. Games and the ability to play can enhance and enrich people’s lives in so many ways and everyone should have the right to play. The technology they create and how they modify controls also has the potential to inspire commercial applications and reminds developers and manufacturers that inclusivity and accessibility is crucial.”
Tom Watson MP
Tom Watson is an MP, author and gamer. When not making speeches in Parliament he writes games reviews for the New Statesman magazine. He is a former volunteer for Community Service Volunteers and has been a supporter of Special Effect since 2010.
"I was introduced to SpecialEffect by friends in the video games industry and was immediately captivated by their work. The small team who bring the joy of video games to people with disabilities are inspiring. Their patience and ingenuity knows no bounds. It's an honour and a pleasure to join the team.”
Paul Wedgwood is one of three founders of Splash Damage and currently the CEO of the company.
Trevor is a founder and director of Playground Games, the developer behind the award winning Forza Horizon series of games. He has over 25 years experience running game development studios with previous roles at Codemasters, Vivendi Inc, Swordfish, Rage plc and Elite Systems.
“The work the team at SpecialEffect do on a daily basis is remarkable … truly remarkable. Both myself and Playground are equally proud and humbled to be associated with such an amazing charity. How the SpecialEffect team are able to adapt the games we make and bring genuine joy to people in challenging circumstances is an inspiration and an example to us all.”
Dr Richard Wilson
Dr Richard Wilson is CEO of TIGA, a trade association representing the video games industry. He was previously Director of Communications at the Royal Academy of Engineering and Head of Business Policy at the Institute of Directors. He serves on the board of the European Games Developers’ Federation and Creative Skillset’s Video Games Skills Council.
“I am continually struck by the selfless commitment of the SpecialEffect team, the transformative impact that they have on people’s lives and their capacity to bring great happiness to a great many people. I am honoured to be appointed a SpecialEffect Vice-President and I look forward to supporting the work of this exemplary charity in the years ahead.”
Tim is the Head of Publishing at Hello Games.
"SpecialEffect are a very special charity. Very unassuming both in their invaluable work helping people with disabilities find solace and enjoyment in video games, and in their fundraising efforts. Their soft-sell, polite approach is charming and endearing, but almost to their detriment, which is why I am honoured and humbled to be asked to be a flag-bearer, no, megaphone, for them and their work. They are a force for good in the video games world and a positive inspiration for all of us."
Barry provided invaluable support in the very early days of SpecialEffect through Five Star Events, and continues to be a hugely valued friend and supporter of the charity.
Any opinions expressed by persons representing SpecialEffect, in any capacity, may not necessarily reflect the opinions of SpecialEffect.Org.UK Ltd and or SpecialEffect.