Leia's Diary Part 2

November 11th, 2011

Eurogamer Video Game and Technology Expo – Accessibility

Recently, I was lucky enough to visit the Eurogamer Video Game and Technology Expo. This was purely for entertainment (and to keep a geeky husband quiet) however, as usual, I had a whinge about the heights of the surfaces, the distance a wheelchair user would have to travel to find an accessible entrance and so on. I was pleasantly surprised to see over 90% of the games on display for trial had a dedicated area with lower desks, bigger screens and staff to help where needed at every turn, who had obviously had training as when quizzed, they had answers for all of my questions, designed to catch them out with their knowledge of approaching people with disabilities, where and how to direct people to the things they required and even informed me of the access team, who were employed solely to find and solve any issues for attendees who may have a need for alternative access to the building, games, areas and interactive facilities. I then stumbled across one of the most exciting things I have encountered as an OT and an avid gamer.There was a smallish but brightly decorated and inviting area, with the title ‘SpecialEffect’. On further inspection the display detailed the charity’s aims and achievements. SpecialEffect brings video gaming and all its pleasure, social, stimulus and interactive aspects to people who may not be able to experience them in their original form because of disability or alternative needs.

There was an interactive display people were lining up to try – Racing games that are controlled by sight. Yes, by sight. There is a camera attached to the console that tracks the pupil and sends the car in the direction you are looking, look at the horizon to accelerate, and the bottom of the screen to slow down or reverse. This software can also be integrated into other games such as platform and role playing games to increase the variety available.

Adaptable controllers to allow users with limited dexterity, upper arm and hand control or strength and even a set up which allowed a young man with almost full body paralysis you enjoy an action shooter by using a controller adapted to be directed by his chin and a button by his head that he would nudge to shoot. The games and consoles vary in age range from simple button reactive cartoon based games, to modern day warfare and platform gaming. Adapted to bring mainstream gaming to those with a limiting illness or disability and can be rented over a few months free of charge and for a small fee longer term. I spent most of my afternoon trying to beat the world record on the sight controlled race track, when I attempted it I was only 0.93 seconds off the time of 21 seconds. Sadly, I didn’t walk away with a world record, but I did walk away excited by the way technologies are being used and adapted to involve everyone, not just the mainstream market. Well done guys.

Check out for more information for more information on what they are up to and how you could get involved.



20/10/11 – Naidex & Role Development

So far, things have been varied and I am just starting to feel like I know where I am and what I am doing.  Having a few days of private and waiting list assessments, I am more comfortable with what I am doing, but have a long way to go before I am ready to begin private practice independently.As with any new role, there are policies, procedures and rules to learn and adhere to, which in itself takes a few weeks or months to master. Then there is the office way of working, going from an active physical role, to a desk / office based affair can be quite a leap, for one thing, not wearing a uniform presents all kinds of other challenges (mainly which trousers and shirt combo to go for, then there’s shoes…) including presenting oneself in both a professional and approachable while maintaining a clinical conduct.

As part of my working week, I recently attended Naidex South. A collective exhibition of manufacturers and practitioners from all over the south east and further afield displaying new products, solutions for a range of physical and cognitive disabilities and even an independent living house dislay, where everything was adaptable to meet individual needs.

Naidex is something I have attended before as an NHS employee, but it was always a fruitless event, finding that there were so many solutions available that just couldn’t be funded by the NHS.  This time, however, with new eyes I was enthralled by the designs, asking anyone who would talk to me what the gadgets were for, how much they would cost and even spoke to some service users who were there to find out what was new.

All in all, knowing that there is a plethora of information and equipment out there for every condition imaginable, from showers with voice control to pop up snoozlens and wheelchair accessible roundabouts for children. This was an amazing experience and great opportunity to network with others in the field and beyond.

I can’t wait to see what they have going on next year, who knows, I might see you there recruiting for my own private enterprise!

Nearing the end of the road…….

November 28th

Today was my last day with the blue badge team, my last ‘official day anyway’.

I was sad to say goodbye to the team and although I have been there a total of only 4 months, I have learned a great deal. I have concluded that the position would best suit someone just starting out in their career, a senior OTA or maybe for OTs/Physios or similar who are looking for a quiter position, or winding down their careers.  The position calls for excellent decision making skills and the ability to indiscriminately sift through all the applications, maybe upwards of 50 a day, to ascertain the eligible from the ineligible.  I have developed my reasoning to respond to the high volume of assessments done in a day and to alter my thinking from that of an OT was difficult, I was initially reluctant to decline anyone who had applied, for fear of damaging their level of independence. However, each person has an individual level of mobility and stamina, and if they can manage a certain distance without discomfort, then it finally dawned on me, I would be diminishing their mobility and independence by GIVING them the badges! I have been fed the line “use it or lose it” for the past ten years and yet, I forgot this when working on blue badges, until (as with most things…) I clicked in the last couple of months, as I was readying myself to leave.  As I move on to pastures new, I will fondly remember blue badges, the fun team, and the hard work (though with less fondness!)