In this project we set out to understand how games can be used to help people with long-term disabilities as they age. These games could provide useful training or rehabilitation opportunities that are also fun and social. Games can provide valuable training, but can also be very difficult for older adults and people with disabilities to play due to sensory and mobility limitations.
As a starting point, we focused on a cognitive training game for older adults that we developed in prior research, known as Food For Thought. We sought to make this cognitive traning game accessible for people with sensory limitations. Throughout our research, we found that many current training games, including Food For Thought, are often inaccessible to people with disabilities because the game designers do not have any training or tools that could help them make the games usable and fun for a wider audience. Moreover, it has became increasingly challenging to prove effectiveness of cogntitive training games in the research community. To this end, we decided to shift focus to an area we can have the most impact on people aging with disabilities by developing tools to support accessible gaming.
We created open source software that lets game developers experience what a game will look like to a person with vision impairment, how it feels to try to use a game controller with a tremor, and how hard a game may be for someone who has age-related cognitive decline. We also have trained hundreds of students who are future game designers and user experience experts to learn how to recognize the flaws in their game interfaces and how to use different visual designs and sounds to make their games playable by a larger population of people.