Cameron backs accessible gaming charity
Tory leader hails tech helping disabled children
Conservative leader David Cameron has praised the work of SpecialEffect, a UK charity dedicated to helping severely disabled children enjoy videogames through cutting-edge technology.
Cameron's comments came during a pre-recorded video message played at the launch event for Walk4Matt 2010, organised to raise money for a range of causes including SpecialEffect.
"The way your charity's developed over the past 18 months has been, frankly, inspirational," said the Tory leader, who is the local MP of Oxfordshire-based Special Effect. "You've made many, many people very happy."
SpecialEffect's work includes StarGaze, a project utilising the latest motion-reading technology to enable users to play videogames using only their eyes. More recently, the organisation has launched www.gamebase.info, an online community and database providing information on the accessibility of mainstream console and PC games.
"You really are helping to give as many people with disabilities as possible the chance to use this fantastic technology in their own lives," added Cameron. "Thanks for what you're doing."
"David's support has has played an immense part in our success as a charity and the speed at which we've been able to progress," said SpecialEffect founder Dr Mick Donegan. "No matter how busy he has been, he has taken an ongoing, keen interest in our work and always, somehow, found the time to lend a helping hand."
According to Donegan, Cameron, whose own severely disabled son, Ivan, died last year, realised the potential of the technology immediately.
Walk4Matt is fronted by Matt Hampson, former England Under 21 rugby player who was paralysed from the neck down following a scrum accident in 2005. Hampson's relationship with Dr Mick Donegan, whose technology aided his rehabilitation, led to the formation of SpecialEffect, of which Hampson is patron.
Donegan added: "The funds raised by this walk will help literally tens of thousands of severely disabled people to get more fun, friendship and competition through enhanced access to videogames and creative technology." SpecialEffect last year also received a donation of £11,000 from GamesAid, a UK videogames charity.
Ed Vaizey MP, shadow Culture Minister and supporter of the UK games industry, was expected to attend, but pulled out at the last minute to miss his cue from his leader, who quipped: "For me there's only one disappointment: I still haven't had a chance to take on Ed Vaizey at eye-controlled FIFA 2009."
Speaking to GamesIndustry.biz after the event, Donegan revealed his ambition to launch a National Accessible Games Centre and called upon the games industry both to support the initiative and to work with the charity to make games more accessible to a disabled audience, which Donegan claimed would in many cases require only relatively minor reworking.
The charity has demonstrated the potential of its technology with existing games, with EA's FIFA playable using gaze-control. Also attending Friday's event, held at Cornbury Park in Oxfordshire, was Dale, a 21 year-old gamer with arthrogryposis, a condition which means he has no use of his hands.
Through a passion for gaming, Dale has learned to use a standard PlayStation 3 controller, balanced on his chest, with remarkable precision using only his face and mouth to play his favourite game, FIFA – as GamesIndustry.biz discovered to its cost, swept aside 2-0 in a head-to-head.
Dale is currently only able to play a limited range of games, but is a staunch Sony fan having owned every iteration of PlayStation. He explained that the design of the Xbox controller prevented him from using Microsoft's system. His dream game to play, he revealed, would be Call of Duty.
Walk4Matt 2010 begins on May 22, stretching from Rugby to Twickenham, and has received the backing of many leading rugby stars including Martin Johnson.