The History of Special Needs Technology in the UK

Two children using a TRS-80 concept keyboard to type fully formed words on a green-screen monitor. A blocky picture of a dog above a line, with the text here is, is displayed.

Tomorrow at the BETT show at the ExCel London in the Learn Live: SEN area (C438 near entrance N9), Open University Professor, Jane Seale will be presenting...

Learning from our histories: What can we draw from the experiences of experts in the field of special needs and technology that can inform our future practice?

Between 10:30 and 11 Jane will draw on examples from interviews she has conducted with 45 experts who have worked in the field of SEN and technology from the 1970's onwards. She will use the examples to discuss what we can learn from these histories to inform future practice.

You can follow this fascinating project at Jane's blog, "The History of Special Needs Technology in the UK".

An outline of a red bulb, with black text reading, "Brilliant Computing 1987 Catalogue. Switches, adaptors and computer software for the BBC Micro computer for special needs. PO Box 142, Bradford, BD3 0JN.


Xbox One Co-Pilot Accessibility Feature

Co-Pilots Han-Solo and Chewbacca in the Millennium Falcon - going int hyper-drive with stars all around them. Representing the Xbox One feature Co-Pilot to make gaming more accessible.

Exciting game accessibility news from David Dzumba at Microsoft, in the tentative partial launch of the Co-Pilot feature. This is the blurb:

"Enabling Xbox One to be accessible for everyone: One important area for us with this release is to enable Xbox One to be able to be used and played by everyone. Take for instance our new Copilot feature which allows two controllers to act as if they were one. This will help make Xbox One more inviting to new gamers needing assistance, more fun by adding cooperative controls for any game and easier for players who need unique configurations to play — whether that is with hands apart, hand and chin, hand and foot, etc.. We are also adding new enhancements to Magnifier and Narrator, as well as giving more options over audio output and custom rumble settings on a controller, which was previously reserved for the Xbox Elite Controller. You can find these accessibility options, and more, in Settings and Ease of Access."

As well as the benefits of using two standard Xbox One controllers, it should also be possible to:

• Use one or two modified Xbox One controllers, using the likes of remapper flexi-pcbs.
• Use a standard controller alongside a non Xbox One controller using an adapter including the super-powerful Titan One.
• Mix all of this together.

"Check out accessibility news in this! "First Wave of New Xbox Update Features Ship to Select Xbox Insiders Today."


D.I.Y. Switch Access to PS4 and Xbox One Controllers

PS4 old-style controller flex

The German company my3dbase produce a number of "Easy Mapper"  (aka remapper) flex boards. These can be fitted to PS4 and Xbox One controllers (make sure you get precisely the right one) enabling easier access to wire up switch sockets and push-buttons. 

Brown flexi PCB insert for PS4 controllers for switch accessibility

Labels: , ,

The Changes

Black background, with white O.C.R. font reading, The Changes, based on the classic science-fiction novels by Peter Dickinson. A green sepia image of a young girl looking troubled peers out of the blackness.

Apple Accessibility News

Image of a lady with head switches intently looking at a V D U.

'We believe that technology should be accessible to everyone' opens Apple's new accessibility pages. If only more companies felt that way.

Nice to see the Skoog in the Apple Accessibility shop at a very fair price. Pretorian iSwitch should be in there too ideally.

Hands Optional is a new Facebook support group for Apple switch users set up by Christopher Hills.

Labels: , , ,

2017 Test Card

1970s Science Fiction art of a long silvery wedge like car amongst admirers and other worldly vegetation and creatures.

Things on hold for a short-while whilst kicking off the flu. Not for long though... Good accessibility stuff to follow.

Ken Yankelevitz

Image of a Californian sunset with a purple and red sky by the beach.

I was sad to learn of Ken Yankelevitz's death earlier this year (31st of August 2016). Ken was very likely the first person to build and sell accessible controllers in mainstream gaming magazines and he did it at a loss so that controllers were affordable. Atari would recommend people to him directly if in need of alternative controllers in the early 80s at a time when Atari was the biggest video gaming company on the planet.

Ken's family put together a folder including some testimonies from the many people he helped along the way, which I'm told brought him and his family great comfort and happiness. Learn a little more about Ken's work here and here.


1975 eSports (Crackerjack)

Photo of Ed "Stewpot" Stewart moderating a game of televised football-pong super-imposed over two children facing one another with hands on their game paddle controls.

eSports slightly bemuses me in some ways as I'd rather play than watch, but it's certainly coming of age. Here it is, perhaps at it's birth, in 1975 on the UK Children's television programme, Crackerjack in the form of competitive Football-Pong (about 3 and a half minutes in).

Via: Jonathan Beales on Twitter


Super Mario Run: In the Pipe

SuperMario Run

All  via ...Miyamoto says that Nintendo has been toying with the idea of a one-button Mario game since the days of Wii. “As we were doing those experiments, we thought that that kind of approach would perhaps best be suited to iPhone,” he says. “So that became the basis for Super Mario Run"...

But whether it was for Wii or iPhone, the goal behind this streamlined Mario was the same: to bring the distinct flavor of Super Mario to as many people as possible. “Nintendo has been making Mario games for a long time, and the longer you continue to make a series, the more complex the gameplay becomes, and the harder it becomes for new players to be able to get into the series,” Miyamoto says. “We felt that by having this simple tap interaction to make Mario jump, we’d be able to make a game that the broadest audience of people could play.”

Labels: ,

Sony Playstation Experience 2016: Accessibility Panel

Shawn Layden (introducing the Accessibility panel at the Sony Playstation Experience 2016 on the 4th of December at 2pm):

"I wanted to be on stage today to tell you how important this next panel is to our community, to our business, to our life, to what we do as Playstation gamers.... the accessibility panel is here to talk about how to make games more accessible to all gamers of all walks of life.... We are a diverse bunch, the Playstation Nation..... The ideal is that every gamer should be able to have all the different gaming experiences that we can possibly bring to them, it's important for Playstation. We really want to be leaders in this field."


This could be a race to the top with the big players. Nintendo, are you listening? Here's some really useful contacts in large Game Companies Interested in Game Accessibility. Contact them if you'd like to be heard:

Apple Accessibility - primarily via

Google Accessibility (USA and International)

Nintendo Corporate Social Responsibility and Accessibility (USA)

Sony Accessibility and Usability (International)

Xbox Ease of Access and Accessibility (USA)

Bryce Johnson on Twitter a great contact at Xbox.

Karen Stevens on Twitter likewise at EA Accessible.

Mark Friend on Twitter likewise at Sony (also via mark.friend [@]

Sony Playstation Experience 2016: Accessibility Panel




Click to view my TWITTER feed.

Google Language Translation