Wednesday, September 5, 2012

People with Disabilities Face Segregation in Coaching, Researchers Say

Researchers from our Department of Education say attitudes in coaching towards people with disabilities need to change in order for more people to engage in sport.

The researchers said the current view that athletes with disabilities need to be trained by specialist coaches results in segregation between disabled and able-bodied sport participants.

In their paper; Politics, power & the podium: coaching for Paralympic performance, Dr Anthony Bush and Dr Mike Silk say that sports participants should be trained -irrespective of their ability – according to their individual needs.

Dr Bush said: “To work with particular groups, such as Paralympic athletes, it is assumed that you need to have specialist knowledge and skills to be able to do this effectively. Coaches get pigeon-holed or labelled as participation coaches or coaches of children, athletes with a disability or elite athletes.

“This means that people with disabilities are not getting a fair share of training. There is a feeling that there needs to be special coaches for people with disabilities but everyone is an individual with individual needs. This raises challenges to the way that coaches are trained and the way we think about disabled participation.”

The Active People Survey (2008-2009) found that only 6.5 per cent of people with disabilities regularly participate in sport. With specialist sporting wheelchairs costing up from £4,000 cost is also a barrier for people with disabilities who want to engage with sport.

Dr Bush said: “A central tenet of the government’s 2012 legacy is to encourage the whole population to be more physically active.

“There are many reasons why people with disabilities face barriers to participating in sport, for example equipment costs, accessibility, transportation and perceptions on coaching expertise. In addition people with disabilities who wish to coach face barriers such as lack of accessible training resources, opportunities to practice or appropriate coach mentors.”

As part of their research Drs Bush and Silk interviewed Robert Ellchuck, a coach based at the University’s Sports Training Village who trains Paralympic gold medalists Katrina Hart and Ben Rushgrove.

He said: “You can have a really big impact with sport by including people with disabilities in a general sense. Not in a special sense, where you run disability specific things because that is still segregation. Segregation doesn’t work. You don’t have to do anything special. You just include them as an individual.”

Source: University of Path, GAATES

Paralympians Highlight Digital Barriers for People with Disabilities

Two leading Paralympians – Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson and Karen Darke – are among campaigners urging local authorities and others to harness the wave of awareness of disability issues generated by the home games to push for more inclusive websites, apps and digital services.

Karen Darke, a medal prospect for GB in this Friday’s women’s handcycling road race at Brands Hatch, is among high profile campaigners who have recorded a series of video messages  highlighting the new frontier for disability rights in the modern age: the digital frontier.

“Everywhere I go I have my laptop and my iPhone with me, and I spend a lot of my time on them,” says Darke in her message. “Technology can offer so much, an ability to stay in touch with people, to know what’s going on, to find out information at the press of a button… I can’t imagine not using technology, and all the ways of communicating with people – but actually there are a lot of people out there who don’t use it, and it’s not part of their everyday life.”

The campaign, ‘Go ON Gold’, aims to highlight the fact that some four million persons with disabilities in the UK have never used the internet, either because of design barriers or because they may be unaware of advances in technology that can make access easier.

The Go ON Gold website will act as a central focus for links to key resources and expertise, ranging from charities providing free or subsidised equipment, to centres offering one-to-one advice, and guidance for website developers to ensure the accessibility of the digital content they produce.

The project is aiming to sign up 1,000 new ‘digital champions’ over the next 12 months who will help persons with disabilities use accessible technology. It is also inviting organisations of all kinds – including local authorities – to become partners and help spread the word among their own staff and service users.
Other high profile campaigners who have recorded videos for Go ON Gold  include sixteen-times Paralympic medal-winner, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson.

“For people whose mobility is compromised or who lack the resources to be able to get out and about as much as they would like, full internet access can be hugely liberating,” Baroness Grey-Thompson said this week. “In front of the screen, we can all be equal and Go ON Gold is set to make this a reality.”
Go ON Gold is a partner campaign of Go ON UK, a new national charity chaired by UK digital champion Martha Lane Fox and backed by the BBC, Age UK, the Post Office, TalkTalk, Lloyds, the Big Lottery Fund and Eon. It is supported by social investor Nominet Trust.

Source: UKauthority, GAATES

Game Accessibility Guidelines Published

On September 3 sees the launch of a comprehensive developer guide to addressing the accessibility issues faced by over 20% of video gamers.  has been created by a group of developers and experts, coordinated by Ian Hamilton, an accessibility and usability specialist with a background in game development. The website offers all developers guidelines on how to better serve the needs of gamers with a range of visual, hearing, speech, learning and motor disabilities. The hope is that by highlighting the relatively simple changes needed, the games industry as a whole will be able to ensure that they quickly become part of its normal working practices.

According to Ian, “Studios and publishers often don’t realise the huge number of gamers who struggle with existing games due to barriers which could be easily addressed as part of the development process. Recent research by PopCap  showed that as many as 20% of gamers are disabled. On top of that, 15% of adults have a reading age of below 11 years old, almost 10% of male gamers have some degree of red-green colour blindness, and many more have temporary disabilities such as a broken arm, or situational such as playing in bright sunlight. Developers are usually very keen to work around these barriers, and are simple solutions too, such as combining colours with symbols, or allowing text to disappear on a button press rather than a timer. Often all they need to make their games more inclusive is just a bit of information to start from.”

Other simple but important suggestions in the guidelines include configurable controls, choice of difficulty, clear text formatting and visual cues for audio information. All of these are easy to implement if thought about early enough, and are generally part of good game design that benefits all players.

At the same time they have tremendous benefit for certain players: for example, a woman became so frustrated at being unable to understand cut scenes without subtitles she resorted to lobbying games publishers on their forums; or the quadriplegic gamer who felt the need to plead via Twitter for developers to give him the ability to move the fire from the trigger to a face button so he can play the same games as his friends.

For Ian, creating the guidelines has been a six month process, driven by his desire to do something about the number of studios who unwittingly ignore the needs of players through a lack of knowledge about the barriers disabled gamers face when trying to play their favourite games.

“The guidelines started really a few years ago as a personal project triggered by work I did whilst at the BBC, which included creating games and products for disabled children. That expanded into advising internal teams and 3rd party game studios on game accessibility, which made me realise firstly to what degree gamers were unnecessarily being shut out by the games industry through lack of awareness, and secondly the huge value that games have: it’s not just about delivering access, it’s about entertainment, culture, socialising, the very things that are the difference between existing and living. Gaming really does have a huge impact on people’s lives,” said Ian. After requests from working with the wider industry he gathered a group of studios, accessibility experts and academics to develop them further, including Blitz games studios, Headstrong Games, Aardman Digital, OneSwitch and Stockholm University.

“Through the process we’ve spoken to developers around the world, from small indies to large triple-A studios, and the support has been fantastic. There are already several games in development that are using the guidelines to deliver the best possible experience to as many people as possible.”

One of the developers that the guidelines have already helped is Poland-based Vivid Games , who sought Ian’s help when creating a PC version of its recent mobile and PS3 game, Speedball 2: Evolution.

“When we were developing the mobile version of Speedball 2 we included a special mode for colour blind gamers, which changed the palette and increased the contrast to ensure that all the on-screen action was still visible.” said Remi Koscielny, President of Vivid Games. “For the PC version we wanted to increase the accessibility of the game, so we worked closely with Ian to ensure that every part of the game was optimised for impaired gamers. Having learnt what a major difference can be made to so many people with just a little extra effort, we certainly hope that all developers take on board the fantastic work that Ian has done.”  is an open and free resource for anyone involved in the games industry around the world to use. It will continue to evolve, and feedback from developers is welcomed via the website.

For more information, contact:
Valentina Ciolino
tel: +44 (0)207033 2660

Source: GAATES