A project to create an audio-only computer game, designed by a Lancaster University team of researchers in collaboration with blind people and those experiencing sight-loss, has scooped a major award.
The game uses abstract noise to guide the gamer through 15 levels of an immersive maze and the project used a co-design approach to explore how accessibility can be improved in gaming experiences.
The team behind it has now been honoured at the annual awards organised by Visionary, the national membership organisation for local sight loss charities. The project scooped the Inspire award, sponsored by Specsavers, which recognises trailblazing initiatives.
Sight Advice South Lakes recruited blind and partially sighted people from across the country for the research after being approached by a team of researchers from ImaginationLancaster, a design-led research laboratory at Lancaster University.
Together with Zach Mason, a Lancaster PhD student with a specific interest in improving digital accessibility, the group was brought together for an exploratory workshop in Manchester.
Workshop participants tested the prototype and their input will be used to shape a new and improved version of the game, which is intended for release on the global gaming platform, Steam.
"The Inspire Award, sponsored by Specsavers, is all about celebrating trailblazing initiatives and highlighting the innovative work undertaken by local organisations,” says Fiona Sandford, the Chief Executive of Visionary.
“The research project is a well-deserved winner. The project was an inclusive collaboration, with smaller sight loss organisations contributing to a change in approach to design for blind and partially sighted people.
"As Dr Joseph Lindley, from ImaginationLancaster, said, it was a fantastic demonstration of how bringing diverse voices to any design problem can be transformational.”
Dr Lindley says the people that Sight Advice South Lakes helped to recruit were exceptionally good natured, friendly, accommodating of the researchers’ lack of knowledge about the realities of living with sight loss and were fully engaged with the topic.
"The combination of these factors together was incredibly energising for our team, but also for the potential of the research and has motivated us to pursue this research topic much further," he adds.
"Having the whole group identify with the idea we are exploring and putting their hearts and souls into helping us understand the problem better, and create new possible directions, was a fantastic demonstration of how bringing diverse voices to any design problem can be transformational."
Tim Ward, Assistive Technology Co-ordinator at Sight Advice South Lakes, says it was brilliant to be asked to work with ImaginationLancaster – who also won a Lancaster University award for the project.
"We thought the project had huge potential for the world of sight loss so using the Visionary Network we opened the research up to visually impaired gamers in the UK, and we had a brilliant response from organisations similar to ourselves," he says.
"The workshop was a resounding success and ImaginationLancaster, who were so easy to work with, achieved their outcomes and have new directions previously unimagined for visually impaired people."
Giles Edmonds, Clinical Services Director at Specsavers, says: "Specsavers has sponsored the Inspire Award because we want to support others in improving the quality of life for everyone affected by sight loss.
"Specsavers is proud to work alongside Visionary to raise awareness of the importance of regular eye tests. We also want to inspire others to join us because we must implement change to secure long-term sustainability of patient centred care, better sight loss prevention."
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