Mada Reviews: Accessible Gaming & Wonder Tree
In cooperation with its partners, Mada Center works to identify the needs of persons with disabilities for assistive technology and digital access solutions in Arabic. The center has supported start-ups and entrepreneurs to localize technological devices and solutions through the Mada Innovation Program, with the aim of improving digital accessibility for PWDs at the local, regional and international levels.
In recent years, gaming has become increasingly prevalent with the advent of mobile gaming, gamification in the workplace and greater uptake of augmented reality technology by people of all ages. Gaming is no longer limited to a niche segment of teenagers and children; games today can be seen in multiple settings being used by a multitude of different audiences. Accessibility to the gaming space is no longer a luxury, it is a necessary component of creating an inclusive digital ecosystem. Gaming today is part and parcel of what is referred to as digital content, and, as such, is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
One of the main obstacles facing the accessibility of gaming is the general absence of legislation in this area. Unlike access to information and media, there is no explicit legislation outlining the need to making games accessible. Even in countries where there are laws that regulate video games, such as South Korea and the United Kingdom, there is no explicit mention of accessibility yet. The result is that initiatives to make games accessible are driven by conscious designers and developers, and not by national initiatives.
When it comes to people with functional limitations, there is an even further added element to gamification – and that is the use of games within a rehabilitation setting. In conjunction with international accessible gaming experts, Mada Assistive Technology Center initiated efforts to raise awareness about how gaming can be made more inclusive for people with different disabilities. Amongst these efforts is providing training for game developers on how to develop accessible digital games based on best practices and international standards. Mada recently released a comprehensive best practice guide around this subject, which has been published on Mada website. The documentation is intended to be used by game developers, decision-makers, and frontline workers in different settings where they can effectively use gaming as an appropriate tool for social integration and even education or rehabilitation.
Mada has supported the localization and successful endorsement of an accessible gaming solution known as Wonder Tree in 2020. “Wonder Tree Games” is an augmented reality gamification solution which engages children with special needs for their therapeutic and cognitive development using the concept of mirror therapy. Using a Kinect sensor, a PC, and a TV screen, Wonder Tree use gamification to inject joy into physical and cognitive therapy for kids through fun, interactive, augmented reality games which are very affordable, easily accessible, and scalable globally. Wonder Tree solution is aligned to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and our contribution to UN-SDGs directly aligns with Reduced Inequalities.
In the times of Covid-19, Mada & Wonder Tree worked together to improve the accessibility of the platform to decrease dependability on physical solutions and increase digital methods for therapy and education needs.
Despite all the compelling reasons to ensure that gaming must be accessible to people with disabilities, gaming companies are not yet persuaded that there is a large market for accessible gaming – in both device controllers and game design. As such, funding and direct intervention by policymakers and service providers is required to stimulate the gaming market and make gaming more accessible to people with disabilities. Mada International Best Practices Guide on Accessible Gaming acts as a basic and introductory resource to policymakers, designers, developers, rehabilitation experts, educators AT specialists and end-users on how to create a more accessible gaming ecosystem in Qatar.