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Enabling access and play for individuals with Cerebral Palsy
Much of the appeal of video games is that they offer out-of-body experiences: We can visit new worlds, play quarterback in a digital NFL, and travel to distant galaxies to fight space bugs. Imagine the appeal for people with severe cases of cerebral palsy, who may be so restricted by the neuromuscular disorder that they can't leave their wheelchairs, scratch their noses, or even speak a sentence.
With the assistance of eye-gaze technology, they can play video games, listen to music, and even control aspects of their environments. They can cruise the internet, take selfies, and post updates on Facebook or Twitter.
The importance of play
Cerebral palsy is first a children's disease because it starts in the womb or shortly after birth. Play is a crucial part of any child's development. Games and social media give users a chance to interact with their peers, making a huge difference in how they develop, learn, and communicate.
There is no lower age limit at which a child with cerebral palsy should be introduced to assistive technology. In fact, we believe that the earlier parents are communicating around their child, modelling communication, choosing and turn taking, the earlier they will discover the capabilities of their child.
Social media, games, and other amusements can bring children and even adults with CP out of passive, non-communicative modes, letting their personalities blossom.
But, there's another important aspect to playing games with eye-gaze technology: It gives users an incentive to practice using the systems, which can shorten the path to proficiency and the ability to capitalize on the educational and life opportunities.
What kind of games are available?
There are many exciting offerings of games adapted to eye-gaze technology. They range from simple fun for young beginners to eye-gaze versions of the same cutting-edge video games enjoyed by teens and adults.
Games for young users may involve directing an object across the screen, sharpening eye control. Offerings for older users take that eye control to the next level with faster-paced sports games.
Programs include simple mazes, memory games, action puzzles, breakout games, and even versions of popular smartphone apps. Users can even create music or works of visual art.
No matter the age, eye-gaze technology can increase skills and unlock worlds of fun and creativity for those with cerebral palsy.