“The world we live in is tailor-made for the…“normal”. Anything straying from what we call “normal” we simply pretend doesn’t exist.”
I was on my way to Alexandros’ house, once again stuck in traffic. It was that time of day when everyone in Athens is rushing to go home. About an hour before, I had loaded five FeIRd devices in the trunk, which were about to reach their recipients for the first time – if I ever managed to get out of the traffic jam. 16-year-old Alexandros was one of them.
My mind was wandering to the story a quite active occupational therapist and supportive technology for the disabled specialist had told me on the phone. A while ago, a letter had reached her team, a group of occupational and physical therapists, trying to change the situation in Greece regarding supportive technologies. 16-year-old Alexandros had sent that letter.
His words really moved them. He stated that he had decided to finally manage to carry out everyday functions on his own, like moving on his own, turning on the TV on his own, holding a fork on his own. The only thing he needed was their technological support and their will. His parents probably helped him write that letter, since Alexandros is severely quadriplegic. If you don’t know what quadriplegia is, I’ll simply say that it’s a state that renders people practically dependent on others, since they can hardly move their limbs.
Alexandros is one of those people. Completely dependent on the help of his family, on the peak of his teenage years.
The team responded immediately and Alexandros’ journey towards independency began. The first step was getting a power wheelchair. However, he cannot drive it yet. But a single phone call will change things and bring FeIRd into his life. It’s an open-hardware device like a joystick, specially made for people with limited mobility, so that they can use everyday appliances. It consists of one large joystick connected to a universal remote control, which functions through infrared rays (IR). Through the FeIRd the function of any kind of appliance accepting commands from IR ports (like the TV, the A/C and the stereo) can be controlled.
The results exceeded our expectations. Alexandros is delighted, not only because he can now handle his beloved television on his own, but also because he can practice so that he can some time drive his wheelchair!
Thousands of people in Greece are suffering from some disability that restrains their mobility, rendering them dependent on others. Helping them be more independent in their everyday life for free is not some kind of fantasy. Supportive technologies – especially when they are open source/hardware – can play an important role in making that happen. If more people started using them – like with the FeIRd device – and if scientists struggling on their own were supported by society as a whole, then we could definitely say that something’s starting to change in Greece.
And you? Are you in?
*photo source: Flickr Creative Commons
The second from the three free electronic games for blind children (and adults too), Tennis, under the project LEAP (Listen-LEArn-Play), is complete. The game’s specially designed gameplay allows the children to practice the skills they developed in the first game, Tic-tac-Toe, like the use of the keyboard and the movement in the two-dimensional audio space, but furthermore to gain new ones, like to perceive movement and speed in a three-dimensional audio space and to interact within it (binaural processing).
LEAP project develops a series of free electronic recreational and educational games for the blind or for the visually impaired, and is the product of the collaboration between SciFY and the Department of Audio & Visual Arts of the Ionian University. The code and the games that will be created, will be available as open software, freely, so that they can be used and developed from everyone.
By making use of the latest developments in audio interface technology, it aspires to contribute to eliminating social exclusion of people with visual impairments, and mostly of children, in their "own" fields, the fields of playing and learning. The purpose is to open the game boundaries with innovative audio interfaces, to strengthen education with these games as a tool, to highlight the special skills of blind people and to indicate the value of cooperation between the blind and the seeing people.
LEAP’s additional goal is to allow audio interfaces to be used for learning, basically through serious gaming. The games are of escalated difficulty, allowing the children to aqcuire new skills that will aid them and in their school life as well. You can read the game creation progress and the responce of children in SciFY’s webpage. Lastly, LEAP aims to indicate the blind people’s aqcuired skills relatively to seeing people, through the promotion of these skills and the strengthening of cooperations between seeing and blind children by mutual activities.
But we go further than this. Motivated by the LEAP project, we desided to create an online community with the purpose of strengthening civil awareness, the facilitation of dialogue between involved stakeholders, families and people with visual impairment, and also the exchange of good practices regarding the free assistive technologies and the electronic games for blind and partially seeing children. This is the reason why we invite all of you who want to participate in this community, to visit the project’s page in Facebook and/or subscribe in the newsletter to be informed first regarding the progress of the project. For additional information how you can participate, visit the project’s page.
This project is funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway under the EEA Grants Greek NGO Programme “We are all Citizens”. The Bodossaki Foundation is the Fund Operator of this Programme. The Programme aims to strengthen civil society and enhance the contribution of NGOs to social justice, democracy and sustainable development.
For additional information you can contact Ms Chalvatzi Despoina
Telephone: 0030 211 4004 192, 0030 698 3047 848
5th SciFY Academy: Sharing #OpenKnowledge for Business Model Canvas!
Over 100 people attended on Wednesday, July 15, 2015 at the 5th SciFY Academy which took place in INNOVATHENS. This time we shared open knowledge about how useful is the knowledge of Business Model Canvas to nonprofit organizations. The rapporteur was Mr Dimitris Paximadis member of KEMEL, former President & CEO of OgilvyOne Athens and former General Manager of VVDO Advertising.
When we reached the team of children who were about to test the tennis game, the 2nd of the games for blind children we create, the friend who guided us there started explaining:
- Well lads, the team over here is from SciFY. They make PC games for blind people. They have made...
- A! It is you!!! I know them! I know you! How about that! Shall we play more;”
I instantly recognized her. It was Athina1, a sharp-witted little one who had tested Tic-Tac-Toe, our first game and was excited about it. But still, I didn’t see this one coming: She was jumping up and down. Her joy was so overwhelming that I wanted to jump up and down myself as well. I held myself.
- Hey Athina, we had promised you we‘d make a second game as well, hadn’t we? Well, here it is, tennis! We want your opinion about it.
After we explained who we are and what we do, we asked who would like to try first. Well, ok, who would dare take Athina’s turn? Not even for a joke.
In a while came Alexandra.
- Hallo Alexandra. Do you see anything or you have complete blindness? Nikos asks her.
- But what do you think? Of course I can see! I see my blindness and some black around it (laughs). Black humour.
We have to get used to such humor. These children are incredible! They can break the ice right away.
- So what do you think? Shall we play?
She tried it. She was anxious at the beginning because she hadn’t used a computer for a long time. But soon enough her eyes were sparkling. She was enjoying the game for good. She takes off the headphones.
- It’s very good! Reminds me of goalball! Leave it here with me for a couple of days and I ‘ll play the heck out of it!
Goalball? It sounds familiar. Like some kind of football for blind people if my memory is correct. But I have a weak memory..
- “Yes, right!” she verifies. “I play a lot of years goalball. You must have a well exercized hearing to know where the ball is coming from. Right or left;”
She is bursting with energy. She plays some more, we make the evaluation and afterwards comes the good question:
- And how do we attack?
- Eh, well the athlete in you never sleeps huh? Well, in this game you don’t have to attack. If you successfully repel the ball enough times, you change level.
- What are you talking about? I want to attack it, to give it some hard time!
We discussed how complicated would have to be the sounds in such a case, how much harder the game would become, if it could be played by everyone or only the ones who had an exceptional hearing…
Others joined the conversation as well.
The thirst to play games is incredible. “I want to attack as well.” “But only defending?” “Will you make a football game too?”
I take notes and smile.
Because I know that when I get back in SciFY’s offices, we will continue with even higher spirit what we are already developing: our next moves in creating even more games for blind children, beyond the needs of the project.
Because the thirst, the need in all of us to play is great. In everyone. Not just in a few.
And if we, the “seeing ones” ignore it, in reality we ‘ll be only seeing our blindness.
1Some facts of the story, like the names of the children have been changed for reasons of anonymity of the kids.
Well, that was so heart-warming!
A few months ago we sent emails to institutions and organisations that are dealing with blindness in order to present them Tic Tac Toe, our new game for blind people! This was the 1st of the computer games for blind children that we are developing, within LEAP project. And of course we asked them to give it a try and let us know what they think of it.
Well, one particular organisation delayed to answer, but their reply was worth the wait. Here is their response:
"[...] We delayed our response, because we wanted to give you a detailed opinion to answer your question! [...] We preferred being valid over being quick!
To put it in a nutshell, all of our friends and members, after they tried and tested your suggestions, expressed high praise for them! "It was, -as they say- like we developed them ourselves, for us." However, despite our insistence, we were unable to submit some concrete proposals for improvement! [...] "
Thank you, friends!
You can learn more about LEAP at SciFY’s website and read about the developing process of the game and the children’s reaction even to share your opinion with us.
Subscribe to our Newsletter here to be informed and updated about LEAP project and take part in assistive technologies community for blind and visually impaired.
Follow LEAP project’s pages on Facebook or Twitter.
Also, for more projects follow SciFY on Facebook or Τwitter.
(Part 1 of Τesting tennis) 1
We exchanged email addresses with the kids, hugged and teased each other and left really moved. But this is certainly not how it had started a few hours earlier. Well, let’s take it from the beginning. First things first.
4th SciFY Academy: Sharing #OpenKnowledge for Sentiment Analysis!
On Wednesday, at the 10th of June at INNOVATHENS in Technopolis, took place the 4rth #SciFΥacademy with the subject “Sentiment Analysis ...for the conscious ones” which was presented by Mr. Konstantinos Chandrinos and was organized by the Non for Profit computer science NGO SciFY.
On Wedsday 4rth of March took place in @Innovathens the 1rst big #SciFΥacademy with the topic “Ten Leadership Tactics in Period of Crisis” from the Non-Profit NGO of innovative technologies SciFY with the cooperation of the Centre of Volunteer Managers from Greece (ΚΕΜΕΛ).