Rehabilitation Engineering Centre helping patients get back in the game

Patient Brodie, an avid gamer, with Rehab Engineering student Mikaela.

Patient Brodie, an avid gamer, with Rehab Engineering student Mikaela.

The Rehabilitation Engineering Centre at STARS sees many patients requiring modifications to their wheelchairs such as customised seat and backrest fitting. Modifications are made while a patient waits which can take several hours, so an Xbox with an Adaptive Controller was introduced to entertain patients during this time.

Xbox developed the Adaptive Controller in partnership with disability organisations like The Cerebral Palsy Foundation and existing customised control builders like SpecialEffect. Featuring large programmable buttons and input jacks and USB ports, the controller can connect to devices like external switches, buttons, mounts and joysticks to help making gaming more accessible.

Rehabilitation Engineering Centre Team Leader Oliver Mason has found the controller beneficial for patients.

“Having the controller available in our appointments not only keeps patients entertained while they wait, but it also creates a space for them to come and try a customised gaming set-up. It gives them a taste of what they could achieve at home,” said Oliver.

“For patients who might experience levels of isolation due to their disability being able to participate in these games can open up a whole world of online gaming, improving their connection to others.”

With people with a disability making up approximately 20% of the gaming population, making gaming more accessible is important.

The Centre has already produced customised gaming controls for patients including a headrest attachment that allows games to be played with head control and a 3D printed one-hand adaptor for a patient who can only use one hand to play.

Mikaela and Michael, medical engineering students on placement with the Centre from QUT, have been assessing the different Xbox games available.

“We trialled games such as FIFA19, Project CARS, Minecraft, Spyro, and Human Fall Flat to create potential configurations or set up guides for each game. For example, we looked at the button configurations that would require the least amount of physical function to play,” said Mikaela.

Mikaela and Michael recently assisted patient Brodie who has Adrenoleukodystrophy Muscular dystrophy to have a go at the Xbox Adaptive controller while the rest of the team modified his wheelchair seating. Mikaela and Brodie played in co-pilot mode with Mikaela steering Spyro the dragon while Brodie activated the fire breathing with a button on his lap.

For Brodie, being able to have a turn at using the Xbox Adaptive Controller gave him and his carer an idea of what gaming customisations could be possible.

It is hoped that medical engineering students will run an accessible gaming clinic soon where patients can have their gaming needs assessed and different customisations trialled.

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