FIEA student Aaron Cendan is focused on making video games more accessible to everyone.

Growing Accessibility in the Gaming Industry

By: Zenaida Kotala on

Providing more opportunities for people with disabilities in the video game and simulation industries is the theme of the second annual Press Play Conference in downtown Orlando on Jan. 12.

The Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy at UCF and local partners are sponsoring the half-day conference aimed at educating and inspiring people with disabilities.

“The gaming and simulation industries are places where people from all backgrounds can thrive,” says FIEA executive director Ben Noel. “We want to show the disability community in Central Florida all the resources and opportunities for people who want to choose one of these exciting careers.

Graduate student Aaron Cendan, who is pursuing a degree in interactive entertainment, is already immersed in finding ways to make games more accessible to everyone. Inspired by a friend who could no longer play games because of a hand issue, Cendan decided to take action.

“I was surprised to find no custom controllers out there on the market, so I decided to try and build them myself,” says Cendan. In 2018, he formed Stickless, a company that makes custom controllers for competitive and disabled gamers. Now he’s got more orders than he can fill and is pleased to see Press Play address the needs of disabled people.

“For so long accessibility was an afterthought in the game industry, and in every industry really,” Cendan says. “And that’s no longer the case. So, to have an event that is so welcoming and informing for people with disabilities is really incredible.”

He will have a table at the event with some of his custom controllers on display.

The event will begin at 10 a.m. with keynote speaker Karen Stevens from Electronic Arts. Stevens is a software engineer and the accessibility lead at EA, one of the co-sponsors of the event.

Afterward, participants can select two of four workshops offered:

  • The Art and Science of Motion Capture. Participants can see a demonstration of FIEA’s motion capture studio and hear about what it takes to give life to 3D characters from the studio to the screen.
  • The Many Roles of Game Programmers. The session covers the many types of engineering that makeup game development.
  • How to Become a Video Game Artist. Participants will see and hear how art is created for games and the different ways to access those careers. They will also find out what they can do now to prepare.
  • Alternative Game Controllers for Accessible DesignCollege of Arts and Humanities faculty will discuss the importance of good user-experience design for mobility accessibility. They will also discuss how controller design is changing.

Parents can attend a panel discussion about how to prepare children for careers in video game and technology fields. Experts from higher education and technology companies will offer practical advice about how to pay for education and how to land that first job. Experts from UCF will discuss resources available for students with disabilities.

The cost is $5, which covers lunch and a T-shirt in addition to the day’s activities. Limited scholarships are available. To sign up, visit fiea.ucf.edu/pressplay.

Sponsors are Marriott, UCP of Central Florida, Orlando Science Center, Limbitless Solutions, Orlando Economic Partnership, Global Down Syndrome Foundation, City of Orlando and UCF’s Nicholson School of Communication and Media.

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