[games_access] Ken Yankelevitz - 30 Years celebration
tim.m.holt at gmail.com
Wed Jun 15 12:12:20 EDT 2011
What a great writeup Barrie, thanks.
On Wed, Jun 15, 2011 at 3:00 AM, Barrie Ellis <oneswitch at gmail.com> wrote:
> Great to see Ken getting some internet coverage for his 30 years service to
> accessible gaming. I've blogged a bit too, and copied below an interview
> from a 1984 Peter A McWilliams book, "Personal Computers and the Disabled":
> Ken Yankelevitz is a flight simulation engineer for McDonnell Douglas. In
> his spare time he makes joysticks for the disabled. But aren't joysticks for
> playing games? Do disabled people want to use computers to play games? As
> Ken explains, "Disabled people are just like everybody else - especially
> And kids seem to be Ken's speciality. Although disabled adults appreciate
> the opportunity to play Pac Man or chess or Decathlon, Ken seems to take
> special delight in helping disabled children control the hopping Qbert, or
> walking with Big Bird down Sesame Street.
> Ken works regularly with the younger members of the Rancho Las Amigos
> rehabilitation center in Downey, California. "Some of them use the same type
> device as the game controller to operate their wheelchairs," Ken explains.
> "Playing games teaches them accuracy and coordination, which they can use in
> steering the chairs. It can also be good exercise." So, there are practical
> benefits to game playing. "Sure," say Ken, "but mostly it's just fun." It's
> also fun to watch disabled youngsters trounce able-bodied friends at video
> Ken's controllers are designed for use with movements of either the hand,
> head, mouth, foot or tongue. They attache to Atari, Sears, and ColecoVision
> video games, and to Atari 400/800 and Commodore VIC-20 computers.
> Trying to get game controller devices for his quadriplegic friends proved
> impossible, so Ken invented some. He demonstrated them to Atari. They were
> not interested in marketing them, but anytime a disabled person called Atari
> looking for a special joystick, Atari gave them Ken's name.
> He formed KY (Ken Yankelevitz) Enterprises in Long Beach, California. Yet
> to show a profit (Ken's special controllers are generally less expensive
> than regular mass-produced joysticks), Ken refers to the entire activity as,
> "An expensive hobby." His wife, Diane, takes part in the family hobby, too.
> The controllers can, of course, be used for more than playing games.
> ("More" implies that game playing is lowly and other computer activities are
> not. This is not my intent. Recreation, it seems to me, is as valuable as
> creation. Let's say that controllers can be used for purposes other than
> playing games.)
> Many educational programs use the joystick as an interactive device -
> selecting letters, numbers, pictures and so on. The controller can be used
> as a cursor movement device. The keyboard can be used - perhaps with a mouth
> stick - to enter information, and the mouth-activated controller for zipping
> about the file while editing. The controller becomes a sort of mouth mouse.
> One of the exciting things about the mouth controllers is how inexpensively
> an education/communication/game system can be assembled for a disabled
> person. Video games or VIC-20 computers cost about $100, and the less
> expensive Atari runs $200 or so. Add one of Ken's controllers ($20 to $65),
> buy a few cartridges, hook it up to any television, and it's set to go. $120
> to $265 may seem like a lot to some budgets - especially considering the
> other financial obligations disabilities bring - but such a configuration
> offers a great deal of fun and learning for a price lower than most people
> think a computer especially adapted for a disabled person might cost.
> Were I writing this as a feature piece for a local newscast, I might end it
> with something syrupy like: "Ken Yankelevitz helps simulate flight for
> grown-ups during the day, so that he can stimulate flights of fancy for
> young people at night."
> Fortunately for us all, this is not a TV new features. I can close this
> piece by simply saying, Good work, Ken. Film at eleven.
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