This blog post by Daniel Hubbell, was originally featured on the Microsoft Accessibility Blog. Read the original post here.
Barbara Police, 64, loved bowling since she was a kid. After she lost her sight 14 years ago, she was able to continue playing at a specially constructed bowling alley for people with visual impairments. But several years ago, a shoulder injury made it too painful for her to lift and throw a bowling ball. Now, thanks to the new Exergamers NYC program for seniors, Barbara is back in the game. Along with her partner of 38 years, Pat Sloane, she bowls every week at The SAGE Center in Chelsea.
Exergaming combines technology with exercise, allowing seniors to improve their physical, mental and social well-being by participating in friendly competition and interactive gaming. The project is made possible by a public-private partnership between Microsoft, NYC Department for the Aging (DFTA), and NYC Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT). Exergaming has taken root in many of DFTA’s Innovative Senior Centers, which operates throughout all the boroughs of New York City.
A few months ago, the SAGE center was given Microsoft Kinect for Xbox, which relies on motion sensors—no heavy lifting involved. "Virtual bowling is terrific for me," Barbara explains, "because there's no weight! I just have to swing and hope for the best." As a person who is blind, she says virtual bowling opens up a new world to her. She's at less of a disadvantage with video games than physical games, since she's able to recreate the two-dimensional backdrop using her imagination—and the help of Pat, 70, who describes to her what's on the screen. It allows me think in my mind what it must look like," Barbara explains. "My mind is virtual!" She lights up when she talks about the game, and says she'd love to learn to play other kinds of games using the Xbox—like baseball.