Charity Partner Update – how SpecialEffect have continued to help people in 2020

Back at the beginning of 2019 when SpecialEffect first became a partner of NSE, I wrote a piece for this website giving some background on our work and how the charity came to be. Almost two years later and with over £25,000 now donated as a result of NSE’s incredible fundraising efforts, I thought it was about time for an update!

The first really important thing to say is that SpecialEffect has carried on helping people throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, despite needing to make some pretty big changes to the way we have traditionally worked. In fact, we have found that demand for our services has actually increased during 2020, with many of those we support with being forced to self-isolate and therefore relying on technology even more than usual as a means of entertainment and staying connected with the outside world.

Where we would usually travel out to see people at their homes or in hospital, since March we have needed to pivot quickly away from in-person visits to ensure everyone stays safe. This has meant lots more video-calls, posting out equipment and remote support have been required to get people playing and socialising again. Our website news pages are full of great examples of how this new approach has enabled us to continue to make a life-changing impact in incredibly challenging circumstances.

2020 has also seen several important developments from our R&D team, including regular updates to our Game Access site and making improvements to our ground-breaking EyeMine software to make it even easier for people to play Minecraft using just their eyes! Perhaps the biggest step forward this year, however, comes in the form of EyeGazeGames, an innovative new suite of browser-based games designed to enable people with even the most severe physical disabilities to play against anyone, anywhere in the world!

As well as our work improving access to videogames, SpecialEffect also has a range of projects that seek to utilise the team’s expertise to help change lives for the better. Through our innovative Stargaze project, we provide eye-tracking technology for paralysed patients who are in intensive care, allowing them to take control of their communication and entertainment through “gaze” alone. Our Bubblebusters pilot project uses telepresent robots to allow immunocompromised children to still attend school and see their friends, while they are shielding at home. This work has been of particular significance this year, with the added risk of Corona Virus infection.

It is important to emphasise that all of our services are provided completely free-of-charge and we are 100% reliant on the donations raised by our supporters and partners. Put simply, none of this work would be possible without the incredible generosity of organisations like NSE and the many teams and societies nationwide who have continued to fundraise for us, despite the restrictions presented by the pandemic.

As we look forward to 2021, we are excited to continue working together with you all, whether that be on events like GameBlast, one-off charity streams and tournaments, or initiatives like the Intel-backed Raven jersey discount for teams adding the SpecialEffect logo to their design.

For now though, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to everyone at NSE and all the associated societies, teams and players who have both fundraised and helped to raise awareness of SpecialEffect these past two years through your incredible support. GG to you all!

By Tom Donegan, SpecialEffect Fundraising and Communications Team Lead.

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