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Student on a mission to make Escape Room games more accessible

Posted on 09 March 2017

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A blind student at Leeds Trinity University is assisting escape room owners to make adaptations for inclusivity, following her experience at an escape room in Leeds.

Zahra Majid, 22, wants to ensure interactive real-life escape games are accessible for everyone, including those with disabilities.

She hosted an event at Leeds Trinity's Media Festival last week with escape room owners and designers from across the country, including academics who are looking to use escape rooms within education.

She said: "The first escape room I attended was a well-established venue, but I felt largely excluded from the puzzles – as the main sensory focus was visual. Although there were times when I did get involved, for the most part I was standing around, and couldn't move freely because of tripping hazards.

"I then took part in another game, and the experience couldn't have been more different. I was busy most of the time, either physically cracking codes and clues, or listening to what was going on. My favourite part was when I got to use my listening and fine-motor skills to collaboratively work a magnetic ball through a large-scale maze, which I found hard but exhilarating."

After her experiences, Zahra conducted research through Facebook Groups with other people with visual impairments. Although some had not thought about taking part, some had already taken part – with mixed experiences (as Zahra had also discovered).

She then asked the escape room owners and designers what could be done to make their games more accessible – to which some have already responded.

Kieran from Look Key Escape in Leeds, said to Zahra: "You've given me good ideas for some adaptations!" and Jane Norris, designer of 'The Norris Box', a portable game ideal for use in schools, said: "I am interested to try and make it more accessible using laser cutting of clues which could make them more tactile."

Zahra added: "Good teamwork is key to inclusivity; every player should get to use their individual skills as part of a group."

Liz Cable, Senior Lecturer in Digital and Social Media at Leeds Trinity University, supported Zahra with her campaign. She said:

"Zahra has had several conversations with escape game designers now; inspiring them to think differently about their puzzles and games to include all sorts of differently abled players. It's great to see the direct impact her work is having."

Zahra now hopes to encourage Escape Room owners to branch out further by registering on the EUANS Guide – a disabled access review site to show that their games are accessible to all.