What a fabulous way to start 2022 – our Founder and CEO Dr Mick Donegan has been awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours List, for services to Technology for the Disabled.
Mick has been helping people with disabilities through the innovative use of technology for decades and founded the Oxfordshire-based charity SpecialEffect in 2007. Previous roles as Head of IT and Deputy Head of a large special school followed by the Deputy Directorship of a children’s assistive technology charity had led him to the realisation that there was a largely unfulfilled, yet crucially important need amongst severely physically disabled people – the need to play.
“I founded SpecialEffect to find a way, through technology, to help children play, be creative, make friends and give them a reason to want to communicate,” he said, adding that he was “delighted, surprised and very honoured” to be included in the New Year’s Honours list.
The organisation now transforms the lives of people with physical challenges right across the world through its core mission of optimising inclusion through video games. His team occupational therapists and gaming specialists create bespoke control setups for hundreds of individuals each year, while his R&D team develop freely-available resources and solutions for both players and game creators to help them level the playing field for video gamers globally.
Mick is also an internationally respected expert and pioneer in the field of eye gaze technology. He helped to develop the first of a new generation of gaze controlled computers back in 2003 and collaborated with SMI, a German company, in 2012 to develop a new, high-quality, low-cost gaze tracker which has been sold to thousands of severely disabled people all over the world, including people with locked-in syndrome, motor neurone disease and spinal injuries.
Mick is the author of many academic papers and holds the roles of Associate Senior Research Fellow at SMARTlab, University College, Dublin, and Adjunct Professor in the Department of Assistive Design at OCAD University, Ontario.