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A guide to the Wii Fit for disabled people: Part 2 – information for specific impairments

Posted on: 2011-02-02

Having dealt in Part 1 with a general guide to how the Wii Fit can work if you have a disability, let’s look at some specific impairments. Of course this cannot cover all possibilities; I welcome comments as to how you get on with the game!

Firstly, let’s consider mobility impairments.

If you have balance or fatigue issues, you’ll probably be able to find a way to play, as long as you can stand still for 5-10 seconds at the start of each game. As demonstrated in my video, there are lots of different ways to play; you can stand (as the manufacturer intended), take your weight on a stool so your feet are just tapping on the board, or you can even sit on the board, although this is a little harder to control in my experience.

If you can’t use your legs at all, you’ll need to sit on the board, and shift your weight from left to right, and front to back, by wiggling and leaning. You’ll also need to use your hands to hop you up for a “jump” in some games, but if you can lean there are plenty of games you can play such as ski slalom. In fact, all categories include at least one activitity which doesn’t require use of legs – you can hold the remote in your hand for jogging, there’s strength training for your triceps, and Zazen is a game which tests your ability to sit still!

If you can stand but not step or jog, then if you can control your balance there are plenty of activities for you. Hula hoop is a great aerobic exercise, and there are plenty of balance games such as Perfect 10 where you lean in order to light up bubbles which add up to a score of ten. You can also take on games like driving range (golf), and a few others such as Rhythm Kung Fu mostly rely on movement of your arms; you will lose the odd point if you can’t make a step in time to the rhythm, but there aren’t many times when this is required, so the game is still enjoyable.

If you are truly “wheelchair bound” – unable to move from your chair – there are still options for you; a company called VIVIFY have created the “floor-board” which enables a wheelchair user to drive onto the Wii Fit board. Have a look at it on the Floor-Board website..

Next, let’s look at other physical or sensory impairments.

Are you missing one or both arms? No problem! Very few games need both arms, and many don’t need either. Even the “Birdseye Bullseye” game – where you are supposed to flap your arms in order to ‘fly’ – can be done by bending and extending your legs to shift your weight in a similar manner. You do need to press a button on the remote control to start each game, but the remote could be at your feet. If your only impairment is a restriction in your arms, then you should still be able to get a lot out of Wii Fit. Obviously, if you have a complex impairment including issues with your lower limbs, then you’ll find it far more challenging!

Deaf people should have little problem using the Wii Fit. Most instructions appear on screen in text, and they don’t move on until the A button is pressed on the remote control (there are a few exceptions, but these are rare, and tend to be tips on how to improve rather than essential directions). The only issue would be in hearing instructions during exercises when you are not able to see the screen – for example touching your toes – but you could always place a mirror at your feet so you can see the screen at the same time. A few of the strength training exercises bleep to let you know when you are applying enough pressure, but this is always accompanied by a visual effect, as are other audible alerts (such as notification of the last 10 seconds of a game, when the countdown will also change colour). Even in games where you have to move in time with a beat, there will be other characters whose movements you can copy. If hearing impairment is your only issue, you’ll have no problem using the Wii Fit.

If you’re blind, or have a significant visual impairment, then I’m sorry but I don’t think the Wii Fit system will work for you. From starting the game – which requires you to point the remote control at the Wii Fit icon – through to navigating the menu system, you’ll have difficulty. There is some tactile feedback from the remote control – it vibrates as you hover over a selectable icon, but you’d need to memorise the entire navigation system. Then you’ll struggle to play the games. In Yoga and Strength Training, you are expected to copy the movements of someone on screen, and in the other games you need to read the instructions. Ok, there are a few games you could play if you can navigate to them – hula hoop, jogging and free step – but then you will want to read your score afterwards. If you find it hard to see detail and read words on your TV screen, then you will find it nigh on impossible to use a Wii Fit.

Anyone with reading or comprehension difficulties will also find it hard to get started, as most instructions are text based, but once you’ve got the hand of the games you shouldn’t need to read the directions again as they pop up, so if someone can assist you through the first few attempts of each game, it shouldn’t pose too much of a problem.

If you’re colourblind then you will notice the occasional reference such as “keep the blue bar in the red area” – however the graphics are clearly understandable even if you cannot distinguish colours. The only potential issue that I have noticed is in Step aerobics, where your footprints are shown in red, until a green footprint indicates that you should lift that foot up. However colour references are few in the Wii Fit activities and you should not find it particularly limiting.

People with learning difficulties should find the Wii Fit easy to use, as the navigation system is straightforward and consistent. Each game is illustrated by a picture, and each exercise is illustrated by a diagram. However, some activities require the user to copy their movements – for example, in Yoga and Strength Training exercises there is a trainer on screen who says “think of me as your mirror image”. In other games such as Rhythm Kung Fu and Rhythm Boxing you have to copy the movements of another character, so if you find it hard to do this, there will be fewer activities open to you. However, once you learn how to play them, many of the games are great fun. There are some other good features – one of these is a reminder to take a break for 10-15 minutes every hour, so if you are the kind of person who becomes very engrossed in computer games, you will still be reminded to rest as necessary.

It should be clear now that many people with disabilities or impairments can use the Wii Fit, with a bit of imagination or by sticking to certain types of activity. Disability is certainly not a barrier in most cases, and the Wii Fit can be a very enjoyable way to have fun, and maybe lose weight.

That concludes part 2 of the guide to Wii Fit for disabled people, but please bear in mind that I am just offering advice as a user. Please read part 1 of the guide as well. Before buying the Wii Fit, please do try it in a shop such as Toys R Us, or even better at a friend’s house, where you will have the chance to see how you get on and how your body feels the next day. Enjoy “Wii Fitting”!


3 Responses to "A guide to the Wii Fit for disabled people: Part 2 – information for specific impairments"

Fantastic article. I was glad to run across this. Trying to get my disabled father to exercise is a task, and my parents have a wii fit sitting around gathering dust. I’ll be sure to share this wi them.

Found this while trying to find out about accommodations for my son to use the wii. I wish there was an option to have a “mii” character who uses a wheelchair.
Thanks for your thoughtful tips.
Just wanted to mention that I have learned many people are offended by the term wheelchair bound. Friends have expressed they feel it is a term that presents them as victims, as less-than.

Thanks for the comment! Yes, a visibly disabled mii would be good.

Re “wheelchair bound” – I am aware of the issues which is is why I, as a wheelchair user (but not full time) put it in inverted commas, and then promptly defined it as meaning truly unable to move from the wheelchair. Without wanting to get too in depth, my understanding is that the problem arises because we generally aren’t bound to them, i.e. strapped in and unable to get out. Chairs are an aid we choose to use, to enable us, when it suits us; yet people throw the term about without thought, the same as words like ‘suffers from’ – ugh! But there are a small group of people who are full time chair users and ARE strapped in and bound to it – and that is the group I was talking to/about. So I was using the term in the technical sense, but used inverted commas to flag up the term, so I hoped people would notice my awareness of it. 🙂

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