Accessible gaming advocate wins award

by: Sean Colleli -
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Robert Florio is an artist, graduate of Pittsburgh's Art Institute, and a quadriplegic.  He also has a strong interest in gaming.  So strong, in fact, that he's working with Acclaim Veteran David Perry on making games accessible to the handicapped.  For his work, the Art Institute gave him the first ever Dean's Merit Award.  Good luck, Mr. Florio.  Gaming should be for everyone, and you're blazing trails on how to reach a whole new audience.

Accessible Video Games Specialist Robert Florio Recognized
by Leader in Online Arts Education
Florio is leading the Way in Developing Video Games for Disabled

PITTSBURGH, PA – Robert Florio, an advocate for accessible video gaming, today earned a bachelor’s degree in Game Art & Design from The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division.  In addition, Florio won the first ever Dean’s Merit Award which honors a student who has demonstrated an extraordinary accomplishment and who promotes academic integrity.  The graduation ceremonies will take place at Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall, 4141 Fifth Avenue, from 5:30-7:30.

The degree and recognition are even more remarkable when one considers Florio’s personal history.

After a diving accident left Florio paralyzed at age 14, he learned to express himself through art, using his mouth to draw and paint.  He later combined his talent and his love for video games into a life goal to earn a degree in Game Art & Design and create accessible video games for people with disabilities.  “It’s been a long road, but today is part one of a dream come true,” said Florio.  “I now look forward to continuing my work and ongoing efforts to make video games available and accessible for people like me.” 

“Robert is fast becoming one of the few experts on game accessibility – a topic that the industry has only recently addressed,” said Jeannie Novak, the Academic Program Director for the Game Art & Design and Media Arts & Animation programs at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division.  

Mainstream video games that are accessible to individuals with disabilities do not currently exist within the $11 billion video game industry.

Today, Florio, who is quadriplegic, is working with David Perry, Acclaim’s Chief Creative Officer and 20-year video game industry veteran, to help create games that individuals with physical impairments can enjoy.  Acclaim is a provider of multi-player online games.

Novak, who was chosen as one of the 100 most influential people in high technology by MicroTimes Magazine, added “In class, Robert always broke new ground with his insightful ideas and motivated his fellow students to go the extra mile. I was extremely fortunate to have Robert contribute his thoughts on game accessibility in my Game Development Essentials series. There’s no doubt he’ll continue to inspire others and do amazing things.”

The Dean’s Merit Award recognizes a student who promotes academic integrity, demonstrates extraordinary accomplishment or exceptional persistence in promoting academic integrity, embodies the goals of the institution and earns a minimum CGPA of 3.25.

“Since arriving at The Art Institute last year, I have wanted to create a student award that recognizes academic effort, integrity, perseverance and that embodies the goals of the institution,” said Cynthia Liefeld, Vice President, Academic Affairs.  “I am especially delighted to be able to present the first Dean’s Merit Award to Robert.  All of our students are unique and add dimensionally to our programs.  And Robert personifies what this award means.”

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About The Art Institute of Pittsburgh - Online Division

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division delivers education in the creative arts through the Internet, extending the opportunity for learning to all students desiring classes by eliminating geographic, lifestyle, or physical constraints. With online courses designed using the same curriculum delivered on ground through The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division offers associate's and bachelor's degree programs in Graphic Design and Web Design & Interactive Media; bachelor's degree programs in Advertising, Fashion & Retail Management, Game Art & Design, Interior Design, Hotel & Restaurant Management and Media Arts & Animation; a bachelor's degree completion program in Culinary Management; and diploma programs in Digital Design, Residential Planning, and Web Design. For more information call 1-877-872-8869 or visit The Art Institute of Pittsburgh ( is one of The Art Institutes (, a system of over 35 locations throughout North America, providing an important source of design, media arts, fashion and culinary arts professionals.

About The Art Institutes

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh is one of The Art Institutes (, a system of over 35 locations throughout North America, providing an important source of design, media arts, fashion, and culinary arts professionals.
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