I enjoyed playing video games in my youth. Now there are games everywhere…on our computers, phones, and televisions. Some offer learning opportunities while others offer opportunities to connect. Today’s organization offers video games as a catalyst to level the playing field.
In 2004, Mark Barlet his usual Friday evening plans to meet his friend Stephanie Walker in a game called EverQuest for a weekly game time. When she did not show up in the game, Mark became concerned and called her house. Albert, her husband, answered the phone with Stephanie crying in the background. She was experiencing a severe Multiple Sclerosis attack which had left her unable to use her left arm. She could not feel the mouse in her hand, let alone use it to play.
Mark searched the Internet in search of information to help her play despite her disability and became dismayed to find nothing was available for those who need help gaming with a disability or war trauma. Mark started AbleGamers as a blog to help fill the void and help others going through a difficult time gaming. Today, AbleGamers is a large international non-profit that believes there should be no barriers to fun. They work to improve the lives of those with disabilities through greater access to the world of video games; a world that allows individuals to run, jump and soar despite their physical barriers in life.
The AbleGamers Foundation’s mission is to bring greater accessibility in the digital entertainment space so that people with disabilities can gain a greater quality of life and develop a rich social life that gaming can bring.
You can watch this video to learn more about their mission and impact:
AbleGamers reaches out to the gaming industry to speak to developers and publishers to educate them on game improvements that are most effective and practical. They do this through direct consultation and their guide to game accessibility. They also help people on an individual basis with their community website. Through forums, individuals with disabilities and/or their caretakers can post questions. The forum community can participate to help come up with a solution. In addition, AbleGamers holds the largest database for video game reviews addressing the specific purpose of addressing the accessibility of the game. They also run many grant and outreach programs to help the community members as their funding allows.
Steve Spohn, editor-in-chief at AbleGamers shared one story of their work with me. “One of my personal favorite stories is from an event called Abilities Expo in Chicago, Illinois. We were there with our Accessibility Arcade™ showing all of the latest and greatest assistive technology the world has to offer. One day, a couple and their son who had a severe neuromuscular disorder came up to our booth and asked what would be possible to help him game. We noticed that although he was not able to use his upper torso, his feet were still kicking. Mark pulled out a foot pedal, plugged it into our Adroit-a device which we helped create that allows switches to be plugged into an Xbox instead of the standard controller-and held the pedal up to the six-year-old child. He was ecstatic. He giggled and smiled watching a race car run around the track from his foot operating the controls. They had a great time and we feel very satisfied to have helped another gamer with disabilities. A few hours later, the father came up to me and placed his hand on my shoulder from behind. I turned around to see a very proud, strong and tall man with tears in his eyes thanking me for giving his son the opportunity to enjoy video game like any other young boy. It is an image that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”
AbleGamers is currently working on a project called AbleGamers to go which will be the first of its kind double decker bus filled with accessibility equipment, assistive technology, and videogame apparel. They have plans to bring this bus around the country to children’s hospitals and veteran’s centers to help bring gaming to them.
How can you help?
AbleGamers is always looking for new volunteers.
- Volunteers are needed to write content for the website, help with real-life conferences, assist with fundraisers, and spread the word about the importance of gaming with a disability. To volunteer, submit the form on their website.
- You can make a monetary donation through their website.
- If you develop video games, you can review their guide to game accessibility and incorporate accessibility into your games.
- You can also spread the word about this organization by sharing this post on Facebook and Twitter.
You can learn more about AbleGamers on their website, AbleGamers.com. You can also connect with them on Facebook and Twitter. You can also visit their guide for game accessibility at includification.com.