A Season of Giving – How to Make Gaming Accessible for All

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Earlier this year, we put the spotlight on Mike “BrolyLegs” Begum, an elite gamer who’s managed to become a Street Fighter world champion, even though he doesn’t actually handle game controllers by strict definitions. Because of his condition, arthogryposis, BrolyLegs opts to play with his face instead. The makers of Xbox and Playstation didn’t anticipate players like him, and certainly didn’t design their consoles with him in mind, and yet Begum has still been able to surmount such challenges to become a world class competitor.

AbleGamers is a non-profit foundation which seeks, among other aims, to broaden game designers’ concerns so players with special needs like Begum are considered from the start. It provides free consultation to developers of all sizes, guiding them through a process of “Includification” which makes every game as accessible as possible. In this video, its staff and associates outline their hopes and ambitions, as well as the imperative of visibility, inclusion, and accessibility for disabled gamers.

In its own words, the foundation isn’t looking to push a “sad story,” it’s seeking to point game companies’ attention to a very sizable market. As the video outlines, one goal is to have “Well, how accessible is it?” just be one of the many questions regularly raised during a game’s planning. There are obviously many parallels to theatrical film screenings that offer dynamic captioning or descriptive audio tracks for handicapped moviegoers. Surely, it’s simple good business for products to be accessible to as many potential customers as possible. The benefits are mutual, all around.

As founder Mark Barlet puts it…

“…there is nothing more powerful for people with disabilities than the freedom that only video games can provide. It is an art form that allows us to all run, jump, and be whatever we want to be.”

AbleGamers is also endeavoring to build community–connecting gamers with disabilities with those who’d like to pull down any barriers blocking them from just enjoying good games. With a scale of Includification, the foundation regularly grades titles on accessibility, providing future developers with an invaluable resource they can refer to when figuring out what works and what doesn’t. The foundation also gives out grants for assitive technology, so children and adults can “get into the game.” It’s also included injured veterans into its plans.

The foundation has worked tirelessly to help others, and now, it could use some of your help for its holiday donor drive. The campaign is fittingly game-like. Donation tiers allow contributors to level up from “Game Changer” to “Limit Breaker.” Supporters are also invited to help directly with the fundraising, too, with AbleGamers’ site offering several fun ideas like game marathons and hosted dinner parties. Individuals can have their own dedicated pages in the community, and outside donations can be directed through themincentivizing everybody to spread the word. It fits very much that a fundraiser for such a foundation would have such (lightly) competitive aspects, doesn’t it?

Would any of your friends or family benefit from games trying to be more accessible to those with special needs? Will you help AbleGamers spread its message of Includification? Share your thoughts in the talkback.

Image Credits: AbleGamers

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