[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="700"] AbleGamers is one of many video game charities that help connect gamers with disabilities with information and technology they need to enjoy video games.[/caption]
Gaming is one of the world's most popular hobbies. People from all walks of life enjoy playing video games, but games are not always enjoyable or accessible for everyone. It's not that games are too difficult—vast options in genre and gameplay settings now satisfy most skill sets; it's that most game makers don't consider the needs of players with disabilities.
Charity organizations like AbleGamers are trying to fix this problem. By partnering with developers and pushing for additional game features like alternate color schemes, easily readable subtitles, and unrestricted keybinding, AbleGamers is helping to make the world of video games a more inclusive place.
Gaming Charities Raise Awareness for Gamers With Disabilities
Organizations like AbleGamers and SpecialEffect—both of whom are raising awareness and voicing concern for disabled gamers—certainly have their work cut out for them. Most developers don't deliberately avoid making their games accessible; it's far more likely that they don't know how to improve accessibility or that they forget to address this during production. But SpecialEffect and AbleGamers feel accessibility is an issue that's worth remembering and prioritizing, and they're willing to help devs achieve this in their games.
"I believe that there is nothing more powerful for people with disabilities than the freedom that only video games can provide," said AbleGamers' founder, Mark Barlet, on the charity's website. "It is an art form that allows us all to run, jump, and be whatever we want to be."
Resources for Developers and Gamers with Disabilities
AbleGamers' Includification guide, or similar documents like those found at gamingaccessibilityguidelines.com, can help independent and big-name developers alike improve game functionality for disabled players. These resources outline ways that developers can make games more accessible for those with hearing, mobility, or visual impairments, and appeal for greater consideration of these factors during the design process.
Furthermore, charities like AbleGamers and SpecialEffect connect gamers with disabilities with useful resources and technologies, such as modified one-handed controllers. They also advocate for more playtesters with disabilities, who can help point out accessibility issues that might otherwise go overlooked.
Game reviews are another area where increased presence or input from gamers with disabilities would help. Most reviews don't currently mention or address game accessibility for players with impairments. Unstoppablegamer.com, which is powered by AbleGamers, is one site that reviews games from an accessibility standpoint. These reviews look at mobile, audio, and visual accessibility, and help players make informed decisions about the games they want to play before they buy them. For example, Dragon Age: Inquisition is a must-play for RPG fans, but its lack of support for binding actions to mouse buttons makes it tough to play for gamers with mobile impairments. Pointing this out helps gamers choose titles that they'll truly enjoy, and gives developers important feedback on how to make games more inclusive.
More Accessibility Means More Gamers
The work being done by AbleGamers, SpecialEffect, and similar organizations is incredibly important. Most people don't think about accessibility issues when they're playing or designing games, but this oversight is preventing a lot of players from experiencing the wonderful challenges, joys, and stories of modern gaming. Incorporating new, accessible elements won't hurt anybody's gaming experience; it will open up the medium to a lot more people, and make the overall gaming community that much richer.