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By:  Stephen Polacek

I’ve played video games for most of my life.  I’ve never really thought about accessibility in games until I met a blind coworker who played as well.  He told me about this shooter made specifically for blind people that only used sound cues.  It made me more aware of how those with disabilities can enjoy hobbies that most people would consider impossible to make accessible. 

You can find nearly type of disabled gamer on YouTube or Twitch.tv.  Many of those with physical disabilities have special controllers or use a keyboard with special scripting to function as a controller that’s easier for them to use.  Those with visual impairments or total blindness play with enhanced audio setups to more easily distinguish directional sound and then just challenge themselves to make it as far possible, sometimes with sighted assistance. 

close up of Adaptive gaming kit box.

Developers have started incorporating some changes and features as well.  I’ve noticed more and more recent releases try to incorporate color blindness features or additional UI features to deliver information visually, in the case of deaf or hard-of-hearing users.  While many of these features are rudimentary and you’ll likely see complaints about how useful they are, such as the colorblind features in Overwatch, it’s still an improvement that accessibility is starting to become a part of the development process.

This lead me to an organization called The AbleGamers Charity (ablegamers.org).  This organization is a non-profit dedicated to helping disabled individuals get into the hobby of gaming, with either custom controllers or assistive technology and scripting.  It’s really cool to see my hobby and my new profession meshing in this manner.  If you’re at interested in video games but were unsure how you could play with your disability, I’d definitely recommend looking into them or other communities, like the Visually Impaired Gaming sub-Reddit, and seeing how you can overcome this hurdle. 

For those interested in hosting an adapted gaming night, please take a look at this link from us: http://mdod.maryland.gov/mdtap/Documents/Accessible%20gaming%20Guidebook.pdf

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