There currently isn't any legislation in the United States requiring video games to be accessible - and, surprisingly, disabled gamers prefer it that way. Barlet argues that gaming helps to push the envelope in computer development and that government legislation would only hurt the development of games and, hence, computer technology. Instead, he feels that the number of disabled gamers is large enough to provide incentives for developers to ensure their games are accessible. “I think that’s a far better path than legislation,” said Barlet.
In terms of gaming platform (PC vs. console vs mobile), while there is apparently some disagreement in the disabled community, Barlet said, “I am firm believer that the most flexible platform for a gamer with disabilities is the PC. There are a truckload of devices and peripherals out there... that you can plug into USB and they’re fairly inexpensive.” Consoles, on the other hand, while offering the most cutting edge games, are worse for disabled gamers because they’re closed systems. “Adaptive controllers and custom controllers… have to go through incredible hoops to try to get the Xbox to talk to the peripheral, because they’ve locked it down through proprietary processes.” Mobile gaming, is still fairly new, though Barlet notes that “independent developers that key on the mobile gaming space are much more creative and much more responsive to accessible features.”
In order to support gaming among the disabled, caregivers need to be educated about it. “The caregiver is governor of what a person with disabilities can do,” said Barlet. “The understanding has to be there in the caregiver, because they’re the ones that have to support the cause.” To that end, AbleGamers has recently begun producing simple videos like “How to set up an Xbox.”
With more and more disabled people gaming the future of AbleGamers looks to be busy. “We have more people wanting us to do things, then we do funding to do it. The need is outpacing our funding,” said Barlet.
To join the AbleGamers community or to learn more, including schedules for future Accessible Arcade events, and to learn how to donate or volunteer, go to their website or Facebook page.
Are you a disabled gamer or a caregiver for one? Please share your experiences in the comment section.