AbleGamers Delivers Virtual Challenges to Disabled Gamers

An estimated 70 million gamers have a disability in the United States, and many of these individuals are unaware of the adaptive gaming resources that are available through websites like AbleGamers.  The AbleGamers Foundation is a nonprofit charity that strives for equality when it comes to video game use.

AbleGamers believes everyone should have the opportunity to play video games and experience the benefits that come along with it in terms of social connectivity and peer building skills.  This is why the people behind AbleGames make it their job to educate gamers and non-gamers on the benefits of playing video games, as well as what adaptable controls and systems are available for individuals to use, regardless of their physical challenges.

Steven Spohn, COO of the AbleGamers Foundation has Spinal Muscular Atrophy, a neurological disease that slowly takes away the ability for him to use his muscles.  But, this doesn’t keep him from gaming.  “Through adapters, most gaming systems are usable by anybody, regardless of what gaming system someone chooses to use,” Spohn explains.

The founder of AbleGamers, Mark Barlet, is a disabled veteran who was injured while serving in the Air Force.  He believed that no matter what disabilities an individual had, it was possible to keep them engaged in this online community of gaming.  Before forming AbleGamers, Barlet went online to seek information about adaptive games, or gaming for people who have disabilities.  To his surprise, there was no information to be found.

That’s when Barlet decided to start a small blog that contained information and tips about gaming with a disability.  What began as a small blog about helping people soon grew into an international charity, growing larger than anyone could have foreseen.

Barlet wanted people to feel as though they were a part of something big, and he wanted to give disabled individuals a chance to continue playing the games they loved, but in a different way.

The AbleGamers website is a great resource for information on what video game controllers will work best for you, and how to use them.  The site also provides a free guide online for developers to read on how to add accessible features to their game before it’s released. (see http://includification.com/)  Beyond the resources they share, AbleGamers also provides testing feedback to gaming companies to help improve the products created for disabled gamers.

Spohn explains, “We talk to a lot of people who are patients and who think that gaming isn’t for them, that they can’t game, or that they shouldn’t game.  We educate them on the benefits it has.  We recently did research with the Walter Reed Army Hospital and found that veterans who return from war, or who have been injured by war, are 50 percent less-likely to commit suicide under PTSD if they are a part of a gaming community that acts as a close knit support group, much like a unit in an army, working together toward a specific goal.

“Gaming isn’t just for fun, it’s a social skill, and it’s survival,” Spohn continues.  “If you’re disabled, then video games can open a window into an accessible world without any limits."

Craig Kaufman, AbleGamers senior events coordinator explains, “Just being able to make friends online and talk about similar interests and be a part of a community is a special thing.  Online, everyone is the same.  We’re all running around planting virtual gardens and are going on adventurous quests together, so it’s a fun thing to be a part of.”

Beyond the resources they share, AbleGamers also provides testing feedback to gaming companies to help improve the products created for disabled gamers.

That’s what adaptive gaming is all about.  If you’re stuck in a hospital bed or a facility and you can’t reach out, having these games enable you to have freedom, friends and fight battles together on the virtual screen.  Get out and play your best game today!

Lisa

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