Disability and the Power of Gaming: Four Organizations or Groups That Should Be on Your Radar
As both a passionate hardcore gamer, and somebody with a disability, the first time I discovered that there was a whole world of people out there that were using the power of gaming to accomplish some real good in the world, including for those with disabilities, it made me proud. Too often people who aren't associated with the gaming world look at us from the outside and assume that our hobby does nothing but harm, or is "just lazy," and it's great to see folks actively disprove such rhetoric. With that in mind, here are four names that you should keep your eye on if you're interested in gaming outreach and disability aid:
1. Extra Life
While not tied exclusively to disability aid, the Extra Life charity was my first introduction to the concept of using gaming as an outreach tool. Extra Life focuses on helping kids with medical issues of all kinds, by raising funds for the Children's Miracle Network of hospitals, which just so happens to include Primary Children's Medical Center, the very hospital to which I owe both my life, and the ability to enjoy it to the extent which I do today. They're a great group, and I encourage you to check them out. I've participated twice in their summer games marathon drive, and will likely do so for at least a few more years to come.
Shout out to the folks across the pond! SpecialEffect is a seriously awesome charity in the UK that works to create adaptive input devices for those whose level of disability impairs their ability to enjoy gaming in a traditional fashion. Whether this involves a simple controller modification, or a complete, custom solution, if its within their means, the folks at SpecialEffect will do their very best to deliver, because they understand the massive benefits both socially and physically that videogames can have on people with severe physical limitations. Check them out at the link above.
While Ability Powered Gaming has a simple goal, it accomplishes that goal very well: be one of, if not the best resources on the web for accessible gaming, whether that be reviewing games with simpler control schemes, linking to add-ons and extensions to make an otherwise unfriendly game work within someone's physical limitations, or linking both players and developers to outside resources to help engender an overall better gaming landscape for the disabled. As a Web developer myself, I appreciate its clean and simple approach, as well as its ability to be such a comprehensive source on the topic. For more information outside of what's covered in this article, their website should arguably be the first place you look.
The AbleGamers Foundation serves as a social portal for gamers with disabilities to connect and communicate, a resource for developers on how to better create accessible games, and an outreach organization providing grants for adaptive technologies, much like SpecialEffect above. They offer free consultations to developers, both AAA and indie alike, as well as a comprehensive guide to better educate them on the sort of best practices that should be implemented in order to create the most inclusive gaming experience possible. Managing to do all of these things at once is pretty impressive, and just for that fact alone, they most certainly deserve your attention. Their website can be found at the link above.
For more recommended reading on the marriage of gaming with charity, check out this other GameSkinny piece on Operation: Supply Drop.