Interview with Craig Kaufman, Senior Events Manager for AbleGamers
While at MAGFest this past weekend, I encountered a booth for a charity known as the AbleGamers Foundation. AbleGamers, according to their website, is "a 501(C)(3) nonprofit public charity" founded by Mark Barlet and Stephanie Walker in 2004 "that aims to improve the overall quality of life for those with disabilities through the power of video games." Why video games in particular, you ask? Well, as they go on to explain:
Video games allow individuals with disabilities to experience situations that may be difficult or limited in the real world, provide social networking opportunities to maintain mental and emotional health, and participate in one of the world’s largest pastimes.
AbleGamers works and advocates on behalf of the disability community to increase the accessibility of video games and to achieve further inclusion by those who need special considerations.
I got in touch with Craig Kaufman, the Senior Events Manager for AbleGamers, and asked him a few questions about the charity, how they're reaching out to the gaming community, and how video games can become accessible for all gamers.
Zanne Nilsson: What is your role at AbleGamers? What responsibilities do you have?
Craig Kaufman: I am the Program Director of The AbleGamers Charity. My main responsibility in the organization is to coordinate events such as going to gaming conventions for outreach, and heading our fundraising initiatives. I also get to work directly with game developers to help them add some extra accessibility options to their games.
ZN: How did you first get involved with AbleGamers? What about them interested you?
CK: One morning I woke up with a severe case of Torticollis - my neck was stuck to the side and I wasn’t able to move my right arm more than a few inches without excruciating pain. My Torticollis situation lasted for about 8 months, after a few communications with Mark from AbleGamers I decided to host a 24 hour Gears of War stream to raise funds for the charity. After the event Mark the founder, emailed me to tell me we raised enough to buy a child with Multiple sclerosis a controller, after that email I decided I wanted to do more.
ZN: What kind of events does AbleGamers have a presence at?
CK: AbleGamers attends many events from gaming and tech to accessibility events. At gaming events we work with our partners in the industry to spread our message, either at our booth or on panels. AbleGamers also gives talks at various tech events speaking directly to developers and engineers so accessibility for people with disabilities is considered from start to finish. We often go to disability events with a full setup of video games and assistive tech allowing us to welcome new players to gaming for the first time. The full list of events we offer is posted on our site and we’d love for people to swing by.
ZN: What do you wish gamers and developers knew about video game accessibility?
CK: A lot of what goes into video game accessibility is good game design practices. AbleGamers has a guide online for free that developers can check out at http://includification.com/ and we are always willing to answer questions that may come up.
ZN: Is there anything more that our readers could do to support AbleGamers?
CK: There are many ways readers can get involved, from hosting their own fundraiser, to make a donation or by simply following us on Twitter. Helping us spread the word of accessibility on social media shows the industry that there is a lot of support for the work we do.
ZN: Anything else you'd like our readers to know about AbleGamers or its mission?
CK: AbleGamers always has initiatives and events coming up, the best place to see what we are doing and where we will be is by following us at @AbleGamers or facebook.com/ablegamers.