AbleGamers Levels Up for the Disabled

Overview Consumer electronics and software play a pivotal role in our everyday lives, providing us with a range of tools and devices that help us connect, create and experience the world in new ways. Makers of such influential technology must recognize and focus their power for shaping a more accessible world. That's where AbleGamers comes in. Here’s our story – where we started, what we do and how we make a difference.

AbleGamers is a nonprofit organization that strives to improve the overall quality of life for people with disabilities through the power of video games. These games are a unique medium for storytelling, social connection and mental stimulation. But for many individuals with disabilities, traditional gaming systems and devices can pose a barrier.
We at AbleGamers believe in breaking down these barriers. We work tirelessly to ensure that everyone, regardless of disability, can participate in the immersive world of gaming. We offer one-on-one support for people with disabilities through our Peer Counseling program, and other services to promote accessibility, as well as awareness and credentials for game developers through our Accessible Player Experiences (APX) certification program. May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and the social connections that come from gaming can be the main source of social activity for a profoundly disabled person. As we all know, socializing brings positive mental health benefits to us all.

Adapting Programs to Turbulent Times

Speaking of these programs, the last two years have been all about change. The pandemic brought about a radical transformation for AbleGamers. It was an unexpected catalyst, pushing us toward changes we were apprehensive about, yet that ultimately led us to a higher ground. As we look back on this journey, we can't help but acknowledge the silver lining that emerged from those turbulent years.
Our Peer Counseling system was one of the first things we had to restructure. This is our lifeblood, the core of our mission where we work personally with individuals with disabilities, paving paths for them in the gaming world. The pandemic pushed us to enthusiastically embrace online technologies. We innovated and evolved to ensure our mission didn't skip a beat.

Turning Adversity Into Opportunity

Weeks before the pandemic started, we were launching our APX certification program. This educational initiative was designed to arm game developers with the knowledge and tools needed to create truly inclusive gaming experiences.
Two weeks before the world came to a standstill through a raft of quarantines, I was with noted educator and gaming researcher Dr. Chris Power in the heart of Montreal. We were working closely with a top-tier gaming design studio, and were days away from training the creative minds at Activision Blizzard when our forward momentum came to a sudden stop.
What followed was an intense period of adaptation. We reimagined our training program, transforming it into a remote learning experience. We were building the plane while flying it, creating an infrastructure to distribute training materials, and dealing with a whirlwind of moving parts that we hadn't anticipated. It was a trial by fire, but the outcome was nothing short of a phoenix rising from the ashes.
The revamped remote training program opened up a world of possibilities, making our training accessible to even more developers. We have trained more than 500 developers as of the start of 2023.  Despite the tumultuous times, we found a way to turn the tide, creating a stronger and more resilient AbleGamers. As we opened back up, we have had internal discussions about offering the class in-person again, and have opted to keep it largely remote.
All of this transformation was powered by technology. To the members of CTA, we invite you to join us in this mission. Consider the potential impact of designing your products with accessibility in mind from the ground up. Doing so not only broadens your consumer base, but it also creates a more inclusive world where everyone can share in the joy and benefits of gaming and electronic interaction.
We believe that with your expertise in consumer electronics, and our dedication to accessibility, we can pave the way for a future where everyone, regardless of their physical capabilities, can game and connect with others. This isn't just about good business, it's about creating a more inclusive and understanding world.

A Note From CTA Foundation: Helping Those Who Help Others

Organizations like AbleGamers change lives for millions of Americans affected by age-related and other disabilities. The CTA Foundation supports their work, and is proud to profile AbleGamers. The Foundation also granted AbleGamers equipment and funding that helped this scrappy nonprofit launch its Powered By AbleGamers program. Mark and his team are making a difference, gaining the attention of gaming leaders, among them CTA members Microsoft and Sony. These companies are working with AbleGamers on accessible controllers, developer certifications and more.