For most of us, gaming comes easy. Those who aren’t faced with physical, sensory or cognitive challenges can play anything without worrying whether special controllers are supported, whether the colors are clearly separated, or whether it contains patterns that could trigger an epileptic seizure. But for many, these things are serious concerns. Even something as common as carpal tunnel syndrome — which I suffer from myself — can affect a person’s ability to enjoy games that the rest of the community takes for granted. With video games such a significant part of our culture and online games specifically a vital source of social interaction for some with disabilities that limit their ability to travel, making games that can be enjoyed regardless of these challenges should be an important consideration for game designers.

  Sadly, much like matters of racial and gender representation, these issues all too often fall by the wayside in an industry that’s mostly white, male and conventionally abled.

  The AbleGamers Foundation advocates on behalf of disabled gamers to bring these needs to the attention of those game designers. Based in Charles Town, WV, they maintain a presence both online and at major gaming conventions like PAX. Here in Columbus they hosted a big fundraising event at last year’s Ohio Game Developer Expo alongside fellow charity Extra Life that included tournaments and livestreams.

  They approach their goals in three ways: Through fostering a community of disabled gamers, through consulting with game developers on important accessibility options that should be included in their games, and through grants provided to individuals to purchase assistive technology like special controllers. Their site at provides accessibility-geared reviews of new games and a forum where people can chat with an understanding community and share advice on setting tweaks and hardware modifications. is their developer-geared site with guidelines for making games accessible to as many people as possible.

  Though AbleGamers is based in neighboring West Virginia, they have strong ties to central Ohio: Their Executive Director, Craig Kaufman, lives right here in Columbus. I was recently able to talk to Mr. Kaufman on behalf of the Free Press about the organization itself and what we here in Columbus can do to help.

As a charity, you depend heavily on donations. What does that money fund?

  The donations we get directly support our mission, and allows us to go to disability conventions. At these conventions, we speak with developers to help them make their games more accessible. The donations also help us provide one on one consultations with individuals for accessible technology, as well as provide grants to gamers for custom gaming equipment that is accessible to their individual needs.

You also depend on volunteers. What skills are you looking for in volunteers? What do you need people to help with?

  We are always looking for volunteers to help our cause. The work we do requires a diverse group of volunteers. We are always looking for livestreamers to help us fundraise for our cause online, reviewers to help us write up and review games' accessibility, and medical staff to help us with one on one consultations. People who are interested can register to be in our volunteer database on our site.

What are some of the biggest (or at least best-known) games or developers AbleGamers has provided consultation for?

  AbleGamers has worked with a lot of developers from indie to AAA development. We developed Includification as a full-stop resource for developers to use to make their games more accessible with over 50 pages of examples, case studies, exercises and graphics to help to find what accessibility really is. And while we can’t get into specifics on the games and developers we have worked with due to NDAs, you can see our influence in today’s top games by looking for accessibility features such as colorblind options, control schemes and access to third-party controllers.

You recently overhauled the community part of your site. What are your hopes for that part of the organization?

  We hope that the site becomes a gathering point for gamers with disabilities to help each other with their own technological means. We also aim for it to be a site featuring reviews of all the newest games, with a focus on their accessibility, so that gamers can make informed choices about which games they purchase. Gamers need to be informed consumers on what games they purchase; they need to know if the game is playable for their unique situations.

Do you have any upcoming events planned for the Columbus area?

  Our next big event we will be attending is PAX East in Boston. While our schedule isn’t complete quite yet, we will be at the Ohio Game Dev Expo again this year.