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Accessible Fun: Technology Isn't Just for Business

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Most websites and apps are geared for business and productivity. However, there are a sizable number of websites and apps that are focused on entertainment and fun. It is just as important that these should also be accessible to all users.

This is not a blog post about how to make these things accessible. As a totally blind technology user, I’m writing this post about why fun sites must also be accessible.

You may see gaming as a frivolous thing. Sure, it’s not the end of the world if a person can’t play Candy Crush, but it would be a big problem if they couldn’t access their finances independently. However, because gaming is such a rich part of our worldwide Internet culture, it is important for users to be able to play these games.

I would like to bring you back to 2009. I was in my first year of high school. I finally thought I had a group of friends who had accepted me; we were doing the kinds of activities kids did together: swimming, roller coasters, and so much more.

But then, on December 11, 2009, everything changed. Suddenly, I was alone again. I lost all my friends, I was reduced to eating alone at the lunch table, and nobody would have anything to do with me. You might be asking: What happened to cause this sudden emptiness?

Rest assured, it was nothing I had done. It came down to 2 words: Angry Birds. Yes. That extremely addicting game that helped to mold a generation of mobile gaming addicts. Or, I should say, most of a generation. There was a gigantic segment of the population that was left out of not just Angry Birds, but all the successors in the gaming fad world: Candy Crush, Flappy Bird, Pokemon Go, and so many others.

By now you should know who I’m talking about: users with disabilities. These games were designed to engage your eyes, ears, hands, and every other part of your body. But if you were missing one critical part, then that was it. No gaming for you. We did have games that were specifically designed for us, but they were by no means as fun or addicting, and of course, we couldn’t play those with our friends.

What the accessible games have done, however, is show that gaming can be accessible for everyone. If you go to www.audiogames.net, you will find many games that are accessible to the blind. There are comparable games out there for many other types of disabilities. These games show that it is possible to make conventional games accessible to those who are blind, deaf, deaf-blind, low vision, live with physical and cognitive disabilities, and other combinations of disabilities.

It really only takes a little extra effort to ensure that online games are accessible to everyone. By not making that effort, the game developers exclude a large segment of the population from being able to play. And in our current culture, games are not just games: they have become a critical part of the social fabric of our world. They create a common experience, give us topics of conversation, and become analogies for life in the real world.

When people living with disabilities are excluded, we are excluded not only from the games themselves, but from the iconic moments that they provide for our society, as well as the social events and gatherings that are centered around them. And most of all, we are excluded from participating in a large part of the world around us.

Although this may seem trite, consider this when developing your game: Everyone wants to play, so don’t leave anyone on the sidelines.

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