Welcome to the Aidis Trust blog. Here you’ll find our posts on assistive technology that are meant to inform and encourage discussion. Feel free to join in!

Why Gaming? The history of the Aidis Trust and gaming

displays a cartoon living room with furniture in a mess caused by the game characters.

We started our gaming service Everyone Can Game in 2014. However, we’ve been helping disabled people game long before then.

For me to answer the question – “Why Gaming?”, I feel I need to delve into my past.

I reckon I am typical of a small number of people my age and many more who are younger than I. Gaming was a pastime, and for a fair while, a way of life. Then I had to find a job!

A job was seen in my eyes, as with many, as careers that were often steeped in history such as accountancy or catering or a supporting role for sectors such as marketing. I never thought that a job could involve something I loved to do in my spare time.

So, I gamed and worked. Leading two separate lives. Then work started to demand more and more of my time to the point that something had to give and gaming drew the short straw. I guess it didn’t pay the bills.

Two worlds collide

Up to this point, I had spent 15 years helping disabled people access technology in order that they could perform a range of tasks. Many of these tasks were dictated by what disabled people or their carers saw as the headline problem they faced in life, such as ‘helping with education’ or ‘helping someone to talk’. All very important applications for technology and ones that we can and do help with.

Generally, it was only when the people with the most severe disabilities sought our help and where the request was ‘they are unable to do anything themselves. Is there something you can do to help?’ that I unknowingly found myself helping them to game.

image shows a hall with about 6 adults and 15 children standing around or sitting at desks. At the desks are projectors and screens and the children are playing computer games together. At the front one child is playing a racing game and using a steering wheel.

I often found myself showing severely disabled people how to play games

Now my idea of gaming was flight sims, life sims, war sims, racing sims and throw in much of the rest, a bit of Mario Cart, Super Bomber Man, a few FPS’s and a whole lot of NHL come to think of it. As I’ve just mentioned, I often found myself showing severely disabled people how they could play games. However, as they needed to be easier to access and sometimes, to understand, due to the nature of their disability, the games didn’t have the complexity and production levels of AAA, blockbuster games, to the point that I didn’t see them as games at all, but of course they were.

It’s crazy to think that I’ve helped severely disabled people to play games for 15 years and never realised it!

A new dawn(ing)

At work, we often sit down and work out ways in which we can help disabled people through technology and it was at one of these sessions that a member of staff came up with dedicating a service to gaming.

This particular member of staff is an avid gamer. He is what I was in part, though we often agree to disagree on this point. Anyway, he said “why don’t we get groups of disabled people and get them gaming TOGETHER”.

My initial thoughts were – that sounds like fun, but this is work, so this is wrong! Then I mentally slapped myself across the face at the realisation of what I just thought – fun is wrong? Of course it isn’t. It should be a right, open to all and we should be helping this happen.

The more we thought about it, the more obvious it seemed and how suited our skill sets were. We have adapted technology so disabled people can access and gain from it since the charity started in 1975, so we can also make sure that everyone can game together, no matter what their disability. Then the same colleague suggested the name for the service – “Everyone Can Game”.

This was all going very well I thought. But I still had an issue with the work/gaming thing. It was then that I realised that we had been helping people game for years. In fact, well into the last century! I explained this to my colleague and he immediately fell into the same trap as I did. When I explained about the types of games we had been using and said “that’s not gaming”.

OK you’re right, they’re gamers

A few months later when we provided a gaming service to a group of severely disabled children and young adults in the Midlands. My colleague witnessed the joy on their faces as they played these simple games together. He heard the laughter and the look on their faces, the cries of enjoyment after winning a game and said “OK you’re right, they’re gamers”.

It is not just severely disabled people we help game though. We help disabled people no matter what the severity of disability. Physical, learning, multiple disabilities, we see no reason to discriminate one from another. Indeed, someone with a mild learning disability may struggle to socialise with others more than someone with a severe disability as gaming can bring people together like nothing else.

Gaming often gets a bad press and this is always written by people who don’t game. People who agree with them don’t game either. We would like to show another view of gaming. A view of gaming that is backed by positive results, to the point where we believe this view becomes fact.

This is an excellent topic for a future post and so it will be just that…..

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