Video Game Accessibility

Three was an important age for me. On top of receiving my first power wheelchair, I also began playing video games. Because I am a quad-amputee, using a standard controller wasn't an option for me. So my dad bought me an arcade-style controller. With that, he had inadvertently changed my life forever.

I grew up playing Super Smash Bros. Until a few years ago, I was completely unaware of the game's competitive scene. When I discovered it, I immediately wanted to be involved. However, competitive environments can be scary for people with disabilities (and able-bodied people, too!). Outside of academia, I never really had the opportunity to engage with other people in a traditionally competitive environment.

The closest I came to having a competitive experience was Challenger League Baseball. My parents did a great job of ensuring that I was involved in the sport. However, as I grew up, I started to feel disconnected from it. For those that aren't familiar, Challenger Baseball uses a "buddy system" where each player would be paired up with an able-bodied "buddy." By assisting with actions like catching, running, throwing, and batting, "buddies" lent us assistance in playing the game.

Kyle playing Challenger League Baseball

So what does Challenger Baseball have to do with video games and accessibility? With Challenger Baseball, like most other areas in my life, I require assistance. As a quad-amputee, performing seemingly mundane tasks like putting on a pair of pants can become exceedingly difficult or impossible. Video games have always been an arena that I could independently navigate. Once my controller is set up, I can play video games by myself. I don't need anyone to adapt the rules or change anything else. In my everyday life, I require assistance to complete a variety of tasks. When I play video games, I can be independent.

Kyle playing Super Smash Bros.

Video games were always something that I enjoyed, especially Super Smash Bros. Gaming can be a great competitive platform for people with disabilities. Like nothing else, video games have the potential to be accessible to both people with disabilities and those without. And because of the internet, this activity is now available to people who are confined to their homes. In this regard, gaming communities present a unique opportunity for people with disabilities. They are not bound to a physical space, which means that people can come together in ways and in places that were previously impossible. In this vein, it becomes obvious that video games can function as both a competitive outlet, and as a means of establishing meaningful relationships.

I'd like to sincerely thank Gamers on The Edge and Zach Funkhouser for providing the gameplay footage seen here.

About the Author


Around the age of one, I contracted bacterial meningitis. When I was three, I began using a power wheelchair. I've always embraced my disability and taken pride in knowing that I was different than my peers. My desire to learn more about disability led me to study critical disability theory both as an undergrad and a graduate student. I've always been passionate about gaming, which influenced me to write my Master's thesis on accessibility and video games as it relates to gamers with disabilities. In my spare time I love competing in local tournaments for Super Smash Bros., reading fantasy and sci-fi novels, and writing.

Kyle's ride is a QUICKIE S-636.

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Date: 7/10/2018 12:00:00 AM

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