Level Up: Disability Employment in Gaming

Gaming and Inclusion. Photos of gamers with disabilities

By Grant Stoner

As a medium, video games allow us to remain connected. Whether it’s long-distance relationships or friendships, or the inability to physically or cognitively access a space, gaming is crucial in creating lifelong memories. And for some individuals, it’s one of the few mediums that anyone can explore, regardless of disability. According to Xbox, approximately 429 million players globally have some form of a disability.

The gaming industry is multifaceted through the opportunities it provides to both consumers and employees. From varying roles in studios, to content creation and media, there are numerous jobs to satisfy an array of interests. For disabled people especially, the capability to work fully remote, as well as create your own position in a massive industry is crucial for accessibility and independence. For this story, we spoke with a disabled streamer, member of the press, and consultant to explore why they work in gaming, the ways in which it could be more accessible, and their hopes for the future of employment for disabled individuals in this industry.

Mollie Evans

Mollie “LittleMoTac” Evans is a content creator and DE&I consultant who regularly streams on platforms like Twitch, YouTube, and TikTok. For Evans, her career in streaming was a direct result of inaccessibility in her previous job. Yet, despite the independence, being a content creator can still be demanding, especially for a disabled individual.

Mollie, with long blue hair sits in a gaming chair, and they are giving the peace sign“Streaming is both accessible and not accessible,” Evans said. “The streaming part itself is accessible, in that it allows me to make my own schedule, and I can work it around my disabilities. However, the inaccessible part is the demand for content creators to constantly be networking, attending events and continuously pushing out content. I cannot attend events, and if I can they’re incredible stressful, so all my work networking has basically been done online, which thankfully is becoming a more acceptable side of content creation.”

Aside from the challenges of growing and maintaining connections and an audience, disabled streamers and content creators need to purchase most, if not all their own equipment. Sponsorships and viewers are all dependent on what content you create, how often you go live, and the quality of broadcasts. It’s a career that can be physically, cognitively, and financially demanding. However, it provides unique methods to directly promote views, knowledge, and expertise on topics that each creator intimately understands. And for Evans, that means using streams and videos to educate about the disabled experience.

“Disability, for me, is such an integral part of who I am and my life. I don’t have a choice to hide how it affects me, and so I have been very open about it from very early on in my time streaming and creating content,” she said. “I have always been very open about my symptoms, and how they affect me on the day-to-day, especially as invisible disabilities are still so often disregarded. I feel like it was important for me to be open about it. A lot of my content now focuses on accessibility and disability in gaming, but also about inclusion of marginalized people in gaming in general.”

While streaming can always be more inclusive, especially through sponsored events pertaining to disabled communities, Evans can have a career in games because of her platform.

Antonio Martínez

Editor In Chief and Mobility Editor for Game Accessibility Nexus, Antonio Martínez creates and edits articles pertaining to accessibility and the disabled experience in games. Martínez’ stories help to inform disabled individuals about potential barriers they may experience with games. With a passion for writing, he is hopeful that his stories can educate, and occasionally protect disabled consumers. However, as a disabled member of the press, he regularly encounters his own inaccessible hurdles while trying to produce work for the public.

Antonio, wearing glasses and a blue shirt smiling “I must say over the years it has become less and less accessible for me,” Martínez said. “SMA (Spinal Muscular Atrophy) causes strength, endurance and mobility loss as time passes. I can’t use a physical keyboard as I used to, so it’s been years now with an on-screen keyboard. Voice dictation doesn’t work well for me due to my voice being inconsistent, not to mention my accent. In English it can go from totally wrong to acceptable. In Spanish, my native language, it works better.”

Beyond the lack of physical stamina and accessible technology, being a journalist dedicated exclusively to accessibility can be difficult. Despite the increased innovations across most AAA and Indie studios, establishing connections with PR companies and their respective studios is a constant struggle to prove the importance of highlighting accessible information. And when review codes are distributed, Martínez needs to consistently play, write, or edit to provide accurate information. Sometimes, as he notes, this can include stories with “over 4000+ words and that’s draining.” Yet, he is proud of the work he accomplishes, and is hopeful that more stories and more exposure will lead to opportunities for disabled journalists.

“I hope we get the chance to write in more mainstream media, about games, accessibility, disability, or any subject,” he said. “Disability is always part of our lives, and nobody is better than us to speak about things that we experience daily, but we are more than that. Limiting us to certain subjects is not fair. We have the same interests and hobbies as anyone else, disabled or not. Sports, history, science, entertainment, social issues, you name it.”

As accessibility knowledge and implementation continues to grow in gaming, journalists are desperately needed to cover these important topics. Martínez and others are opening career opportunities with every story.

Paul Lane

Accessibility consultant, Paul Lane has credits in some of the most accessible AAA titles. From The Last of Us, to Marvel’s Spider-Man 2, Lane’s career in consulting is only possible because of his lived experience as a physically disabled individual.

Paul wearing a beanie and a lanyard around his neck. He is using his wheelchair at a convention“What drew me to consulting was the opportunity to leverage my unique perspective as both an able-bodied and disabled gamer to improve the gaming experience for others,” Lane said. “I can share the frustrations I’ve faced as a disabled gamer and use that knowledge to advocate for better accessibility features. Companies and studios that I work with go the extra mile to make sure I have everything I need to succeed.”

As his career evolved, Lane was sought by studios to provide his unique expertise to accessibility. And as accessibility grew in popularity, particularly in gaming, other tech companies took notice, offering Lane roles to help make their products and businesses accessible. As the world becomes increasingly aware of accessibility and disabled individuals, Lane is hopeful more accessible consulting opportunities will arise for disabled people, especially in gaming.

“There is a growing awareness of disability rights and inclusion, which is creating a greater demand for accessibility consulting services,” he said. “I hope to see a future where disabled consultants have equal opportunities to succeed in the consulting industry. This includes having access to training, mentorship, and leadership opportunities.”

Streaming, media, and consultancy are only some of the opportunities that disabled individuals can explore for work in gaming. However, even with the increased awareness, accessibility and disabled inclusion still requires constant learning and understanding. While it’s great to see more disabled people enter the workforce, better resources, tools, and assistants are required before we can truly claim gaming is an inclusive industry.

Grant Stoner is a disabled journalist covering accessibility and the disabled perspective in the gaming industry. When not writing, he is usually screaming about Pokémon or his cat, Goomba, on social media.

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