A new initiative has hit ‘play’ in helping the Australian and New Zealand games industry become more accessible.
Accessibility Unlocked is hoping to bridge the gap, where disabled game developers experience a lack of support, by creating resources, starting conversations, fostering a supportive community and making games playable for all.
Co-founders of Accessibility Unlocked, Meredith Hall from Australia and Cameron Hopkinson from New Zealand, met online and soon realised they were both trying to get similar initiatives off the ground in their respective countries.
“We both were able to involve people we knew who were disabled and had expressed similar interests, as well as a few supportive abled friends [and] we ended up with a group of about eight of us and got going,” Meredith explains.
“While there has been a number of initiatives to help diversify this notoriously non-inclusive industry, there has yet to be a major push to tackle the often unique challenges that many disabled developers face.
“Our hope with Accessibility Unlocked is to help address some of these issues in the local area and perhaps start discussions about how to best support disabled creators in the broader industry.”
Meredith says internalised ableism, causing feelings of frustration, guilt, shame, exhaustion and fear, can be isolating.
“Our hope is that it will offer a place of companionship, support, friendliness, resources, and, hopefully, more long-term opportunities to break down stereotypes and improve access for both disabled developers and disabled players who love games.”
Cameron says the team has some exciting ideas in the works, including resources, events and raising awareness of what’s happening locally and internationally in the accessibility space, but says it’s important to ensure people with disability are at the forefront.
“We're acutely aware that we're dealing with a group of marginalised people, and we want to make sure we take every step to protect them and support them in this process, so we're taking everything one day at a time to ensure we have the proper procedures and codes of conduct in place to protect our community,” Cameron explains.
“We also want to make sure we're providing the right resources, so a big part of starting slow is to let the community vote and decide what they feel they want and need from us.”
The response to Accessibility Unlocked so far has been described as “overwhelming.”
“We've had [direct messages], emails, retweets, sign-ups … so many people have already expressed thanks and excitement and that's honestly the best part, that it's being recognised as something people genuinely want, and that they feel it will help them,” Meredith says.
“That's all we want to do.”
The team hasn’t received any funding yet.
“We all really believe in the work we're doing so thanks to the core team and our contributors, we've already managed to get something special off the ground,” Cameron says.
To find out more head to the Accessibility Unlocked website.