When avid gamer and disabled veteran Mark Barlet received the news that a friend had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, he turned the calamity into an opportunity to help out. Guided by his passion for video games, Mark started AbleGamers, a charity that uses gaming to help the disabled experience things in a virtual world that might be impossible to them in the real world.
Mark talks about how AbleGamers began and what they do:
This year, AbleGamers showed the world the difference they’ve made by celebrating 25 years of disability rights at the Smithsonian ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Festival.
Here’s Mark on gaming as a kid, the evolution of the ADA and forming relationships with his fellow gamers.
On growing up as a gamer: “I was the first person on my block to have a NES. It was the version that came with Robbie the Robot. Also, every waking moment I wasn’t on duty in the Air Force I was in my dorm gaming.”
On his favorite games: “I loved Star Wars Galaxies before the company “updated” it. I also love SIM games like SimCity 4 and Cities: Skylines.”
On AbleGamers contribution to the ADA: “The ADA was crafted back in 1990 when we were still trying to help people with disabilities get into buildings—stuff that’s so simple today. Now we have charities like AbleGamers helping people with disabilities play video games—that’s accessibility at the cutting edge.”
On the highlight of the Smithsonian ADA Festival: “I got a selfie with Senator Harkin, who crafted the ADA 25 years ago. Sharing AbleGamers’ mission with him was great. He also asked if playing Candy Crush made him a gamer: It does.”
On helping the community before themselves: “We’re only ten people, but we’re so mission focused. The needs of our community far outweigh the funds we have, so 94% of what we bring in goes back out.”
On forming relationships with gamers: “I have more true friends than anyone deserves. But because we’re a charity that focuses on disabilities, I’ve also lost more friends than anyone should ever have to. It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone you’ve gamed with.”
Learn more about AbleGamers at www.ablegamers.com.
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