Celebrating Veterans Day through the Lens of AbleGamers: Making Gaming Accessible for All

A bubble with "Thank You Veterans. Honoring all who served" with a flag and stars.

By: Mark Barlet, Founder of AbleGamers

As Veterans Day draws near, I find myself reflecting on two pivotal chapters in my life. First, my time as an Airman in the United States Air Force, and second, my ongoing journey with AbleGamers. These two experiences, though seemingly worlds apart, are deeply intertwined, each echoing the themes of resilience, adaptability, and the unyielding drive to build a world where everyone can partake in the enchantment of video games.

My Journey: From Serving the Nation to Serving the Gaming Community

During my tenure in the military, I was a firsthand witness to the profound sacrifices made by countless individuals. Each of us faced distinct challenges, but a shared sense of purpose bound us together. My military service was cut short due to an accident, leaving me disabled and looking for a new normal. The resilience and adaptability I honed during those years became invaluable cornerstones for the work I embarked upon with AbleGamers.

In 2004, a close friend and wife to a fellow veteran I introduced her to had a life-altering diagnosis that threatened the joy and connection video gaming once brought. It was at that moment that the vision for AbleGamers crystallized. I saw an undeniable need – not only for my dear friend but for millions worldwide. Just as the military creed dictates leaving no one behind, my aspiration for AbleGamers was rooted in the belief that no gamer should ever be excluded from the experiences games bring.

The Significance of Gaming and Why Accessibility Matters

To many, gaming transcends being a mere hobby. It serves as a lifeline—a gateway to connection, escapism, and the exploration of realms beyond our reality. For veterans, especially those grappling with post-service physical or mental challenges, gaming can offer therapeutic solace and a comforting sense of community. I’m pleased to announce that, this year, the Veterans Administration (VA) has started to see the value of gaming. The Cleveland, OH VA has partnered with AbleGamers to support our Service-Disabled Veterans in their quest to game. We hope this is the start of something amazing.

Yet, absent the necessary accessibility features, a sizable segment of our society, including numerous veterans, remain sidelined. This isn’t merely about gaming; it’s a call for inclusion, mental well-being, and the unequivocal right to engage fully in chosen pursuits.

AbleGamers: Championing a More Inclusive Horizon

At the helm of AbleGamers, we tirelessly advocate for a gaming realm accessible to all. We champion inclusive game design, extend grants for assistive technologies, and collaborate closely with developers to ensure the gaming landscape is welcoming and inclusive for all, irrespective of physical or cognitive capabilities.

As a Service-Disabled veteran, the significance of our work, especially its resonance with fellow servicemen and women, is a source of immense pride. Gaming can be an invaluable refuge for those transitioning to civilian life, healing from injuries, or seeking camaraderie with fellow veterans. Our endeavors are aimed at guaranteeing every veteran, and indeed every individual can partake in the therapeutic and communal joys of gaming.

Veterans Day: A Time of Reflection and Forward Vision

This Veterans Day, as we reverently honor the valiant men and women who’ve served and those who continue to do so, let us also underscore the importance of inclusivity in every facet of life—including gaming. Let us commit to a world where everyone, especially our veterans, has uninhibited access to life’s many joys.

To my fellow veterans: Your service is the epitome of valor. To the expansive gaming community: Let’s collectively endeavor for an ever-inclusive, embracing future.

Here’s to a future without barriers, where everyone can game.

Mark Barlet is the founder of AbleGamers, a trailblazing non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the quality of life for those with disabilities through the medium of video games. His valiant service as a Service-Disabled veteran in the U.S. Air Force, coupled with his unwavering commitment to inclusion in gaming, stands as a testament to his dedication to forging a difference.

Your support made this smile possible.

AbleGamers Peer Councilors and all of our Powered by AbleGamers Partners work one-on-one with each and every person. This is not a one-size-fits-all solution, but a tailored experience to enable joy in someone’s life. Donate today to help us continue enabling play for people with disabilities.