As the industry leans into diversity and inclusion, are disabled people part of that?
Quite often, getting into the gaming industry relies on who you know, how well connected you are to those making decisions about who gets hired, whose content is important, and who is most visible in gaming. It probably won’t come as a surprise to know that when we rely on these things, gaming remains a very white and abled space. Pair this with the fact that as of yet, employment in general has not had its reckoning with ableism and it’s easy to understand why even though 92% of disabled people play video games, we don’t make up a very large portion of the population employed in the gaming industry. Accessible work environments are not very common and as we move toward a new normal with the global pandemic in mind, we can all work to change that.
Here are five ways you can help:
Inclusion on your calendar
1. Look at your calendar every week and see who you aren’t making time for. Does everyone you give your attention to look like you? Have they had similar paths into the industry? Is their general experience of simply existing in gaming spaces similar to yours? Once you have a clear picture of who isn’t getting your time, you can begin to more equitably allot your time and attention.
Accessible meetings and networking
2. Broaden your understanding of networking. There are so many networking opportunities in our industry. Even more so now that we’ve all endured the COVID-19 pandemic. But you know what all of those opportunities both new and old have in common? None of them make it easy to find what accommodations are available. Have you ever heard the saying, If you have to ask how much it costs, you can’t afford it? This same rule can be applied to events and opportunities being accessible. If you have to ask if it’s accessible, it’s probably not. So before you pick your networking method of choice, whether it’s in-person conferences or casual gatherings held on Zoom, ask (both yourself and the hosts) who is being excluded because either the event or platform isn’t accessible.
Diverse content consumption
3. What game-related content are you consuming? If you read industry journalism, does it take an “own voices” approach to telling stories of disabled people? While accessibility and disability in gaming are being discussed more than ever, how many of those stories are written by the people that are actually living those experiences? Of course, it’s wonderful that disabled people are becoming more visible in gaming but it’s even better when we can tell our stories from our own perspectives.
Accessible work environments
4. Champion accessibility not just in games but in employment-related matters too. The pandemic has shown that remote work is absolutely feasible and that many people are happier being able to work from the comfort of home. For disabled people, the flexibility of remote work is necessary for many of us. Whether we need time during the day to tend to daily medical necessities or we have a great doctor or caregiver we simply can’t up and move to Montreal or Seattle without, we all excel at getting our jobs done in the best way that suits our needs. An added bonus to allowing for more flexible and accessible work environments? The untapped innovation that knowing we’re allowed flexibility can afford.
You’re already working with disabled people
5. Last is the easiest thing you can do. Assume that you’re already working with disabled people because with ¼ of the world’s population (over 1 billion people) having a disability, you absolutely are. You just may not know. So what do you do with that assumption? Default to holding your Zoom/Teams meetings with captions turned on all the time. Don’t wait for people to ask because we might feel safer not disclosing our need for them. For important meetings with topics people may need to revisit later, if HR and legal allow it, make a transcript available for people to read later and highlight or use to jog their memory. Follow accessible document practices when creating PDFs and other documents. Last but not least, hold accessible meetings by not allowing interruptions, not requiring vocal input and paying attention to chat as well, and keeping track of who isn’t participating and making space for them to do so in a way that best suits them.
Creating inclusive and accessible work environments goes far beyond just doing what’s required by law and these are just a few of the ways you can foster better inclusion and accessibility at your studio or office! Want to learn even more ways to foster inclusion and accessibility at work? Check out our workshop offerings!