When I graduated from high school, I, like many others, was worried about my future. The only work I had done previously was a paid career training course, as a summer temp job. I tried applying for a job at a telemarketing company, since I had experience dealing with advanced speech software on computers. They said I was overqualified, but they simply didn’t have the resources to accommodate for my disability at the workplace. That hit hard. Online colleges weren’t working out either, and I had just aged out of protective children services. I wanted to get a job, but I didn’t know how to go about getting one or if it was even possible for someone like me.
About me and gaming
My name is Mike Matlock. I require the use of a wheelchair due to the genetic disorder I was born with, Spinal Muscular Atrophy. Although I can feel many sensations, I can’t move my arms or legs. This seriously limited what I could do overall, but I found some support in the world of video games.
Whether it was a story-driven RPG like Final Fantasy or a horror game like Resident Evil, games were so much fun to me. Regardless of my mobility, they made me feel like an equal among my able-bodied peers. Video games also made me feel strong, and they helped me get through some of the hardest parts of my life.
As video games became more advanced over the years, so did their control schemes. This made playing them much more difficult with my disability. Unsurprisingly, accessibility in games became a priority for me. So I decided to write about accessibility online and make video essays about my experiences in gaming. It gave me an outlet for my passion and made me feel less isolated. It wasn’t easy, though. For a while I earned some cash learning web design, then creating sites for friends and family. Building websites took a good bit of effort, but it was a beneficial skill to master and I enjoyed getting creative in a digital space. Still, I didn’t have a real job with consistent pay, and buying games monthly isn’t cheap, especially living on a fixed income.
In my early twenties, I met Josh and his awesome team of disabled editors at DAGERSystem. I wanted to bring more awareness to accessibility, and Josh’s crew were already doing just that. They were changing the gaming industry and shining a light on the needs of disabled players. Their message felt authentic because they were seeking editors with a perspective on gaming through real disabled experiences. Josh saw something in me and encouraged me to fine-tune my skills as a journalist. Through volunteer work, I felt a purpose burgeoning within me knowing I was helping other disabled gamers.
I learned so many things about different kinds of disabilities, and through my work I cultivated a humble following. This gave me the courage to become a public speaker and the opportunity to become an accessibility consultant. Actually getting to work with developers and contribute to the accessibility in a game was a dream come true for me!
Then in my thirties, I became an officially paid member of the team, and we merged with another powerhouse in the accessibility world, CIPT. Through Josh’s years of hard work, publisher support, and generous donations, the company was able to start paying for some of the articles we wrote. I feel deep accomplishment for the volunteer work I’ve done over the years, writing articles about accessibility in gaming. Still, it was also nice to see my hard work recognized in this way and with the huge benefit of payment. CIPT gave me my first real job and it’s given me opportunities to become much more independent.
What employment means to me
Having consistent employment hugely impacts my life on a daily basis. If I’m being honest, I often worry about losing my disability benefits because of the arbitrary way the government works. Unfortunately, it’s a fear I’ve always had. For that reason, I often feel a big pressure to be as self-sufficient as possible in a world that doesn’t often have resources for the disabled. As recently as last month, I was dealing with a defective seat cushion for my wheelchair. Getting paid for the articles that I write gave me the option to order a temporary cushion, while I waited for the wheels of bureaucracy to turn. Without employment, I would still be suffering in pain.
Being an employee of CIPT also greatly improves my mental health. Having some extra income alleviates some of the anxiety that comes with having a severe disability. I have more options to buy things I want and not just the things I need. Though I occasionally have the privilege to receive review codes from publishers, getting paid frees up my budget so I don’t have to ration the games I buy every month. In turn, I have a better work ethic and I can focus on sharpening my writing skills. This employment was instrumental in starting my career as a disabled gaming journalist. I’m so thankful that I can work for a company that is dedicated to accessibility and employees disabled people like me, improving our lives for the better!
Mike and the rest of our team work tirelessly to support the millions of disabled people across the country that benefit from a more accessible world. Help support our team by donating at AbilityPoints.com/Donate.