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Everyone Can Play

GAME TIME Mark Barlet (seated, facing) of AbleGamers looks on as a hospital patient in New Orleans, Louisiana, uses the Xbox Adaptive Controller in 2018. GREG HAYNES

Clinton Lexa loves video games. But playing them hasn’t always been easy. Lexa was born with a disability. It affects a person’s hands. Lexa usually does tasks and activities, such as playing video games, left-handed. “I taught myself,” Lexa told TIME for Kids. “There was no guide.”

Today, Lexa is a professional gamer and one of many people working to make video games more accessible accessible MJ0007/GETTY IMAGES able to be entered, reached, or used (adjective) They lowered the water fountain so it would be accessible for students in wheelchairs. . Developers developer PW DEVELOPER TOM WERNER—GETTY IMAGES a person who creates software (noun) Studying computers now will help me to become a game developer when I grow up. are helping. They’re creating games with accessibility settings. And companies are designing controllers so people with disabilities can play.

Games for All

When not gaming, Lexa is an accessibility consultant. This means giving feedback to developers about making video games accessible. One project is an adventure game called Celeste. It has an “assist” mode that lets players change the game’s settings. Lexa helped update the mode’s introduction so more people would feel encouraged to use the mode. The result is challenging while being “more inclusive,” Lexa says.

Can I Play That? is a gaming website. It’s run by Courtney Craven. According to Craven, video games are changing. This is thanks to advocates like Lexa. Craven hopes that one day, developers will focus on accessibility. Then advocates won’t be needed. “We want to not have to exist,” Craven says.

Get Connected

Mark Barlet started the AbleGamers Charity. He says people with disabilities often feel alone. “Social isolation is a pandemic,” Barlet says. “Games are this shared experience.”

AbleGamers helps people with disabilities build gaming controllers that work for them. “Our mission is about combating social isolation,” Barlet says. Tools such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which AbleGamers helped design, make this possible.

Craig Kaufman works for AbleGamers. “We basically had to make sure that the industry was . . . focused on including players with disabilities,” he says. “For the longest time, most people didn’t.”