March is Disability Awareness Month in Indiana. I have a lot of passion for Disability Awareness, as it impacts my family on a daily basis. My long-time readers are aware of this, but those of you new to the blog may not. My wife has Multiple Sclerosis and I am her caregiver. I am proud that my home state has a month they focus on awareness and I want to take a moment to speak on disability awareness.
Each March, Disability Awareness Month is celebrated throughout Indiana. And given that adults and children with disabilities represent slightly more than 19 percent of Indiana’s population, disability awareness is important for all of us.
Led by the Indiana Governor’s Council for People with Disabilities, the goal of Disability Awareness Month is to promote the independence, integration, and inclusion of all people with disabilities. The Council develops a unique theme for this annual event and produces campaign materials that are available free of charge to Hoosiers who want to help make a difference.
The 2019 Disability Awareness month campaign theme is “Be Cool. We Are.” No matter the differences between people, it is always better to treat others the way you want to be treated, and this is especially true when interacting with friends, co-workers, and other Hoosiers who live with disabilities. The theme is all about the importance of being comfortable in your own skin and making the conscious decision to be yourself, because acting different around someone with a disability isn’t cool.
Disability may impact you and your loved ones personally, or it might be something you are only peripherally aware of. I want to encourage and challenge each of you in very specific ways.
- Game Designers and Publishers – Please be aware of disabilities as you design and publish your games. Consider things such as color blindness and manual dexterity as you design the components and colors of your games. If your game includes imagery of people, consider representing those with disabilities with someone in a wheelchair, an assistance dog, cane, or other item that visually represents a disability. I realize not every game will be playable or enjoyable for everyone, but just a few minor tweaks like larger fonts, color blind-friendly components, larger components, and representation in games can go a long way to gaining your game and company more fans and customers.
- Game Stores and Game Cafes – Please have ramps into your store and keep your aisles wide enough for a wheelchair (or even a stroller for families). I realize you often have smaller spaces with lots of games and miniatures to shelve. Space management is a challenge. But if you want potential customers to browse, shop, and play games in your location, you have to make the space accessible. Narrow aisles, stacks of game boxes, and precarious displays are impossible for people in a wheelchair to traverse.
- Conventions – Please consider those with disabilities as you prepare for your convention and set up your venue. Not only fulfill the legal requirements for disability accessibility, but consider ways to make your event accessibility-friendly. Everything from registration, to support services, to housing, to exhibitors, to the venue has a significant impact on all your attendees, but especially those with visible and invisible accessibility challenges.
- Personally – Be respectful of those with disabilities, even ones that might not be easily visible upon first glance. I cannot tell you how often we struggle with handicap parking spots being taken by non-accessible tagged vehicles, or full of shopping carts, or full of snow piles. We need those parking spots to be able to safely access our destinations. We are challenged by handicap accessible bathrooms being out of order or too small for a wheelchair. There is also the challenge of people not even seeing my wife in her wheelchair. People try to jump over her feet, bump into the wheelchair when they are not looking, or completely ignoring my wife in her wheelchair and talking over her to me when they are asking questions about her. I ask you to take the time to notice those around you with disabilities and provide them the respect you would like to receive.
As you can see, with just a little effort, you can really include those with disabilities. Please, make the effort to be aware of those around you. From obvious accessibility challenges such as wheelchairs and walkers, to more invisible issues such as chronic fatigue and pain, your efforts and respect can go a long way to making the lives and experiences of others so much better.
Have there been people or organizations that have really made the extra effort toward accessibility awareness? Please thank them personally and perhaps give them a little praise here in the comments for others to hear the story.