61 million adults in the United States live with a disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, while those who have a disability face a variety of challenges, often on a daily basis, video games may be helping to make life a bit easier – both physically and mentally – for a number of people. From how they can be used as a helpful resource in supplementing treatments to how they can actively present a welcome escape from reality, here’s what you need to know.
A powerful resource
Learning disabilities are common, with 6.1 million children in the United States living with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a learning disability that is often managed with prescribed medication in order to reduce learning challenges. However, when it comes to playing a video game, just doing so for 25 minutes a day may actually help to address gaps in pharmacological interventions and behavioral therapies for students with learning disabilities, according to one study. However, those with a disability such as cerebral palsy may benefit from playing video games in another way entirely. Generally defined as being a disability that involves impaired muscle coordination which results in difficulty with movement and posture, the disability is often treated through the use of specific cerebral palsy resources like physical therapy, in addition to medication, and sometimes even surgery. In terms of video games, though, playing may be a useful training tool in addition to physical therapy to increase fine motor skills and coordination, thus making it a potentially useful resource for boosting the effects of others.
An escape for many
In addition to video games providing benefits that can physically help some disabilities, they can also provide a much-needed escape for many people living with a disability. This is because playing a video game often allows those with disabilities to do things in the game that they can’t in real life, although the escapism goes even deeper than that. Because online video games help people to connect with one another, gaming can help you to stay socialized, as well as aid in overcoming social anxiety and help to alleviate feelings of loneliness and depression. Groups such as Detroit Gamers, for instance, a streaming community that includes people from all over the country with disabilities, is just one example that highlights the positive support that gaming can bring.
Due to the varying benefits that gaming holds for those who live with disabilities, there have been a number of advancements in order to make playing much more accessible. One prime example of this is that of the Xbox Adaptive Controller from Microsoft, which allows players to customize the way that they play with the controller — for example, someone who may not have full use of their hands may feel more comfortable using the controller with their feet, and the adaptive controller allows that to happen. Similarly, players can also mount the controller to a wheelchair or table in order to make playing more practical and comfortable. And, due to the enormous benefits that the controller can bring, Microsoft and the US Department of Veterans Affairs announced a collaboration to provide the controller (in addition to another gaming tech) to 22 VA rehab centers across the country.
Gaming is a favorite pastime for many people, but for those living with a disability, there’s much more to video games than meets the eye. From social escape to the physical benefits that gaming can bring, innovations in technology are working to increase accessibility and highlight the importance that gaming holds for many.