Paul van der Made is a disabled gamer from the Netherlands who is recovering
from neurological damage resulting from a cerebral hemorrhage in late 2013. The former 30-year-old community manager at CoolerMaster enrolled his former employers to sponsor the very first E-Sports event targeted specifically for disabled gamers. The Accessibility Foundation is known for its Game Accessibility Project, which managed the event, providing location and logistical services, while CoolerMaster provided "PCs, monitors, keyboards and mouses (sic), as well all the [other] hardware and software needed," according to Accessibility Foundation member Erik Schotman, who worked closely with van der Made and CoolerMaster to arrange this event for the four disabled players who managed to show up.
While the organizers found it said that they couldn't have as many gamers as they would have liked, especially after several cancellations, they are ready considering planning their next event, as this one "turned out to be more of a fun LAN party… Instead of real tournament," according to Schotman. most impressive was that the two primary games played were League of Legends and Counterstrike: Global Offensive, in which the four attendees managed to wipe up the floor with the event's organizers, all in good fun.
"Anthony, Enzo, Janneke and Paul all had a certain kind of disability which is not really mentionable since they all kicked my *** with every single game…" said Schotman. What makes this event newsworthy is that it was the first gaming competition (despite the light competition) geared toward disabled players. An electronic 'Special Olympics,' if you will. The Accessibility Foundation is looking to hold another event just like this one come February, though it intends to have a more structured competition catered to a larger audience.
So, now that ground has been broken in disabled-player videogame competitions, what will the future hold? Will we be seeing similar events from groups like AbleGamers or SpecialEffect, seeing hundreds of gamers pitting their adaptive equipment against each other in League of Legends or DOTA 2? Will small groups of disabled gamers spend together to form disabled-only teams? I think the deeper question would be whether or not it would be a good idea to let disabled people have their own competition, or encourage them to continue competing against the able-bodied. Both viewpoints have merit, and I'm reminded of the South African amputee distance runner who recently made waves in the Olympics because he was able to use his orthotic legs, which some might argue gave him an unfair advantage. Ultimately, the difference in viewpoint lies in whether or not the disabled person wants to embrace what makes them different or strive to be like everyone else, and this is a decision that can only be made by the disabled gamer.
I, for one, look forward to trying my meager League of Legends skills against all comers, and if you have a disability, I advise you to do the same. You can get more information regarding The Accessibility Foundation's next competition in February by emailing Erik Schotman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The lanes are accessible, but it's up to us to push them.