Skip to main content
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
Canada’s most-awarded newsroom for a reason
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Mark Barlet, President of the AbleGamers Foundation, right, started the foundation in 2005 after seeing how difficult, expensive and frustrating it can be to experience the pleasures that many gamers take for granted. “These are real-life things for us.”

Disabled Canadians gamers are finally getting a chance to try-before-they-buy with the opening of the Accessibility Arcade at the University of Toronto starting April 26.

Housed in the Semaphore Research Cluster at the university's Robarts Library, the Arcade will showcase the latest technology and controllers that allow people with disabilities to play popular console and PC games such as Call of Duty or Assassin's Creed. After this weekend's public open house, the permanent installation will be accessible by appointment (for this weekend's event you can register here).

"This is a testament to the university's commitment to people with disabilities in Canada," says Mark Barlet, founder of the AbleGamers Foundation, the West Virginia-based charity behind the Arcade.

Story continues below advertisement

Custom-made controllers for gamers with such disabilities as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis are expensive, often running between $400 and $900. Mr. Barlet says he has received many e-mails from people who have bought the controllers, only to find that they don't fit their specific needs.

"Our biggest fear as an organization was that someone would see a video on the web, drop all that money and then get it in their house and not be able to use it," he says. "Being disabled is kind of expensive and many people are on fixed incomes, so these are luxury goods."

At the Arcade, specially trained staff will assess individual gamers' needs and advise them on the best equipment to buy, which can also include special software for sensory issues.

Mr. Barlet's backgound fuels his mission: He is an avid gamer, a disabled war vet and has a sister with MS. He started AbleGamers in 2005 after seeing how difficult, expensive and frustrating it can be to experience the pleasures that many gamers take for granted. "These are real-life things for us."

The first Accessibility Arcade opened in 2012 at the Martin Luther King Jr. public library in Washington, D.C., with the new Toronto installation the first one outside the United States.

AbleGamers estimates about one in five American gamers, or about 65 million, have some sort of disability, with a similar ratio likely in Canada.

The organization favours Xbox and PC games because those platforms tend to work better with accessibility technology.

Story continues below advertisement

"PlayStation had a tendency in the past to break accessible controllers through software upgrades," Mr. Barlet says. "Until we can get some sort of agreement from PlayStation to stop doing that, we don't recommend bringing them into a more public space because you're just asking for frustration, unfortunately."

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies