When Pokémon Abandon You

Have you heard the heartwarming story of why a mother walked her son’s phone ten kilometers? You see, her son has a disability, but he is an avid Pokémon fan. So when Pokémon Go — the latest mobile app that lets you catch virtual creatures in real life — came out, the boy couldn’t play it. You see, players have to walk their phones to find Pokémon and hatch Pokémon eggs. So the boy’s mother did it for him. The gesture went viral, but the implications have disturbed many disability advocates.

Is Pokémon Go Helping Or Hurting People With Disabilities?

Another Pokémon fan with disabilities found herself depressed by the prospect of not being able to catch ’em all. She had used the old Nintendo games to help cope with her disability. However, her limited mobility keeps her from hunting the little virtual creatures. She tried to hunt Pokémon from her bed, but new Pokémon quickly became scarce. So she gave her phone to her roommates to catch them, but this plan backfired. When her roommates came back with awesome stories about the hunt, the girl found herself getting depressed because she wasn’t able to participate. Now, as the game’s popularity grows, more people with disabilities are finding themselves left out.

A 2008 study done by PopCap Games showed that one in five casual gamers had a mental, developmental or physical disability. Half of those gamers were hampered by physical disability, and spent long hours playing video games. Many of those gamers found an escape through playing games in the Pokémon franchise. Now they are being excluded from their beloved game franchise in an unanticipated, heartbreaking way. However, some experts are trying to find a silver lining to this cloud.

Is There A Solution To Pokémon Go Exclusion?

Some Pokémon Go players are forming groups to help put miles on the phones of people with disabilities. Others are suggesting solutions to the game’s developer Niantic. One person suggested allowing players with disabilities to log miles by virtually exploring using Google Street View. Therapists are even using the game to help people with disabilities develop their spatial awareness, instructional cues, and fine motor skills. But game developers have a long way to go before Pokémon Go is ready for Pokémon trainers with disabilities.

What do you think Niantic can do to make Pokémon Go more accessible? Log on to ourFacebook and Twitter to tell us your ideas. Also follow our blog to see any new developments in this accessibility snafu.

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