Written by: Yasmin Aboelsaud
Originally posted on: March 21, 2022
An estimated 56 million people need assistive equipment when it comes to esports, according to AbleGamers. And that’s just the figures in the US.
Disabled gamers are among us, and have always been. And one keen sighted gamer was on Twitch last year when she came across a gamer who was “just beating everyone”. In his Twitch tag, it stated that he was visually impaired.
Kitanye, the sighted gamer, ended up introducing herself to the visually impaired gamer, and thus began a friendship that also helped an online gaming community.
“He introduced me to his community and I’ve been so passionate about helping these guys and bringing awareness to their community,” Kitanye said.
In 2021, the 35-year-old found herself moving to Houston, Texas, where she didn’t know anyone. It turns out the visually impaired gamer lived 15 minutes away from her new home. “He was my first friend in Houston.”
Kitanye, who got her gamer name from being a of Kitana and Kanye, says while her friend is completely blind, there are players with different visual disability ranges in the Blind FGC (Fighting Game Community.)
“When I had joined, it was about 100 people, not a big community, and there weren’t any events going on for them,” she said, adding that they held one event a year.
As she helped the community organize their events, more of the sighted community became aware of the Bling FGC as well, and more players who were visually impaired also showed up. She said the community has grown by another 100 people so far.
The Blind Gamers Hub Discord Server is not just about gaming, Kitanye said, it’s a space for anyone with a visual disability to get set up, or get answers.
“We’re here to help you set up your stream, we can find you the audio accessibility guides to everything,” she said. “There are also other blind people that can tell you easier ways to do things. Our Discord is not just for gaming, if a visually impaired person is having trouble with something, we will find a way to help them.”
Since she’s been involved with the community, she said she’s been amazed to see how many people have reached out.
Kitanye said that as far as accessibility, Xbox is the most accessible console for the community, but there were no websites that have accessibility to set up brackets for tournaments. (Currently, Paidia is in Beta and one of its top priorities is making the site accessible to all, and is working with Kitanye and her community.)
“As soon as these players are able to compete, they’re going to take over the world,” she said. “Do you know how much you have to overcome to be able to just beat someone and you’re only hearing? You have to trust your ears only. To me, that’s incredible, and we have to showcase this.”
Kitanye said she’s gotten better at fighting games through her friends in the Blind FGC. “They teach me to focus on things that I never realized as someone who can see, some of the sound cues are really important but we don’t hear them because we can see everything on the screen.”
Her goal is to grow the community, and ensure anyone who wants to game who is visually impaired knows that there are people wanting to help and support. Kitanye also hopes to organize more events for the community.
“I want these gamers to be known for their names. I want their names to be remembered. A lot of them are just as good but they don’t get the spotlight as some of the other people.”
Kitanye is also trying to find more women to join the global community.
“I want people to know this community exists and there are people willing to help.”
As a gamer herself, she’s online about three hours a day. Besides her gaming life, Kitanye is a public librarian who works with teen services. While they are “two different lives” as she describes it, her proudest accomplishments have revolved around both of the lives she leads. She got funding for the teen services, as well as the Blind FGC last year. And she wants to continue changing lives, as she did in 2021. Especially when it comes to the Blind FGC.
“They’ve shown me you can overcome anything.”
For anyone wanting to help out or get in touch with Kitanye, reach out via Twitter at Twitter.com/kitanye