The following is a guest post request from a mother who wants to play Pokemon Go with her child, but can’t because of some of the many ways it is inaccessible to people with disabilities. Her identity will be kept anonymous for reasons of safety and consideration. The following is an open letter to Nintendo.
Hey Nintendo, some people have disabled children who would like to play Pokemon Go.
Even though the premise of your game is awesome, it could be improved upon with more accessibility.
As the parent of an autistic child (who is intentionally keeping things vague for the sake of this post because I’d rather my son disclose information about himself publicly whenever he personally feels it is appropriate to do so and can consent to it) who enjoys playing Pokemon with his mother, and as a mother who grew up playing Pokemon games of her own, the Pokemon franchise has always been one that has allowed us to bond and spend quality time together. I man the controls, and when my son indicates a preference in one or more Pokemon, I try to incorporate those into our team. (Once we attempted to bring the three legendary birds to the Elite Four in LeafGreen because he liked them a lot. That might have been when type disadvantage was best illustrated, bringing three Flying when the first Trainer specializes in Ice. Moving along…) Based on what I’d read about Go, I thought it would be one of the most awesome games ever to play with him when it came out.
And then it came out.
And then I realized how much we would probably have to walk to get… any Pokemon, at least in this area.
(Our geographical area seems to be one that is more sparse in Pokemon, at least compared to some of what I’ve heard.)
A little background about my son: he has the proclivities to run off or wander away, and too much socialization exacerbates this. Attempting to cover more than short distances in pursuit of Pokemon would give him more chances to at least try, even though he wears a harness whenever he is out in public. In addition to scouting Pokemon (or letting him scout them), I would have to man the harness at the exact same time. And obviously since I would be prioritizing my son’s safety over even a wild Mewtwo, I’m sure one of the difficulties that we would have playing this game becomes clear. And then there’s the social anxiety. My son has a difficult time coping with people around him, or in his field of vision, when there are more of them than he can handle. In addition to the walking that we would have to do scouting Pokemon, assuming that everything else went well, going to a Gym or a Stop would be bound to expose him to more people than he could process. At that point, he would melt down, shut down, cycle through meltdowns and shutdowns and eventually at least try to flee the area.
We’ve also found that attempting to search for Pokemon in a moving car is not feasible, as Pokemon Go appears to stop logging distance if you ever start to go “too fast”. (And we are always passengers whenever we attempt to do this!)
In the interest of suggesting how Nintendo can make this game safer and more enjoyable for its disabled players, I came up with some suggestions that might help.
1.) Nintendo needs to be made aware that many of their Pokemon players are disabled, and that these disabilities vary.
2.) It would be awesome if (at least more common) Pokemon popped up far more often than they do, particularly in areas where Pokemon sightings are not as frequent. Maybe Nintendo could program it into Go to respond when a player walks into grass and that can be confirmed by way of the camera, prompting Pokemon to start to appear as a result. (And the same can be said for bodies of water and other areas where Pokemon, especially of specific types, congregate in the games.)
3.) Making it so that one does not have to walk long, or extremely long, distances to even find Pokemon would be good.
4.) Allowing players to gift friends other items, or even items of their own, would be nice. Perhaps there are people out there who would be willing to gift Incense to their disabled friends, allowing them to draw more Pokemon to their area.
5.) If some of those suggestions aren’t feasible or don’t work, allow a Pokemon Go account to designate themselves as disabled, which would draw slightly more Pokemon to their area by virtue of that. Maybe one of the trade-offs could be less CR, less experience, or less something if there has to be one. Or that they’re all fairly common. Just do something.
In theory, this game sounds promising. I hope Nintendo hears the voices of the disabled, and those who care for them, and adjusts the mechanics of their game accordingly over time so that it can be a more accessible and safer experience.
A Hopeful Mom of a Disabled Pokemaniac
P.S.: My son’s favorite Pokemon is Meowth.