$1M Raised for ‘SpawnTogether,’ Disabled Gamers Project
The funding, which came through donations, will go toward gaming equipment and consultation for The AbleGamers Charity, a nonprofit organization that seeks to make video games more accessible for people with disabilities to help curb the isolation that many patients feel.
Spohn, who himself is a gamer, is the chief operating officer of AbleGamers. The Pittsburgh resident set the fundraising goal last September for his 40th birthday. Through SpawnTogether, AbleGamers’ fundraising mechanism, $300,000 was raised in the first week. The rest came from events, gaming streams, and support from celebrities and social media influencers.
Popular gaming sites such as GameSpot and Twitch supported the effort, as did the Pittsburgh Penguins National Hockey League team.
“I am absolutely floored by the outpouring of love and support,” he said in a press release. “When I sat out on this journey, I thought we would raise a few thousand dollars. I massively underestimated the groundswell of support this amazing community has for things that matter to them the most. Finally, we are at a point where people truly believe everyone should be able to play.”
According to AbleGamers, more than 56 million individuals in the U.S. alone need assistive equipment to help them connect with others, particularly as COVID-19 persists and people are in their homes more and avoiding physical contact with others. AbleGamers is supported by a host of engineers, researchers, peer counselors, and developers.
Spohn said he’s so encouraged by the fundraiser’s success that he plans to make it an annual event. He also wants the effort to continue after he’s gone.
“I learned a lot from the community while raising the million dollars,” Spohn said. “People believe in the mission of AbleGamers and the importance of supporting disabled gamers. That’s why I’m going to turn this into an annual event — trying to raise $1 million every year. And I’m not doing this alone. I’m bringing some of my most trusted friends who can keep this going even after SMA finally gets me. When that happens, I don’t want people to mourn and be sad. I want them to celebrate and keep supporting people with disabilities for decades to come,” he said.
Through donations, AbleGamers provides people with disabilities such as SMA with assistive technologies that permit them to experience virtually what it’s like to walk, run, climb, and even drive. The charitable organization also advises developers and publishers on the best ways to incorporate accessibility options so that their video games can reach and appeal to the most diverse populations possible.
In addition, AbleGamers advocates for accessibility in myriad aspects of gaming, such as requiring subtitles for participants who have hearing impairments. It also raises funds for game controllers that people with neuromuscular conditions can use with their lips and breath. Already, the organization has worked with Microsoft on its Xbox adaptive controller.
Because SMA causes progressive muscle degeneration, Spohn, while in his 20s, began coming up with novel ways to help him play video games. For example, he couldn’t reach the keyboard, so he started using a dental scraping tool to hit buttons on a video game controller. Ultimately, he began looking for workarounds for other games.
Spohn has said that while many people think of video games as a waste of time, they serve an important role in the disabled community: to keep people connected.