This week's guest
Jesse Anderson also known as BGFH around the internet, working as an assistive technology specialist by day. By night he's a technology, VR and game accessibility advocate and consultant. Jesse runs the IllegalySighted YouTube-channel.
Hello, My name is Jesse Anderson. By day, I am an assistive technology specialist for the state of Minnesota. By night and such, I am a technology, game, and virtual reality accessibility advocate and consultant. I also run the IllegallySighted website, YouTube channel, and Mixer stream.
I have been fascinated by video games and technology for as long as I can remember. I still remember the first time I learned I could control what was happening on the TV when I played the Atari 2600 for the first time. I also remember my first experience using a computer, a talking computer at that. In both cases, this blew my mind. Once I discovered the NES, and eventually games like Wolfenstein 3D and DOOM, that’s all there was to it. I knew I wanted to do something in gaming and/or technology for a living. I am legally blind and have been since I was born. Over the years, I’ve seen how much both mainstream and assistive technology can help people with disabilities, especially speaking from first-hand experience.
I love working with technology, and love working with people when they realize they can do something they thought they couldn’t do independently with the help of a little technology. People who are blind or visually impaired can live independently and work just like everyone else.
But it’s not just about work. I’ve always been interested in game accessibility. I wanted to play games, and be included in the same conversations about games, like everyone else. And for the most part, I did. There were some games I still had trouble playing because of my vision. For instance, RPG’s and games with lots of text were often difficult. For quite a while, I just grudgingly accepted that I probably wasn’t going to play some games.
Then in 2012, I decided to start a YouTube channel, because why not. Originally it started as a way to show off some cool Minecraft creations a friend and I had been working on. Shortly after starting the channel though, I realized I had to offer something different than the hundreds of thousands of other gaming-related channels out there. My solution was to gear the channel toward game accessibility, especially for the blind and low vision players. I figured out my style for exploring and covering games, technology, assistive technology, and eventually virtual reality from a legally blind user’s perspective.
In 2015, game accessibility really seemed to be starting to take off. I attended Ian Hamilton’s CSUN session on game accessibility and continued the conversation after the conference. This really motivated me to kick things up a notch, and really do more serious work in the area of tech and game accessibility. I have started more actively looking for more beta testing, consulting, and advocacy opportunities, and have had some great experiences. In 2017 I presented a session for the online #ID24 conference on VR accessibility for blind and low vision users. This spring, I also spoke as part of a panel at the Game Accessibility Conference (GAConf) on game accessibility. I’ve met so many great people online and through these events.
In 2018, I decided to try this streaming thing too. And this year, I am trying some podcast co-hosting. I love working in the area of game accessibility and am excited to see where things are in a few years. We’ve got a long way to go, but I’ve already experienced things in game accessibility I never thought would happen.
And I think it’s only going to get better.