Vivek Gohil: What disability pride means to me
Vivek lives with the muscle-wasting condition Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Vivek feels passionate about writing, gaming and advocating for disabled people. We spoke to Vivek about what Disability Pride Month means to him and its impact on his freelancer work.
What does Disability Pride Month mean to you?
Disability Pride is the best time of year to celebrate the diversity and power of disabled people living without limits.
For many disabled people finding employment is the biggest challenge. For me, it was the first time that I felt proud of myself. Having a career makes me feel like an adult and validates that I have skills worthy of earning a salary.
Employment provided me with the ultimate expression of disability pride which is freedom. With this freedom, I stopped listening to doubts about my abilities.
It was such a relief when my work was accepted as good. It liberated me from the negative concepts I had about myself.
My personal relationship with Disability Pride has evolved over the years. I used to find it impossible to feel proud of my disability. I never felt confident in myself and didn’t realise the natural skills I had hidden inside of me.
These difficult periods of my life make me proud. But they also make me aware of how vital my condition was in shaping me into the man I am today. Finding a meaningful life has always been my dream and is now a reality. As a gaming accessibility consultant, I want to be a voice for the young disabled people living with my condition, who have a passion for gaming.
Accessibility issues can make disabled gamers feel alone in their struggle. I’m proud to be an example to help younger disabled people unlock their true greatness. Everyone has a talent. But it’s more challenging for disabled people to express their worth without easy access to employment.
I’m grateful that before COVID, I had opportunities to travel to conferences. I got to speak about gaming accessibility needs of gamers with a muscle weakness. I was able to work with Microsoft, PlayStation and Xbox. This helped me to also build a valuable professional network.
Due to my restricted-energy levels, I must limit unnecessary energy expenditure. For example, travelling far for events.
The greatest tool for me as a disabled professional is working virtually. It enables me to work independently in an environment adapted to my needs.
This method of work dramatically improved my productivity. It also helped me to manage my fatigue as I am only able to work for about 4 hours a day. Employers must be understanding and provide flexible working methods. Disabled professionals need different types of support. This allows us to provide the best work possible.
How does your disability pride come through in your work?
My disability pride shines through my advocacy and writing. It’s raw and authentically Vivek. Every word comes from my lived experiences and perspective. I’m proud to discuss the accessibility problems in games. These issues can make disabled gamers feel alone in their struggle.
I have been in that position before. It’s not a great place to be when you believe that your only choice is to stop gaming. However, there are other options available. It’s also important to celebrate the excellent work of other gaming developers. They’ve done so much to progress accessibility practices.
This advancement couldn’t have happened without disabled campaigners. They have been advocating and pushing for change. This shows the power of the disability community in full display.
The gaming accessibility community has changed the face of gaming forever. Accessibility is now a crucial aspect of game design. I am pleased to have made a small contribution to something that has made me proud of my Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.
Vivek Gohil is a Gaming Accessibility Consultant, Freelance Writer, Content Creator and Speaker.