'Pokemon Go' Is Now Keeping Disabled People From Playing, And The Hate-Train Continues

Motherboard reports that Niantic, the company responsible for developing and maintaining Pokemon Go, have recently dug themselves even deeper into the hole of public scorn by effectively banning certain physically disabled individuals from participating in the game.

Those who keep up with Pokemon Go-related news may already know that Niantic is dead-set against anything that could be considered cheating at their game, even though, as gaming Youtuber Haedox notes, Pokemon Go doesn't really have any sort of a competitive scene.

The best-known example of Niantic engaging in what many might consider overkill to prevent "cheating" is their decision to shut down all the third-party Pokemon locator sites such as Pokevision. Although that drew lots of public outcry, Niantic has recently made what many may see as an even more unfair "anti-cheating" ban that is keeping many physically disabled individuals from playing Pokemon Go.

At the beginning of July, Niantic caught on to the fact that some people had hacked their Pokemon Go accounts to move around remotely. In other words, they wired up the game to move the character certain directions when certain buttons were pressed, like a video game, rather than moving around when the phone itself moved about the real world. Naturally, Niantic recognized that many Pokemon Go players able to go outside and walk around but too lazy or time-strapped to do so were using the hack, and they began issuing permanent bans to anyone their servers detected doing so.

Niantic's crusade was undoubtedly effective in many cases, expunging many of the players who were using the crafty method to save time. Unfortunately, not everyone using the Pokemon Go hack was doing so out of laziness or dishonesty. Some people using it were actually doing it out of necessity - namely, those who physically could not get out there and "Catch 'Em All."

Ana Mardoll, for instance, suffers from scoliosis (an abnormal curvature of the spine), and cannot walk or use a wheelchair. She has trouble getting to the door of her bedroom, and exploring the great outdoors is out of the question. Mardoll is a huge Pokemon fan, though, and she was determined not to let her disability keep her from experiencing Pokemon Go, even if she would need to move her trainer around remotely rather than moving around herself.

Ana had a good few weeks playing the game and reportedly racked up quite the collection of Pokemon, but of course, Niantic soon caught up to her and banned her for "cheating."

Mardoll says she was not caught totally off-guard by Niantic's decision - she knew she was doing something prohibited by the Pokemon Go terms of service.

"I am not angry or upset at all about the ban," Mardoll said in an email. "I am disappointed to lose access to the game and I'm unexpectedly sad at not being able to say 'goodbye' to my Pokemon (which is totally illogical, I know!), but I'm at peace with Niantic's decision and I knew this could happen."

That is not to say, though, that she is happy with the ruling, she continued.

"Shutting out disabled people from major cultural phenomena like this helps no one and hurts a lot of people."
Mardoll pointed out that she sunk money into the game before she was banned, and she would have more than likely spent a lot more. She did not say exactly how much, but she justified the amount she had spent by saying spending on Pokemon Go was the equivalent of what she might spend by "buying a new Pokemon DS game."
Ana finished by saying she hopes companies like Niantic, that develop movement-based games like Pokemon Go, will spend more time in the future thinking about accessibility options to cater to disabled people.

"And while they think about those options, it would be nice if they could not ban disabled people for finding work-arounds," she added.

A few of the ideas she proposed included allowing players to remotely walk around their characters within a short radius of their actual geo-location or having a greater variety of Pokemon appear in one's own house. Harkening back to what Haedox said in the video embedded above, she also said that Niantic could simply ban players using the "hack" from gym battles or any other player-on-player interaction that might allow cheating to detract from Pokemon Go's authenticity. Yet another idea, although not one that Mardoll mentioned, is to allow individuals to contact Niantic on a case-by-case basis in order to notify them of a special circumstance and add an exception to a single Pokemon Go account.

It is amazing how quickly Pokemon Go has fallen from the absolute forefront of pop culture, and almost everyone who speaks on the subject agree it is due to Niantic's incompetence in maintaining the game and its refusal to listen to the Pokemon Go fan base. This latest stumble, which some see as an unforgivable insult, is certainly not doing any wonders for Niantic's PR.

[Photo by Hau Dinh/AP Images]