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Looking Back: One Year as a 501(c)(3)

Updated: Jul 7, 2021

 D -  middle aged large man with dark skin, buzz cut black hair and minimal facial hair smiling. Blue/green shirt mostly covered by a deep brown cloak over one shoulder and chest adorned with buckles. His eyes are almost a pure white, with an old scar over his right eye. Jack - older, thin man with light skin, white and gray hair, and thin circle wire rimmed glasses with a knowing look. He wears ornate green robes with brown accents.
Fantasy-style Portraits of D and Jack

Paintings by Henriette Boldt.

So much of what DOTS has accomplished is well beyond what we ever could have imagined. If not for these two men who started it all, DOTS would not exist, and many of the accessibility in gaming improvements we've had a hand in may have never happened. From braille dice being donated to a worldwide network of locations to never-before-done partnerships with leaders in the gaming industry, the seeds of change have been planted and are already growing. Join us as we travel back in time and review some of the most amazing things that have happened since we became an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization on June 14, 2019!

Letter with lots of text but only a small portion in focus: dear applicant: we’re pleased to tell you we determined you’re exempt from federal income tax under internal revenue code section 501c3. Donors can deduct contributions they make to you under IRC section 170.
Letter with lots of text but only a small portion in focus: dear applicant: we’re pleased to tell you we determined you’re exempt from federal income tax under internal revenue code section 501c3. Donors can deduct contributions they make to you under IRC section 170.

Though we had things in the works before obtaining our 501(c)(3) status, much of the progress happened once this came through. Having a simple piece of paper opened up many more doors and possibilities for collaboration with companies. It may seem small, but having this helps others realize we're doing things in an official capacity as an organization; that we've grown beyond just a passion project someone's doing in their spare time. That leads to individuals and companies taking us more seriously, and listening when we approach them. We've heard from many people in the disabled communities how they've tried to appeal to big companies and request accessible gaming materials, only to be met with no response and no progress. One of the benefits of having our 501(c)(3) status is we're able to begin these conversations again now with a little more weight behind it, and provide guidance on how to accomplish certain tasks or point the companies in the direction of our trusted experts if we're not familiar with it ourselves.

Multiple purple bags of green translucent braille dice. Tag reads these braille dice were created, 3D printed, and donated to this dots family member by (DOTS RPG project logo). Social media handles and website. Back of tag reads our dice use the letters a-j to represent numbers 1-10, and k-t to represent 11-20. The 4 and 6 sided dice have a number sign before the letter. Braille guide below. DOTS family logo with DOTS 4d6 and hashtag #DOTSfamily surrounded by a circle of rainbow stick figures in an X shape with arms and legs spread wide. 3rd image is a close up of a 7 piece set of braille dice in the sunlight casting a green shadow from the translucent resin.
Dice to be donated, DOTS Family logo, and closeup of braille dice set.

One of our biggest projects has been developing the DOTS Family, something that has grown so much since it was created. Originally intended as a network of locations worldwide that have been donated sets of our braille dice and braille books, we quickly learned there were many others who wanted to be part of this family. Shifting gears slightly, we expanded our program to include publishers, developers, merchants, artists, content creators, conventions, and other nonprofit organizations. Our family has grown so much in the last year alone and we can't ever accurately express our gratitude. Knowing there are individuals and companies who wish to work with us to improve accessibility in gaming and are eager enough to get in at the ground floor and help be the change we all want to see is something that seemed like a fantasy years ago. Every day this group pushes us to continue to grow and expand, working with us to find new ways to address old problems and improve the gaming community for all kinds of disabled gamers.

Single page from a braille book lit dramatically with the braille casting long shadows over the page.
Single page from a braille book lit dramatically with the braille casting long shadows over the page.

Though a tedious process, the task of 3D printing and finishing braille dice to be donated to DOTS Family members is fairly simple compared to the work involved in creating a braille book. We currently have about 20 titles that will be transcribed into a braille book, with some still waiting on licensing agreements. Out of those we have been authorized to work on, 13 have been transcribed into braille thanks to our wonderful Sages! The books aren't complete yet though, which is where our Limners come in. Art of characters, creatures, monsters, and locations are often crucial to a roleplaying game which is why we want to make sure all visually impaired gamers are able to have the full experience. A Limner will work on image descriptions for every piece of art in a book, providing a block of text for the Sage to then transcribe into braille and include in the final embossed ("printed" in braille) book. If you'd like to learn more about Limners to volunteer your time and work on image descriptions, you can read our blog post Exploring the DOTS Guild: Limner. We are actively working on completing image descriptions for all 13 titles so the books can be embossed and sent out to our DOTS Family members!

Close up of speaker's microphone showing audience in the blurry background.
Close up of speaker's microphone showing audience in the blurry background.

Conventions and Meetups have been a big deal for us as we work to get our name out there and share our projects with the public. The concept of accessibility in gaming isn't new, but many places haven't known where to begin their efforts. As we attended conventions like PAX and GeeklyCon, we met with game developers, writers, industry professionals, streamers, and more. Walking the floor at a con and going to meetups gives us the chance to connect with people we are already working with, and introduce ourselves to some who don't know about us yet. Having the opportunity to discuss our work and the need for these projects with the people who can make the changes happen has been wonderful, and something we always look forward to. At each con, we bring on more DOTS Family members and find fun and exciting new projects to work on. Past cons gave us a platform to speak on panels like our first ever at GeeklyCon 2018 (no recording or transcript was done, unfortunately): Accessibility in Gaming, a guest speaker seat at PAX East 2019: A Seat for Everyone: Inclusivity & RPGs, and a panel we hosted at PAX Unplugged 2019: Accessibility in Gaming: Challenges, Obstacles, and Solutions. Though cons for 2020 have mostly been cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns, we are eagerly awaiting 2021!

Cartoon of laptop with paper, pencil, coffee cup, pictures, and heart and thumbs up reactions.
Cartoon of laptop with paper, pencil, coffee cup, pictures, and heart and thumbs up reactions.

Since conventions aren't really an option right now, we're working on ways to still help inform and educate. As always, we have information shared on our social media but you can also expect new blog posts soon! During these times of crisis and concern, it is now more important than ever to be sensitive and empathetic. New blog posts will be coming on how to make your FLGS more accessibility friendly, how to make your gaming table more welcoming to all players, and other awareness centric chronicles to make our corners of the world more accessible and a safer space for everyone. We will be continuing work on our newsletter as well, so you can always get the latest news from DOTS by subscribing to our email newsletter!

Picture of scattered papers showing different graphs and spreadsheets.
Picture of scattered papers showing different graphs and spreadsheets.

We thought it might be interesting to share our stats with you all! Anything with a ~ in front of the number is either an estimate, average, or rounded number. This was done to give a general idea on things that we couldn't pin down an exact amount (like hours spent printing), or things that changed over the course of the year (like volunteers).

  • Funds Raised: ~$15,000

  • Volunteers: ~30

  • DOTS Family Members (Location Based): ~45

  • Braille dice donated (7 piece sets): ~60

  • 3D file downloads: ~1200

  • Shapeways purchases: ~80 sets

  • New 3D files modeled/prototyped: ~10

  • Individual braille dice 3D printed: ~600

  • Individual braille dice 3D print failures: ~250

  • 3D printer run time with braille dice and prototypes: ~720 hours

A small glass jar of coins with a green plant growing out of it.
Glass jar of coins with a green plant growing out of it.

As with all nonprofits, it's important to know where the comes from and where it goes! To date we have raised about $4,000 from Patreon alone. Nearly $4,000 has come in from sales of merchandise through our website. About $5,500 has been direct donations from companies and organizations. The remaining $1,500 has come from a combination of donations made by individuals and funds raised through partnership programs like Amazon Smile and the PayPal Giving Fund.

A majority of the funds we raised early on went to all the necessary filing fees for obtaining our 501(c)(3) status. We have a lot of recurring operating costs such as website and email hosting, program and app subscription fees, and other things that we need to keep DOTS up and running on a day to day basis. There are also still some state and federal things we have been filing over the course of the last year to make sure our operation is 110% official, and each one of those comes with different licensing and filing fees. Creating braille dice with our 3D printers costs a couple hundred a month as well for supplies including but not limited to resin for printing, repairs and replacement of consumable printer parts, papers and gloss paint for sanding and finishing, and other small things needed to get the dice ready to be donated. Some merchandise has been purchased (with other merchandise being donated), focusing on inexpensive items that provide a good profit for fundraising purposes. Most of the merchandise we currently carry is intended to aid us in marketing and project awareness, inspiring people to ask others when they see something with our logo or DOTS Dragon. We have also recently started carrying standard numbered dice with high visibility colors for people with low vision. We aim to be a one stop shop for not only our own products, but items that others produce that can be used to make a game more accessible.

When the time comes, funds will be used to cover the cost of braille books; supplies and embosser (printer) maintenance as well as shipping to various locations. We also have plans to create a fully accessible TTRPG mobile app and are saving now to make that a reality as soon as possible. There's also plans to mass produce our braille dice in the future, though there needs to be a few things done before that including filing patents and slightly modifying the design to work better at a factory level.

D is standing in front of a forge with a raised hammer and a sword blade on the anvil in front of him. The DOTS Dragon is heating the blade to red hot with his spark filled fire breath. A neon green braille d20 is on the floor at the base of the stool the dragon is on. Jack is on the other side of the room at a desk in front of a book case, reading an open book.
Painting of D, Jack, and the DOTS Dragon.

Painting by Andhika Rizky.

With just one year in the books, it's incredible to see how far we've come and how much we've helped change. We have high hopes and even higher goals when it comes to changing the tabletop gaming world, and are excited to continue our work! From the bottom of our hearts, we are incredibly thankful to everyone who has supported us in ways big or small. Nothing would happen if we didn't have support, and we are aware of that constantly. The community has welcomed us with open arms and we are humbled by that love and support each and every day. There's so much we have plans for in the future, and can't wait to share with you! We're just getting started <3.

Much Love from the DOTS Guild Leaders,

Jess, Tyler, Joey, Lilah, and Tawney!


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