Presenter: Matthew Atkinson
Games provide a rewarding avenue in which to explore and promote accessibility. Increasingly they provide cultural and social inclusion, enjoyment and education. They feature a range of user interface types and technologies, and push the envelope of rendering and communication technologies. They are designed to be challenging, but that doesn’t mean they must be inaccessible.
Accessible gaming began with pioneers, who still make great games with novel rendering styles or user interfaces, often intended for people with specific disabilities. Various organisations have worked hard for many years, advocating for the accessibility of mainstream games, and this has really taken off dramatically in the past few years, with key access ability features making their way into mainstream games and gaming platforms, and even new hardware.
However, there are always opportunities to provide even more accessibility for even more people, and some challenges to overcome on the way there. This presentation will feature three parts, as follows.
1. Overview of game accessibility, focusing on the many recent successes and developments, mostly in playing games, but with some coverage of the nascent area of authoring tool accessibility.
This part will briefly discuss the origins of specific games for specific people with disabilities, and some of the advocacy that has gone on over years and resulted in accessibility being incorporated into various mainstream games. It will also cover some specific examples as to how certain types of games have been made accessible, including content design decisions that promote inclusion of people with colour perception deficit, and sound design that can enable people who are blind to be very successful at certain types of fighting games, for example.
There will also be some discussion of authoring tool accessibility, as authoring tools have played a massive part of the gaming experience for many people and can promote social inclusion and be educational.
2. Explanation of some areas of challenge and opportunity in furthering accessibility.
However, there is some way to go before you could expect to pick up any game and find it to be accessible. Some of the main challenges include:
- Developing standards/transferable techniques that could be used to help convey, for example, an entirely visual world in different modalities.
- Supporting technologies and approaches to allow people with disabilities to participate in online/multiplayer games, and in their surrounding communities.
- Custom user interface technologies that do not interoperate with conventional assistive technologies.
All of these are significant challenges. The latter two may be partly addressed by work that is currently ongoing, and will be the focus of the rest of the talk.
3. Demonstrate some exploratory work that aims to bridge the gap between the games and gamers’ existing assistive technologies, to make their user interfaces accessible.
Recently there has been interest in enabling games and other traditionally “native” applications to run on the Web platform. Having games run in a browser provides some opportunities for us to afford improved accessibility. This is because we already have the infrastructure relevant to making user interfaces accessible and exposing that accessibility information to assistive technologies.
The talk demonstrates some experimental work going in this area, with a focus on user interfaces and communication. Existing technologies such as WebAssembly, and upcoming technologies such as the accessibility object model (AOM) provide the foundation for these experiments.
A simulated game UI os presented, which can run natively and via the web. When it runs in a browser, the user’s screen-reader can be used to interact with it. The technological approach to this will be discussed, as well as how it might be adopted by existing mainstream game engines and authoring tools.