Understanding the experience of gamers with disabilities

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Thursday, 13 November 2014 12:23pm

Gamers with disabilities often face challenges due to accessibility issues found in games, despite some good resources for developers who want to ensure that people with disabilities can effectively engage in a gaming environment.

PlayStation 3 controller resting on a wooden surface

We asked gamers for their thoughts, experiences and opinions on using in-game captions, ideas to improve gaming accessibility, and their stories to share as gamers with a disability.

“I have found that almost all single player videogames nowadays contain subtitles, which greatly assist my enjoyment and understanding of the games,” said Gabriel Callaghan, a Deaf gamer who shared his experience with in-game captions. “I may have a Cochlear Implant, which allows me to hear, but the level of hearing is not good enough to fully understand voices within the games clearly. So, subtitles allow me to understand the story and dialogue clearly, and have never been intrusive.”

Brent Rogers, also a Deaf gamer, provided his opinions on using in-game captions and accessible technology, stating, “All I ever required from games was the ability to turn on and off the captions for the dialogue and in-game objectives, as voice-chat features are regarded as useless to us [Deaf gamers]. We should have the feature where we can use the PlayStation camera to sign to each other in-game. No need for headsets with microphones, just rely on the camera provided by the gaming manufacturer and make it accessible in every game, a feature that is universally compatible. Those two features are very important, for better understanding in every game and for better communication in multiplayer or co-op objectives.”

While there are few formalised standards regarding the incorporation of accessibility into gaming, AbleGamers Foundation provides Includification game accessibility guidelines. The guidelines are divided into mobile, hearing, vision and cognitive, and have been created to ensure that accessibility can be implemented without any impact on gameplay. Examples in the mobility area include alternative configurations and remapping keys, hearing focuses on closed caption support, vision examples include high contrast mode and enemy marking, while cognitive focuses on the provision of difficulty levels and game tutorials. Dr Scott Hollier from Media Access Australia recently wrote an article entitled 'Accessible gaming: is there any help out there?', in which he stated, “there’s really no need to simply accept that a game can’t have accessibility features embedded in it as additional settings”.

Additional feedback on your gaming experiences is welcome via our contact form. Further information on gaming resources, online communities and mainstream gaming options can be found on our accessible gaming page.

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