Petition to make Steam accessible launched

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Thursday, 9 April 2015 14:45pm

A petition has launched asking for the world’s largest digital game distribution platform, Steam, to be made accessible for people with disabilities.

Left hand resting over the W,A,S,D keys on a computer keyboard. Image credit: Brian J. Matis via Flickr

The petition, Make the Steam platform more accessible to blind and visually impaired people, received more than 500 signatures within a day of launching in support of its call that gamers with disabilities have equal access to the service.

Steam is highly popular, featuring more than five million users. Part of this popularity is that it features more than 3,500 free and paid-for games that users of Windows, Mac and Linux computers can browse and download to play.

According to the petition, blind and visually impaired gamers in particular have encountered issues with the client—the local version of the Steam service installed on users’ devices.

“Blind and visually impaired gamers, for example, are unable to use any screen reader technology to reliably access even the basic features of the Steam client, without having to disable security features (such as Steam Guard), or access a basic textual representation of Steam windows by disabling direct draw,” the petition states.

“This poor access can be only achieved under one operating system (Microsoft Windows), limited to select screen readers. Under other operating systems, Steam is inaccessible.”

Arguing the case for Valve, the owners of the Steam service, to make changes, the petition states that game developers have realised the need to include accessibility in the games they create. Yet, the platform on which these games are sold—Steam—has yet to.

Examples of this include Lab Zero Games’ title Skullgirls, which was updated to be accessible to blind users. Several titles have also received awards for accessibility from AbleGamers, and international discussions about the need for accessible games are gaining traction.

The petition claims that, so far, attempts by dozens of blind gamers to contact Valve to draw its attention to the issue of accessibility—including by Steam’s official forum—have gone unheeded.

“Valve Corporation needs to listen and make sure that their platform is accessible to screen reader users,” the petition states.

“With this petition, we urge you to implement features, either full screen reader support in the Steam client via Tolk [screen reader abstraction library], or via the clipboard in [Steam’s] Big Picture Mode.

You might also like:

  • Our page on accessible gaming, including mainstream gaming options, accessible gaming resources and inclusivity information for developers
  • Useful tips for making the most of your laptop or desktop computer, covering Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac accessibility features
  • Information on Assistive Technology (AT), including screen readers and screen magnifiers
  • Accessible wearable technology developments, including Google Glass, Android Wear and the Apple Watch

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