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Raising the Bar: 2016’s Accessibility Advancements

Raising the Bar: 2016’s Accessibility Advancements

Well, hello! Right, I’ll get started. My name is Ian, and I am an accessibility specialist. So I work with various areas of the industry to try and raise awareness and raise the bar for inclusion of people with disabilities in game development. So for me, at the moment, it’s a very exciting time in the development of the industry. Every year the pace of change accelerates, more and more really nice stuff happens in the field of accessibility. And that’s what I’m going to share with you today, a few of the interesting things that have been happening. And doing this talk actually puts me in an interesting position, because this time last year, I did a similar kind of talk about the highlights of what happened in 2015. And it was a pretty simple process, I looked at what happened, and I put it into a talk, I gave it. This year I can’t do that, because there’s way too much to physically be able to fit into presentation Which is a pretty great situation to be in. So, I’m just going to talk about four kind of common themes that there have been in new developments for the industry this year But first of all because I’m sure there’ll be a range of levels of expertise and knowledge about accessibility I’m just going to assume nothing and start from the start with an explanation about what accessibility is and why it’s important As I said when I talk about accessibility, I’m talking about relating to disability, so.. sorry Did someone say something? I assume not Cool, okay, right, so I’m gonna start with an explanation about what disability is. And for that, I have This gentleman here to help me. Now this image was taken as part of an investigation that he was doing for a newspaper back in the UK. And I’m sure when looking in this picture most of the people in this room would be able to have some kind of a guess of what this guy’s disability is. What it is that is making him disabled. So you might be thinking that perhaps he has cerebral palsy. In which case you’re kind of halfway there. He does have cerebral palsy, But cerebral palsy is not actually a disability. It’s a medical condition, and that’s a really important distinction to make. So what else could it be then? You might also be thinking about the fact that he is in a wheelchair. But again, a wheelchair is not a disability. It’s like a pair of glasses. It’s a piece of assistive technology that actually helps him go about his day. And he was going about his day fine until he went to meet his friends in this bar and encountered the steps. So in the context of meeting his friend in this bar, he is being disabled by the steps. And that’s what disability actually is, it’s when someone’s medical condition encounters some kind of barrier, resulting in difficulty performing a day-to-day task. So it’s a mismatch between a person and their environment. And the barriers that people face, whether it is steps in front of a bar, whether it is a shelf that’s too high, whether it is red and green teams in a deathmatch These barriers are often put there by another person, they were designed to be like that. Which is kind of a heavy thing to get your head around, that as designers as developers as content producers, we are actually contributing to people’s disability. But there is also the flip side to that, which is by being aware of the kind of barriers that people can encounter we can figure out which those barriers are unnecessary, and avoid them or remove them, and prevent disabling situations like these from occurring. And it’s that process that is known as accessibility. Accessibility is important, it’s important for many many reasons. But one of those reasons is that people with disabilities are a market. And not an insignificant market either. The latest US government data is 22% of the adult population of the USA Now not everyone in that 22% is going to encounter barriers in games But that’s more than balanced out by the other conditions that aren’t included in that 22% There’s also colorblindness, which affects 8% of males. Simulation sickness, estimates of that range anything from 10% upwards Difficulty reading. Now this is the one that surprises people as you don’t hear about it because there’s such a stigma. Difficulty reading affects 14% of adults. And it is just talking about permanent conditions. There’s also temporary impairments, like having a broken arm, like RSI. There’s also situational impairments, like having to play a game on mute as the baby’s asleep. Playing in direct sunlight So there’s all kind of situations where these kind of barriers occur and large large numbers of people. And also these large numbers equate to large amounts of business. Money to be made and money to be lost due to to these kind of decisions. The other really really important reason for considering accessibility is something is a bit less mercenary. It’s the human benefit of accessibility. Because what games actually represent is access to recreation, to culture, to socialising, Which are things that so many of us just take the granted. But if for any reason in your day-to-day life your means of accessing those things is restricted, games can then provide them and become a really important contributor to someone’s quality of life. Or to explain all that in a much more concise way than I have… …this is one of my favourite quotes. So because accessibility is so important it has been really really nice to see the field advancing, more and more progress being made every year. Increasing exponentially. Every year you see more and more and more faster and faster and the last year is no exception. But going back a little bit further the big advance of 2015 Was the introduction of accessibility functionality on consoles On both the Playstation 4 and the Xbox One. And this includes things like text-to-speech so that people who are blind can navigate the system interface. High contrast mode. Zoom. Remapping the controls at system level. All this stuff was added in. And that’s continued on into 2016, neither company has been resting on their laurels. They’ve continued to add in more functionality. Like control over text speed. Improved text size options. This is another nice example. This is the addition of clubs onto Xbox one and you can see here it’s being used by deaf gamers to find other people to play with who aren’t going to kick them out of a game because they can’t use a microphone. And it hasn’t just been the consoles either, it is now starting to spread further. So this is Steam big picture mode which now allows, again, full button remapping And also Steam have open sourced their lighthouse technology, which opens the door to custom input devices for VR, But this button remapping stuff, remapping at platform level both in steam and on consoles is really good as a safety net, but it’s not as good as remapping in a game. If you have actual in-game remapping that opens up things like being able to have separate maps for walking and for driving, or like in Overwatch being able to have separate mappings for each character class, it also allows you to do things like have your in-game tutorials and prompts update to reflect what the current mapping is But there is a barrier to that, which is the cost to implement it. Which is in the process of being broken down. So I think it was around April 2016 Unity announced that they’re working on a new input model, which hasn’t hit general public release yet, but they’re developing it collaboratively with developers so you can actually already go on the site and download it and have a play around with it. And the basic principle is it just abstracts out inputs and actions by default. So an input being for example the A button, an action being jump. They’re separate and to create a control scheme a developer just creates relationships create links between these things, which means the functionality is already there for players to do the same thing. And basically because Unity want to support input devices that haven’t been invented yet, and the scale.. the pace at which thing are being invented for VR and stuff like that, they wanted to make sure that all different types of input work together. Which means that it can do things like for example remap a controller based control scheme to a keyboard or a mouse. You can remap analog to digital, so you can move a command between the B button and pushing forward on an analog stick. This is all quite difficult stuff for developers to do and it’s all just going to be handled for you at engine level. And there have also been some nice platform level advances outside the dedicated gaming space. So what you’re looking at here is an iPad on the right and the iPad is being operated solely by the yellow button. And that yellow button is something that’s known as an accessibility switch, it’s called a switch because it’s simple on/off interaction. And those kind of input devices they can take lots of different forms. It could be a button like that. A common set up is a button mounted on a wheelchair headrest. It could be a tube you blow into. It could be an infraredblink detector. It’s the same kind of kit that Stephen Hawking uses to operate technology. And.. iOS is compatible with this at an operating system level. You can operate the whole of an iPhone or an iPad just using a simple single input. Now it has a couple of different modes. One of them is basically it works like shooting in a basketball game, so you have a line that moves across the screen wrong one… So you have a line that moves left and right across the screen. When it reaches the coordinate you want, you make your input, it stops. Then the line moves up and down. You choose the coordinate you want. Once you’ve chosen the coordinate on the screen it pops up a little menu and asks you what you would like to do at that point. Whether you want to tap, whether you want to swipe, whether you want to zoom. Which already makes a lot of games accessible. So you can imagine a basic interface type game like football manager something about you can operate using this technology. Like this guy is doing, Christopher here is using a single button on his wheelchair headrest. Not so good if you’re playing something like Flappy Birds for example. So Flappy Birds in theory, it’s just a single input, it should work for this kind of technology. But using the scanning from side to side system, you can imagine you move across, move down, hit the start button, starts moving across…… and that’s happened. That has now changed. This has been really really exciting to see. In the past year Apple in response to requests has actually done two specific updates to this functionality, specific to games. So the first one being in iOS 9. They added the ability to choose a point on the screen and then tap repeatedly at that point. Which means that games like Canabalt games like Flappy Bird now just work with that kind of technology. iOS10, they upgraded it again. Allowing you to hold down at a point repeatedly, which means games like Altos Adventure, games like Badlands just work with this kind of technology. Which is a really really amazing example of the power of operating systems to facili… to facilitate this kind of stuff. Because it just means thousands of games, overnight, now just work with this kind of technology without any effort from developers at all. There’s also been advances in games themselves. Now in the games media this year there’s been two things above all else that have really really dominated the media, The first one being Pokemon go. Pokemon Go is actually accessible with this kind of switch technology I’ve been talking about. So what you can see on the screen here is after you’ve chosen the coordinate, it gives you the little menu, the palette of actions you can choose. So you can see here he is choosing a flick to flick the pokeball. But despite this Pokemon in general is not a very accessible game. Now some of that is due to the physicality of the game The fact that you have to be, you know, climbing up hills and stuff to play. But a lot of is actually just due to simple interface decisions. So things like these complex gestures. That it has small low contrast text, Which is obviously not great for a game you’re expected to play outdoors in the sunlight. Also their map screen. There are elements on the map screen that rely on colour alone. Not so great if you’re colourblind. So this obviously isn’t an advance. It certainly doesn’t make Pokemon Go unique What does make Pokemon unique – Pokemon Go unique – is stuff like this. The huge huge amount of discussion that there has been about it. So blog posts, social media, right, even mainstream media articles about it. From gamers. From developer. From advocacy groups, people like American Foundation for the Blind. Groups that are not normally involved in gaming who arere now talking about the accessibility potentials of Pokemon Go Lots of people with loads of really good ideas about how to improve the accessibility. This is important for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s important because it’s a real real sign of the growing awareness of accessibility. And also people’s changing expectations about accessibility as well You know gamers have got different ideas now compared to a couple years ago, About what games should be, about what games should be doing And it’s also really significant because it’s a big sign of the cultural significance of games, because there’s a really really strong undercurrent to all this commentary of people who, you know, they could see this cultural phenomenon happening around them and they didn’t want to be excluded from it. They wanted to experience the same thing that all of their friends were experiencing. The other thing that’s been dominating obviously the games press but also the mainstream press over the last year has been VR. Now VR can be quite an exclusionary platform. So the requirements to be able to walk around the room, the requirements to be able to use two hand-controlled motion tracking controllers, Even just the simple function of putting a large bulky object onto your head. All these things can be exclusionary. Some of these, some of the barriers that VR throws up are kind of inherent to the platform, there’s not much you can do about them, but a lot of them can actually be addressed through just good accessible design. Which people are realising. There’s a lot of developers who are really really passionate about accessibility in VR. They’re doing some really really nice things, really nice creative approaches to accessibility and VR. And this is really really exciting for me to see because we haven’t had this before with a new platform. We didn’t have this when motion controls came out. Before that, we didn’t have this when touch controls came out. So it’s really really exciting to see just this level of understanding and appreciation of accessibility at such an early stage of VR. And we also had the launch of Playstation VR, Where the vast majority of launch games had an option like this. They had a choice between a standard controller and motion controllers. Which is obviously handy if you don’t happen to own Move controllers, also really really handy if you don’t happen to have a full set of working arms and working fingers. So hopefully because this is also Playstation VR, it is obviously quite a high-profile launch, a lot of high-profile games. Hopefully this will be the kind of thing that can help set a precedent. Show other developers what’s possible. Another nice source of accessibility in games over the past year in particular has been through game jams. I was just having a chat with somone just before I came in about this. Now I’m sure most the people in the room are pretty familiar with game jams, but just in case there are some uninitiated, it’s basically like a game based hackathon event. You turn up on day one, get given some kind of a challenge, team up, and then have a very very short amount of time to build a game. One of the biggest ones is an event called global game jam. This is a photo of just one single venue of global game jam. There’s venues like this all over the world. Loads of different countries, like 10,000 participants – tens of thousands of participants. And global game jam is an organization that cares a lot about accessibility. They have a… in addition to the main theme they also have a set of optional challenges, you know for in case building a game in 48 hours wasn’t enough of a challenge already. And every year a number of those optional challenges are accessibility ones. So for example in 2016 they had challenges like making a game you can play using one hand. Making a game that has high contrast visuals. And those challenges were taken up in the region of 3,000 times. Based on the average team sizes in global game jam, that’s something in the region of 10,000 developers who were experimenting with accessibility over the course of this weekend. And global game jam don’t have a monopoly on this either. In the past year there’s been more accessibility jams than there ever has been before. Jams that are either dedicated solely to accessibility like this one in Japan. Jams that have an accessibility element like global game jam. There has been… as well as this in Japan and global game jam there have been ones in Poland, UK, Canada, global ones And it’s really really nice to see because game jams are such a powerful tool for raising awareness. Because there’s a really common misconception that Accessibility is going to be difficult. It’s going to be hard. It’s going to be expensive. But if developers can come to an event like this and see that actually even in context of building a game in 48 hours you can make a real difference That’s a really really powerful lesson that people can take back to their day jobs. We’ve also seen some nice progress on individual features. One of these is subtitling. Now subtitling is really really important for lots of reasons I mean the obvious one being if you’re deaf It’s also important if, like I said earlier, if you have to play on mute because the baby’s asleep. It’s also important if you’re playing in a noisy room. People have it turned on because audio mixes in games are unpredictable, there might be an explosion going off just in an important bit of exposition. So because of all these reasons it’s not really surprising to see data like this. Now I have to give a little bit of a disclaimer, because this isn’t you know a scientific study this is a straw poll on a website. But still, it starts to tell a bit of a story. So because subtitles are so important for so many people, they’re obviously worth doing a good job of. But nobody does. Subtitles in games are terrible. And I do mean in all of your games. And this isn’t coming from me. So this is just coming from a single thread on Neogaf. So you can get the gist right? So in general gamers are really not happy about the state of subtitles in games. and its really really simple things, you know, you can see a lot of things people are talking about here are just, the subtitles are too small I can’t see them against the background, this really isn’t rocket science to solve And it’s also problems that have already been solved by other industries. You know like TV, film, they’ve been looking at this stuff for 50 years, they’ve figured it out, you can just copy the lessons they already learned. And games, finally, are starting to do that. So a few examples, this is from a game called Virginia, which doesn’t actually have any dialogue in it at all. But it still had captions for important background sounds. The latest Tomb Raider game. So you can see here, it’s using colour To distinguish who’s speaking. It’s also using name tags to distinguish who is speaking. It’s also using letterboxing, which is the name for that rectangle behind the text to increase the contrast. There are games that have done this before, but what makes Tomb Raider unique is that it’s optional. So there are some people who really really rely on this kind of stuff, other people who find it distracting Just give them the option – turn it on and off. We’ve also started to see games giving this option, the option to configure the size of the subtitles. Again this comes down for a different kind of use cases for subtitles. You know some people.. if someone’s deaf and needs to understand every single word that’s in the subtitles they need it to be as clear as possible. Somebody else like the person I mentioned who just glances at them occasionally when an explosion goes off they want them to be subtle. So again, just give people the choice. Someone else who has done this recently, this is the latest Hitman game. Two nice things here, first of all it’s giving a preview of what the subtitle is going to look like. Secondly… subtitle size – 46. Which is an important number, so that’s 46 pixels at 1080p. That’s the size that your subtitles should be. If you only have one size for your subtitles make them at least 46 pixels. If you don’t want them to be that by default at least provide an option for people to be able to change them up to that size. Last example, this is from Life Is Strange. So you can see they also have a size option on here Underneath have an option for the letterboxing. That black rectangle behind it. You can turn it on and off, you can change the opacity. What you’re also looking at is a list of all the games that have ever implemented this. So this is standard functionality on other platforms. You look at Youtube, you look at Netflix. They’ve got these kind of options. This is the only game to have done it, and it’s such a simple thing to do. So if you wanna really be at the pinnacle of innovation in the games industry, Let people turn that black box on and off. You’ll make a lot of people happy. So this is just kind of the start, as I mentioned there’s there’s all kinds of other things you can do, lessons you can learn from these other platforms, these other industries. So if you take note of this link here, this tells you all these kind of things you can do So on to… another feature that we’ve seen a lot of progress in is colourblindness, that’s continuing its march on towards being a standard consideration. In the past year there’s been a lot of progress in the number of games considering it also progress in the type of games that are considering it. So this is a game called Hue which is a colour based platform puzzler So you see there’s a ring around the character. When you choose a colour from that ring, it changes the background to that colour. So if you were to choose purple, the background would change to purple. Those purple blocks would then no longer be visible against the background and you could walk past them. so an entirely colour based game. This is the kind of game that you know a year or two ago would have been written off as being fundamentally about colour. How can someone who’s colourblind possibly play that? They’ve added symbols. Really simple elegant solution, and it works for all the different types of colorblindness And they’ve had really really good reception from the community for it. The next thing I’m going to show you is a similar kind of thing It’s a similar colour based… colour based puzzle game. This one’s a first-person one, it’s based on color mixing. So in the next game if you wanted to choose orange like this You would actually have to choose yellow and red and mix them together. Again, this is the kind of thing that a couple years ago would have been written off as impossible. It’s inherently colour based, right? So they’ve just done this. So again, this is a similar kind of solution to what was used in Hue. They’re just using symbols. So if you want to make something orange, you just combine the symbol for yellow and the symbol for red and that gives you orange. Really nice elegant solution and again something’s that’s gone down really really well with the community As well as these features there’s been all kinds of nice examples of individual games doing other nice things, Way too many to be able to go through today, but I’ll just give you a few quick examples. This one is Madden 17 which has a whole suite of options for impaired vision. And there’s actually a talk about this on tomorrow afternoon if you want to find out more about this. This is Warlock of Firetop Mountain, and this has a lot of options for configuring the typography, and this is designed specifically for that 14% of people who have difficulty reading. Which is so rarely considered and a lot of really quick easy fixes you can do Overwatch. Now Overwatch is a bit of a mixed bag, there’s some things Overwatch doesn’t do so well, but some things that does really really well, and this is one of them. so this is what I was talking about earlier with being able to remap all the individual classes individually That makes this kind of stuff possible. It makes a real difference And this is the really really important example of a game from the last year. So you might have seen some of the press about this, this is Uncharted 4. Unharted 4 has put in some effort into accessibility for motor impairment. So it has features to allow you to play one-handed, it moves the camera around automatically for you. It has as functionality like Grand Theft Auto to automatically lock on your aim. It has an option here, the one that’s highlighted for repeated button presses. So if you can’t physically mash the buttons you can just hold it down instead. These options are really popular. This is something you quite often find in accessibility. Because what you’re doing is just removing a barrier, you aren’t addressing a small niche, you’re making the game better for everybody. because what’s a complete game stopping barrier for one person is probably still a bit of annoyance for everybody else. So they actually found that… Camera assist, for playing one handed, that’s actually used by a third of their players. They also had some really nice accidental accessibility as well So if you’ve played Uncharted you probably know they have a whole bunch of modes you can unlock which is just intended as a bit of fun. That includes a slow-motion mode and a slow-motion aiming mode. which is really really helpful for people have got impaired motor ability. They also include this, which is something called thief vision. You can see what is doing with the contrast and with the edge detection, this is actually unintentionally making the game accessible to people who are legally blind. So that means people who aren’t completely blind, but have low enough vision that it has significant impact on their on their lives, they can still play just based on this accidental feature. All this stuff is really nice, but it isn’t the real reason why Uncharted is important. The reason why the accessibility in Uncharted is important is because it’s in Uncharted. So going back to what I was saying earlier about misconceptions. Another common misconception is that thinking about accessibility is going to make your game less fun. It’s going to dilute down your ideas to suit a lowest common denominator. It doesn’t take very long looking at Uncharted’s critical reception, its metacritic, its sales figures, to see that that is completely false. And the other reason it’s really important is because being such a high profile game, it makes other developers sit up and take notice. And there’s historical precedent for that as well, because, you know I was saying about colourblindness… I’m sure you’re all aware that colourblindness is a pretty common thing to consider now. In 2014 it wasn’t, it was really really rare. It wasn’t until three games in 2014, which was Borderlands 2, Sim City and Black Ops 2, they implemented colour blind modes. It was big big news. Like front page news, and as soon as that happened, people knew about colorblindness. other people started implementing it. And we’re already seeing this with Uncharted. Everything from one man indies to the big publishers are actually taking notice, and thinking a lot more about accessibility as a direct result of this game. And it isn’t by accident either. They made a lot of effort to actually tell people about their accessibility functionality. And they aren’t the only people to be doing it either. So down at the other end of the scale, this is a indie game called Legacy of the Elder Star . And what this is is screenshots from the trailer for the game. So they’ve dedicated a whole chunk of their trailer just to telling people about their accessibility features. Which kind of seems like an obvious thing to do, tell people about your accessibility features, But a lot of developers don’t. And that’s, you know, that’s the worst situation you can be in. If you dedicated time and energy and money into putting this stuff into place and gamers don’t find it. So it’s really really important to tell people about what you’ve done. It doesn’t have to be through fancy videos either, it can be other means such as in Final Fantasy. This is something I’ve never seen before. So in Final Fantasy 15, They’ve actually included accessibility information in the printed manual But it doesn’t need to be as fancy as that, either. This is going back to Hue, that colour based platform game. They included one single bullet point about their colourblind mode in their press release. As a result something in the region of 20 different outlets picked up on the code blind mode. They gave it a really good reception. And he actually gave a talk about it on Monday, And he reckons it actually pushed up his metacritic score by a few points just from including that one bullet point in his press release. So it’s nice for getting some good PR from as well. And game developers aren’t the only people who are telling gamers about accessibility functionality. This year GameCritics started including this kind of information in their reviews. GameCritics is a mainstream game review site, and as of this year on every review they put out, the include information on colour blindness, controls, and hearing accessibility. And on this topic of dialogue, dialogue is a two-way thing right, so it’s not just about you giving information to gamers about accessibility, it’s about you getting information from gamers about accessibility as well. And this is a really nice example of that. This is earlier last year Karen Stevens, the person who is giving the talk about the Madden accessibility. She has actually set up an email address and a Twitter account specifically for receiving accessibility feedback, and she then routes that to all the various different EA studios. There’s been explicit calls for feedback as well. This is a survey that went out from FailBetter games, Asking for input from the community on ideas of how to make their games more accessible. This is the same thing again from Cliff Bleszinsky. And this is actually following on from an experience that Cliff had earlier in the year that he wrote about. So this is from a meeting that he has with a group of young veterans. So Cliff there… Cliff isn’t the only example of high-level support and recognition for accessibility that’s been happening This recognition goes all the way to the very top So in the past year AbleGamers which are an accessibility charity in the USA, were invited to speak about accessibility at the White House. SpecialEffect who are an accessibility charity in the UK, their new facility was opened not just by the prime minister but by delegation of senior politicians from across the political divide. And there was all kinds of nice quotes that they came out of this. This is one of them. It’s probably not going to mean a huge amount to you if you’re not from the uk To understand it basically replace Mr Cameron for Mr Trump, and Tom Watson for Bernie Sanders. So you can see in the UK this is kind of a big deal This kind of real real high-level support and backing and understanding of the importance of accessibility But back in the games industry there has been this kind of high-level support as well. So at E3 last year there was the Gaming for Everyone initiative announced by Microsoft And this is kind of a general inclusivity and diversity initiative that explicitly includes accessibility for gamers with disabilities. And this is a quote from Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, about that. So this kind of statement about the importance of accessibility. You know a couple of years ago this just would have been unimaginable. Another quote here from Phil Spencer as well So just to explain exactly what this is, this is the head of Xbox Praising a PlayStation exclusive game. This is not something that happens every day. And Playstation themselves as well At PlayStation experience, which is their annual consumer event, They hosted a panel specifically on accessibility. This isn’t something that’s happened before And this is a quote from Shawn Layden, chair of Sony Worldwide Studios, from the start of that event. So you can see, “we really want to be leaders in this field”, this kind of high level support and backing for accessibility isn’t something that there’s really been before and it’s so important. Because over the years, speaking to developers on the ground who really really want to do nice stuff, implement nice features, but they just haven’t been able to because they can’t get it up the chain, up onto the backlog, because management you know don’t believe in the ROI, all that kind of stuff. You need that stuff. If you want enact lasting cultural change it has to come from multiple angles. You need to have people on the grounds who understand what’s required, who want to do the work. You have to have people at the top who believe in it who are willing to empower their staff to make those changes And you also need to have pressure externally. So you need to have the public, the gamers, letting industry know that this is important. This is something that they want to see. And now for the first time we’re actually starting to see all those three pieces start to slot into place. That means that now like never before we have a real opportunity to enact lasting positive change in the industry We just have to reach out and take it. Thanks [applause] So as I said this was just covering kind of a few key things. The first link on there is much longer version It’s a list of all the nice stuff that happened over the last year, and the quotes as well. The next link down, game advocacy, If you want to get involved in kind of bringing these advances about that’s lots of ideas of things you can do to help push the field forward. Then lastly Game Accessibility Guidelines, if you want to implement accessibility features into your own games, that gives you loads of good suggestions of things you can do, examples a good practices, stuff like that. And lastly me I’m always keen to chat if there’s anything you ever want to know about accessibility Anything you want to chat through, anything you want to rant about, get in touch and happily talk your ear off. So that’s me well we’ve got a bit of time if any of you have any questions I’m more than happy, if there’s anything you’re uncomfortable asking now just hit me up afterwards and we can have a chat. Any takers? Anyone gonna start me off? So question for you, you you held up Unity’s action map as maybe an example of a way that the middleware provider could make it easier for game developers to build accessibility in their games Yeah Can you talk a little bit about other opportunities the platform holders or the middleware vendors have that could make it easy to do some of the things that you talked about today. Yeah, absolutely So this is the potential for things like middleware to make it easier for developers to do this kind of stuff There’s huge huge possibility there. Because historically engines have been a blocker to accessibility. They really could be an enabler. So yeah the remapping is a really good example Another one is subtitling because a lot of the things I was talking about, those good practices, They could be addressed at an engine level. Because often the problems you get are because of the way that subtitles fit into the production pipeline. You don’t get.. you can’t actually produce the subtitles themselves until you have the audio You don’t get a final audio until the end, people then build a system without any time, any resources And it’s just kind of a bit hacky. If it was done at an engine level you would get developers who would get that point, say oh my God the engine does it for me? I’ll put into my game, I’ll just use that, amazing. If what is built by the engine at the engine level has all these nice good practices built-in That means that those developers, even those developers who quickly chuck it in a rush, have got all that really nice accessibility functionality in there from the start. So just the things like the ability to customize the letterboxing, like having a decent default size, all that kind of stuff could be nicely handled at engine level and stop people having to reinvent the wheel every time, especially when they’re reinventing the wheel of the square every time as well. Yeah, that’s one example. One that I’d really really love to see some progress on is screen readers. So that’s the technology that people who are blind use to access technology. So basically it just reads out text strings of whatever’s on the screen, whatever is on the screen. It works really nicely on mobile devices, and so this is on any mobile device you’ve got whether it’s Android, iOS, Windows Phone, you just turn on the screen reader, and it changes how gestures work. So anything you would normally do with two fingers, sorry with one finger, you have to use two fingers for instead that frees up one finger so you can run your finger over the surface of the screen and through synthesised speech it speaks out the label of anything your finger moves over So you can actually use your finger like an eye and visualise what’s on the screen. So stuff like interface based games is really perfectly suited for. It doesn’t work with engines. Because engines don’t output native operating system interface elements. they output just a bunch of pixels. That’s something that engine developers could address, if they did it would make a huge huge difference. An, I dunno if I can steal Evelyn’s thunder? Yep? Sure. So there’s a talk tomorrow by Evelyn Thomas Is she.. what’s her title, is it program manager? Yes, program manager for accessibility at xbox. In her talk tomorrow she is going to be talking about a new API on the Xbox that allows developers to access text-to-speech so game developers can actually make their interfaces blind accessible on the Xbox That’s the kind of thing that could be done at engine level you know because all the engines have decent UI systems built in. If they automatically passed out the labels of those interface elements then there would be a lot of interface based games that would just be blind accessible by default with no effort from developers. Which is how it works with natively built games. It’d be amazing to see engine based games doing that as well But yeah, yeah really good question, there’s a lot of potential for good from middleware engines Any other takers? Right, we’re good! Good stuff. Thank you. [applause]

5 comments on “Raising the Bar: 2016’s Accessibility Advancements

  1. I appreciate the talk on accessibility. It's important and merits dialogue, for sure. Though I found it kind of ironic that he didn't read out the quotes from his presentation slides, necessitating that I had to read them out for a student who is blind. It might be annoying for people who can read, but if the text provides context for what you are saying (as opposed to being an abridged version of the current topic), then it kind of has to be read out-loud for those who cannot read them.

    Good piece, otherwise. Thanks Ian.

  2. For a quick cheat sheet on how to provide accessibility, google "includification".
    AbleGamers made a well-arranged and elaborate Game Accessibility Guideline, with examples and all. It's even categorized into different levels of cost-benefit, making it very easy to apply to a development plan.

  3. Subtitling: it still friggin BAFFLES me that when people talk about subtitles they only talk about accessibility issues.

    Having "ON/OFF" for subtitles is NOT enough even for proper sized visible subtitles: you HAVE to be able to chose the language for it. Being "forced" to endure a bad voiceover because you only have the option to change ALL the language at once is SILLY!

    Video DVDs offer the option to use any language for subtitles and voiceover separately from DAY ONE! Why is this not a standard in videogames?
    Also, hardcoding qwerty keybindings with no options to rebind it for non qwerty users? That is the most stupid thing ever and this representes next to nothing time wise to implement but still lazy devs like Telltale Games don't offer it.

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