article, reproduced with permission from its original author,
originally debuted as a lecture at Microsoft's 2006 Gamefest business
conference. Some art assets have been reproduced from the original
presentation. Additional resources can be found at the MSDN home page, as well as the Resources section at the end of this article.]
publishers and developers love to focus on features that will get their
titles noticed by the mainstream gaming community, such as graphics and
audio. But there is another audience, eager to take part in these games
as well. These gamers come from the accessibility community—a community
of people with disabilities, as well as those who care about their
This paper is for game content developers
and producers who want to reach this market by adding basic
accessibility features to help people with disabilities or impairments.
The following topics will be discussed:
What is Accessibility?
when people think of accessibility, they think of things like
wheelchair ramps and closed captioning on television. This is because
these sorts of accessibility features stand out and are used by those
with obvious disabilities. However, accessibility features aren't
designed just for those with the most severe disabilities. Among US
computer users who range from 18 to 64 years old, 57% (74.2 million)
are likely to benefit from the use of accessible technology due to
disabilities and impairments that may impact computer use. ("The Market for Accessible Technology: The Wide Range of Abilities and Its Impact on Computer Use,"
Microsoft Corporation) Being able to turn up a payphone's volume allows
people with mild hearing loss to use them. A hand rail on a flight of
stairs allows a mobility-impaired person to climb them more easily.
regular features of a product end up being features that can help
people with impairments. For instance, someone with a visual impairment
can use the contrast settings on a television to make the screen easier
to see. A person with Parkinson's disease can use one touch dialing to
make it easier to make a telephone call.
Can your market expand this far?
Accessibility features generally tend to serve one of five types of disabilities:
Vision - Blindness, inability to distinguish colors, blurred Vision, etc.
Hearing - Hard-of-hearing, deafness.
Speech - Speech impairments, language differences.
Mobility - Wrist, arm, leg, and hand impairments.
Cognitive - Learning impairments and reasoning challenges, including dyslexia.
In the context of video games, adding accessibility means making a title usable to someone with one of these disabilities.