On Mobility Disabilities

The following was taken from the original GA SIG White Paper, which is in the process of being updated.

What is Game Accessibility?
Definition:

One task that we had to address was the lack of a definition of “game accessibility”. While there were already definitions of “accessibility,” we felt that they did not meet our requirements.

Therefore, the following definition was developed by the GA-SIG:

  • “Game Accessibility can be defined as the ability to play a game even when functioning under limiting conditions. Limiting conditions can be functional limitations, or disabilities — such as blindness, deafness, or mobility limitations.”

What are the Types of Disabilities and Limiting Conditions?

There are a variety of different mobility conditions that could limit a person attempting to play a game. The primary categories encountered in gaming are limitations in mobility are listed below.

Mobility:

Paralysis:

  • Paralysis could occur as the result of accident, birth defects, or disease. In paralysis, the nerves that control the voluntary muscles of the body are no longer signaling those muscles. Depending on the cause, the person may have only a limited ability to move any part of their body.
  • As a result of paralysis, certain types of games requiring excellent hand/eye coordination or the ability to rapidly press a button (“twitch” games) are not really accessible. Other types of games such as turn based strategy games may be more suitable, assuming they could work with adaptive hardware.

Neurological disorders

  • Certain neurological disorders can cause mobility issues. An example is Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS, often called Lou Gehrig’s disease). Due to problems with transmitting impulses to muscles, people with neurological disorders also suffer many of the same issues affecting paralysis victims.

Repetitive Stress Injury

  • Repetitive Stress Injuries are a result of repeating motions over a long period of time. There are a variety of related forms such as Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Trigger Finger, or Tendonitis (as well any several others not listed here).
  • Most of these injuries are readily treatable, but can reoccur if the person goes back to the same habits. In many cases, changes in the ergonomics of where they play or use of a different type of controller may remove the problem.

Age related issues:

  • As the “baby boomer” generation starts to approach old age and retirement, we will begin to see more of these issues appearing with respect to games.
  • Even controllers can cause problems for an increasingly older population. With slower reflexes, “twitch” games become more difficult. A game that required a lot of mouse motion and rapid, accurate clicking on the screen will probably not appeal to older gamers.

Lack of mobility

  • One of the unfortunate aspects of aging is the gradual loss of flexibility in joints and difficulties moving as fast or as well as one used to. Degenerative diseases like arthritis become more common. Games requiring the player to participate with their whole body, such as “Dance, Dance Revolution,” may not be appealing or physically possible. This also applies to many Wii games, or games featuring the PS3 move or the XBox360 Kinect.

Lack of steadiness

  • Along with the problems listed above with lack of mobility, there is a gradual loss of muscle tone, making fine movements more difficult. Other factors like Parkinson’s Disease can also affect the ability to control a game.

Addressing Mobility Disabilities in Games

 

How can we provide accessibility in games?

Having seen the potential audience for accessible games and the reasons for providing accessibility, now we must look at how this can best be accomplished.

Possible Approaches – Listed in no particular order

There are a variety of possible approaches developers can take when providing accessibility. The list given below is just a starting point. These recommendations can either apply to PC games, console games, or both.

Allow controller reconfiguration for improved comfort.

  • Application: All titles
  • Description: Offer players freedom in repositioning controls (also known as remapping controls, or reconfiguring controls) to suit them and their possibly non-standard controller. Where relevant, allow adjustment of control sensitivity, y and x axis inversion and provide left-handed/south-paw modes. Ideally allow for a controller profile to be conveniently saved and accessed.
  • Accomplishment: Allows players to set controls up in a way that works for them, and their range or speed of movement.
  • Test: Does your title allow the player set the button mapping of each action possible in game?

Provide alternative controller support.

  • Application: All titles
  • Description: Do not limit the player to only using standard controllers or keyboards, or require a standard controller for use of your title. Seek to offer support for at least one alternative controller and/or simplified control scheme. Consider those unable to use traditional input methods such as joy-pads and microphones.
  • Accomplishment: This allows the player to use non-standard controllers or special build controllers that work better with them and for their needs.
  • Test: Does the title allow use of a various controller types, or does the title only recognize one controller?

Provide broad difficulty level and/or speed adjustment where applicable.

  • Application: All titles
  • Description: Allow the players to choose from a very broad range of difficulties and speed, while understanding that for some players there is no such thing as too easy or too slow.
  • Accomplishment: People can benefit from slower and easier versions by adjusting the game to tailor to their abilities and do not restrict a player’s game choices because a title is too difficult of frustrating for them.
  • Test: Does your game allow for these setting to be changed? If yes, can the title be adjusted to a mode where it is very hard to fail or loose?

Practice, training, free-roaming and/or tutorial modes if applicable.

  • Application: All Titles
  • Description: Offer a mode where the player is able to engage the game with out failing, or in a way that provides information on how to play the title to the player.
  • Accomplishment: This helps with comprehension, controller adjustments, skill development, and also simply offer a fun way in for those struggling with the standard game.
  • Test: Does your title this feature? Is the player free to experiment and learn at his or her own pace?

Accessible menus

  • Application: All titles
  • Description: Consider quick start modes, the importance of digital-input navigation and text alternatives such as text-to-speech and symbols. For a game with a complex interface, provide a simplified interface that displays only the most commonly used controls. The full features are still available, but are normally hidden from the user.
  • Accomplishment: Allows players who may have difficulty navigating complex menus do to vision jump into game quickly and with out confusion.
  • Test: If there a way for to get into some form of gameplay in 3 menu selections or less?

List accessibility features, options and game requirements.

  • Application: All titles
  • Description: Make efforts to ensure that this information is free and easy to obtain and understand. This information may This information may be posted on a studio’s website or game packaging. Consider submitting for review to Game Accessibility review sites.
  • Accomplishment: Allows players to know if they will able to enjoy a title before they purchase the title or begin playing.
  • Test: Is there a way to view your titles accessibility features, options and game requirements with our launching the title?

Keyboard navigation of all controls, with visual and spoken feedback

  • Application: Computer titles (PC or Mac)
  • Description: Allow all commands to be entered via the keyboard. As each is entered, provide both a visual and auditory message to indicate what has been done.
  • Accomplishment: This feature would assist players with mobility, vision, and auditory disabilities navigate through the game and its menus.
  • Test: Does your game allow the player to enter commands or navigate via a keyboard? When commands are entered, is there both a visual and auditory indication as to what command has been used?

Auto aim, or auto centering, the ability to lock on a target and more

  • Application: All titles that allow the player to control where they are looking
  • Description: Assist the player by offering the option for auto aim, or auto centering, the ability to lock on a target.
  • Accomplishment: Allows players with low visibility to quickly find targets and stop from loosing them.

Better in-game tutorials / user feedback / automatic help

  • Description: Guide the player through the title, providing feedback and teach them controls. Provide the player with objective indicators or directional arrow can provide assistance to players who are lost.
  • Accomplishment: This feature would be helpful to almost all gamers. Many people like to jump right in to a game without reading the manual. It would be of particular help for people with learning disabilities who did not have the attention span or reading ability for focus on a long manual.
  • Test: Does the player need to read the manual or look up how to properly play your game?

 

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