Film Victoria accessibility guidance

Information for Film Victoria funding applicants, covering background information and specific guidance for each feature.

Why accessibility is important

Disability occurs when a barrier is encountered that interacts with a person’s medical condition, resulting in difficulty performing day-to-day tasks. Accessibility means the avoidance of these barriers.

15% – 20% of the population is disabled, and people with disabilities can actually have more reasons to be gamers than the rest of the population ¹. So it is important that game developers – like any other sector of the community – look to remove unnecessary barriers to participation in order to create an equivalent experience for everyone. It goes without saying that the more people who can access a product, the greater chance it has of commercial success.

What constitutes a disability extends beyond traditional stereotypes. There are others who could be affected by the same barriers, but aren’t traditionally classified as disabled. When you consider that 8-10% of all males are colourblind ², and 13% of adults in Australia / 18% of adults in the USA have difficulty reading ³, working towards greater accessibility can mean reaching a significantly larger audience.

Accessibility and game development

There is a strong human reason for considering accessibility in games. Games provide access to recreation, culture, socialising – things that mean the difference between existing and living. For profound impairments this can go even further, with games often used for therapy, pain relief, escapism and independence.

Improved accessibility can also result in a better experience for other players. There is no “standard” gamer; ability levels vary greatly from one person to another. And there are also situational impairments, such as playing in a noisy area, in bright sunlight, or surrounded by distractions. Most accessibility considerations are just plain good game design.

A game can’t be accessible to everyone, there are always some barriers that are a necessary part of the mechanic. It is always possible to optimise, to identify and avoid unnecessary barriers.

Being more accessible doesn’t have to be difficult. As game developers, with a bit of smart design we can we can make a big difference to people’s lives, reach wider audiences, and improve the experience for all players.

Accessibility and Film Victoria’s funding applications

Recognising the importance of accessible game design, in late 2011 Film Victoria partnered with the International Games Developers’ Association to produce accessibility guidance and requirements for their games funding programs.

Each application form has an accessibility section, where the applicant is prompted to indicate which accessibility features they will include.

The following are all examples of features that make a significant difference to gamers with disabilities, and if considered early enough in development, should not be difficult or expensive. The earlier you think about it, the easier and cheaper it becomes.

Subtitles

  • Application: All titles in which speech is used
  • Description: Providing a text alternative for all speech present in the game. This includes speech during cinematics and gameplay (frequently referred to as systemic voiceover). Subtitles should be presented in an easily readable default size and font, with no more than 38 characters per line, and must contrast with the background at all times. In most titles, adding a dark letter box behind light coloured text is the best way to ensure this is true at all times. The speaker should always be indicated in some way.
  • Accomplishment: Ensuring deaf gamers, gamers with auditory impairments, or situational impairments have access to narrative and important gameplay information.

Test: Play the title on mute. Is all speech subtitled, including gameplay speech and the opening cinematic? Is all text easily readable? Is it always clear who is speaking?

Additional information:
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com : Provide a text alternative for all speech
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com : Subtitles and Captions formatting
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com: Ensure subtitles are presented at the appropriate words per minute rate

(gamasutra article on subtitle spec – URL to be supplied)

High contrast

  • Application: All titles
  • Description: Provide high contrast colour schemes, or provide a high contrast option (e.g. a toggle or slider to tint the background towards black or white). Adding a prominent stroke in the opposite colour to the object (e.g. a light glow on a dark object, or dark outline on a light object) is an easy way to allow it to be distinguished against both light and dark backgrounds.
  • Accomplishment: Increases visibility of elements that are important to gameplay, for people with a wide range of vision impairments.

Test: Check using the following tool – www.snook.ca/technical/colour_contrast/colour.html. Enter in the colours of any two overlapping things that need to be distinguished from each other. Do you get a ‘YES’ in the ‘WCAG 2 AA Compliant’ box?

 Additional Information:
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com : Provide an option to adjust contrast

Large, clear text

  • Application: All titles
  • Description: Set the default text size in the title as large and easy to read, particularly on mobile devices or when not sitting directly in front of a TV. Ideally, the player should be able to choose their font sizes as alternatives to small and/or indistinct fonts.
  • Accomplishment: Large clear text is easier to read, not just for gamers with vision impairments or dealing with situational factors, but also for some gamers with dyslexia, as letter and word shapes are easier to distinguish at larger sizes.

Test: Determine the distance at which you’re normally testing your title. Does it seem easy to read? Now, double the distance. Is it still easy for you to read at this distance? If not, consider increasing your text size.

Additional Info:
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com : Use an easily readable default font size

Colourblind-friendly

  • Application: All titles, particularly those providing information via colour
  • Description: If possible, avoid providing information based on colour alone. Icons, patterns or shapes in addition to colour give the player multiple ways to receive the information. Find and avoid contrast problems (such as red on green or red on black) by testing using a simulator, such as the free one available at colororacle.org. If colourblind-friendly by default isn’t possible, you can resort to creating modes for the various different types of colourblindness, but this will mean more work.
  • Accomplishment: Allows those that are colourblind to have access to all information and see everything they need to.

Test: Does your title display information based on any object based on its colour? For example, something good is green and something bad is red?  If yes, is this the only way this information is conveyed? If yes, use something else as well as colour. Also, are there any elements that need to be easily distinguishable, but don’t appear to be when viewing through a colour blindness simulator? If yes, increase contrast.

Additional Information:
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com : Ensure no essential information is conveyed by a colour alone
Free colourblindness simulator

Support more than one input device

  • Application: All titles
  • Description:Different input devices require different types of strength and dexterity, so any additional control method you can offer will mean more people are able to have an enjoyable experience. Analogue stick as well as d-pad, keyboard/mouse as well as controller, keyboard as well as mouse. The various custom devices that people with more profound motor impairment map directly to conventional devices, for example eye gaze and head pointers function as mice, and sip puff tubes and wheelchair headrest mounted switches function as keyboard keys. So supporting more than one conventional input device, together with having large forgiving hit areas and simple controls, means the niche custom devices are covered too. For mobile, think about different input methods. Offer the player a choice between a virtual joystick and tilting the device for input, for example, or between large buttons and a virtual stick, or between taps and gestures.
  • Accomplishment: This allows the player to use non-standard controllers or special build controllers that work better with them and for their needs in addition to various combinations of keyboards, gestures, and mice.

Test: Does the title allow use of a various controller types, or does the title only recognize one controller?

Additional information:
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com : Support more than one input device

Customisable Controls

  • Application: All titles
  • Description: Offer players freedom in repositioning controls to suit their needs. This can mean manual remapping of buttons or keys, or being able to use virtual controls in different positions on the screen. In the case of consoles or PC titles, this may be needed for the use of non-standard controllers. Where relevant, allow adjustment of control sensitivity, Y/X-axis inversion, and provide left-handed/south-paw modes. Ideally allow for a controller profile to be conveniently saved and accessed. This feature works best when combined with offering the player multiple default control schemes.
  • Accomplishment: Allows players with a wide range of motor impairments 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 as much freedom as possible in how they control the game?

Additional Info:
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com : Allow controls to be remapped
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com : Include an option to adjust the sensitivity of controls
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com : Allow interfaces to be rearranged

List accessibility features, options and game requirements.

  • Application: All titles
  • Description: Ensure that gamers know whether a game is suitable for them before purchase, through information provided on packaging, on the game’s website, or in feature listings. A symbol is available to indicate that it is information on accessibility – http://www.oneswitch.org.uk/game-access.htm. Also consider donating the game for review by Game Accessibility review sites (e.g. unstoppablegamer.org, applevis.com, dagers.com) who would be willing to publish the information. A combination of these efforts would yield the greatest benefit, and make it easier for gamers to know if they will be able to play your title before purchasing. Also make some of the information available in-game, for example during tutorials and in loading screen hints, as not all players know to go looking in the settings menus.
  • Accomplishment: Ensures players looking for information are able to make informed purchasing decisions, and ensures players who haven’t looked for information are aware that features are present

Test: Is there a way to view your title’s accessibility features, options and game requirements with launching the title and testing? Is there some in-game indication that accessibility features are present outside of the settings menus themselves?

Additional Information:
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com : Provide details of accessibility features on packaging and/or website

Provide a wide range of difficulty levels

  • Application: All titles
  • Description: Allow the players to choose from a very broad range of difficulties and speed, understanding that for some players there is no such thing as too easy or too slow. ‘Challenging’ means different things to different people, so allowing a wide range means as many people as possible at both ends of the scale are able to have an equivalent experience.
  • Accomplishment: People with motor, vision of cognitive impairment can benefit from slower and easier versions by adjusting the game to tailor to their abilities.

Test: Does your game provide multiple difficulty levels? If yes, can the title be adjusted to a mode where it is significantly harder to fail or loose?

Additional Info:
Gameaccessibilityguidelines.com : Offer a wide choice of difficulty levels


References:

  1. PopCap survey on disability prevelance amongst casual gamers
  2. Colblindor: Colorblind population
  3. The International Survey of Adult Skills 2012
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