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  • Top Considerations For Prioritizing Accessibility

    [05.12.20]
    - Ian Hamilton

  • Other angles

    So if you want to go beyond just using a short generalised list like this as a way to get started with the basic fundamentals - where to from there? What else is useful to take into account?

    Game-specific considerations

    When progressing from getting the general basics right, again a significant gap from the surveys is considerations that are relevant to your specific mechanic, the kind of barriers that your specific game presents and the kind of solutions that fit with the experience you have in mind for your players. What's sensible to prioritise for Civilisation is quite different to what's sensible to prioritise for Doom.

    The ideal way to identify where barriers might lie with your mechanic is a combination of user research, guidelines, and expert advice.

    There's never an point at which this is too early, all can start before a line of code is written, e.g. expert review on similar competitor products, co-creation workshop with gamers based on your early concepts and past games, familiarisation with guidelines before you even start thinking about ideas, etc. Speaking with the audience doesn't have to be difficult or time consuming, even just a quick tweet can reap huge rewards. 

    But realistically, making use of all of or even any of these three tools is not always possible for everyone, for all kinds of reasons. So the rest of this piece isn't going to focus on those, and instead will look at what you can do by yourself.

    So in lieu of (and in addition to!) those three, a good starting point is to set aside a little time in the early stages of development to think about the following high level groups, and what barriers your game might present to them. 

    Even just a few minutes spent thinking about each will make a difference to how many people will be able to have an enjoyable experience with your game. 

    • Vision
    • Hearing
    • Cognition
    • Motor
    • Speech

    Or if you have a bit more time to think in a bit more detail, here are some simple breakdowns of each. These are not complete breakdowns, but they should be enough to get some thoughts going without becoming too overwhelming.

    Vision
    Ability to see/distinguish things that are small, low contrast, differentiated by hue, or ability to see at all. 

    Hearing
    Partial or complete general level of hearing loss (in one or both ears) ability to hear specific frequencies, or distinguishing multiple different sounds at the same time.

    Cognition
    Ability to take in information (including recall from memory), figure out what it means and what action to take as a result, handle multiple and frequent sources of information, and manage intense sensory load.

    Motor
    Reach, strength, stamina, timing, and frequency and complexity of inputs.

    Speech
    This doesn't often come up, the main scenario is partially or fully impaired ability to communicate vocally in multiplayer comms.

    The solutions to barriers relating to all of these usually boil down to two core things:

    1. Communicate information in more than one way
    2. Offer players some choice of what works best for them

    Setting some time aside to think about these groups should allow you to identify some game-specific issues and game-specific solutions to them, either by design or through options. And while it's important to recognise that your familiarity with the game will make certain barriers invisible to you (another reason why UR matters), knowing the game better than anyone else can still be useful - even without much accessibility experience you should still have some kind of a feel for which would be the most game breaking barriers. 

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