Video Game Accessibility for the Blind Gets Better

(DGIwire) – By definition, video games are an intensely visual medium—and the quality of the visuals can make or break a game’s quality. For visually impaired players, a lack of access to what’s happening on the screen has been a longstanding challenge. But it’s one that is rapidly changing with the advent of new technology, as reported in a recent article on Quartzy. In various new sports games, for example, players have the option to add different sounds to different plays; in some driving games, audio cues indicate when cars are turning.

The size of the audience for such games could be substantial, the article suggests. More than seven million people in the U.S. ages 16 to 75 reported a visual disability in 2015, according to the most recent statistics from the National Federation of the Blind. A good portion of them would likely play accessible video games. As of 2018, about 211 million people, or 67 percent of Americans, play video games, according to a study by Electronic Entertainment Design and Research.

“The key to genuine engagement with video games among the visually impaired is to build those games from the ground up with this population in mind,” says Marty Schultz, the Founder and President of Blindfold Games, an app development company that builds accessible games for the visually impaired community. “Listening to feedback from users about what makes certain games work is a vital step.”

The feedback from teachers and students who have used Blindfold Games has been unanimously positive. The consensus of many is that the games provide a great deal of fun even as they convey useful concepts.

Some teachers of students who are visually impaired have noted the importance of Blindfold Games to their students, not only in terms of their educational value but also because the games allow them to have recreational access in a world designed for people who have typical vision—a deficit that is especially felt in the gaming realm.

Meanwhile, typical feedback from players has praised the format of various Blindfold Games, specifically the fact that some of them have been designed “from the ground up” with accessibility in mind for the visually impaired, rather than having accessibility features added after the success of the initial game release. Special kudos has been given for making the navigation of the games intuitive using standard voiceover gestures. The use of these gestures, many players note, reduces the learning curve and makes the games easier to play. All that is necessary to learn is which gestures control what aspect of a particular game. Another positive aspect of the Blindfold Games, according to player feedback, is that they can be played along with sighted family members.

“The more accessible a game is to a visually impaired player, the more engaged they are—and the more likely they are to spread word about it among the community,” Schultz adds.