Accessibility in jams #2: basic guidance in jams of any theme

Following on from the previous post about jams that have a specific accessibility theme, there’s also the other side to it – basic accessibility guidance in jams and competitions that do not have it as a specific theme.

If there’s already another theme in place, something else to have to focus on, taking on extra challenges can be fatal to a team’s effort. So the trick is to keep it to just a few key recommendations, things that can be done for almost no effort and that benefit huge numbers of players. The list of recommendations also has to be as short enough that it can be easily read at a glance and still remembered amongst the frantic pre-jam information overload.

The following is a list of basic criteria, honed down over a number of successive jams to a point where they’re generally understood and achieved by all participants, together with some suggested brief introductory text to set the scene. In all, it quite easily fits onto less than a single sheet of paper.

Accessibility for disabled gamers

Even in the space of a game jam, a great deal can be done to avoid unnecessarily excluding the 20%+ of gamers who have motor, cognitive, hearing or vision impairments.

Below are a top five considerations to help reach as broad an audience as possible. They apply to most game mechanics and are easily achievable if thought about early enough.

1. Keep controls as simple as possible

Taps and presses are easier for gamers with motor impairments than gestures and complex combinations.

2. Give players as much time as they need to read text

Ensure players who have difficultly reading don’t miss out on important information by dismissing text prompts on a player action rather than on timer.

3. Ensure important elements are easy to see

Use high contrast visuals with interactive elements clearly highlighted, and use well spaced mixed-case text in a clear typeface.

4. Avoid communicating important information by colour alone

Use symbol, shape or pattern in addition to colour, to avoid excluding colour-blind gamers.

5. Avoid communicating important information by sound alone

Include gamers with hearing impairments by reinforcing audio prompts with visual prompts, and reinforcing speech with captions.

For more ideas see:
Game Accessibility Guidelines – Basic

A handout on its own can only go so far, having some reinforcement makes a huge difference. Both upfront, with a quick 2 minute talk to the group about why it is being considered, and positive reinforcement at the end too, making sure to call out any team who has done a particularly nice job on it.

Even though the above considerations are simple and easy, they’re still enough to make a genuine difference to gamers, and enough for the jammers themselves to often come away with some new knowledge and experience, which is of course what jams are all about.

If you’d like to chat any more about accessibility in jams, drop me a line.


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