Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2017

Global Accessibility Awareness Day is an event that takes place in May every year, a day aimed at getting people talking, thinking and learning about digital accessibility.

It did not include any representation of games to start with, but has steadily grown. From a single games panellist on a multi industry panel in 2013 through to GAAD 2016’s six articles, two talks and four videos, including three as part of ID24, and of course the highlight being the unveiling of Uncharted 4’s well known accessibility featureset.

This year there was another huge leap forward, which I think is in line with the huge leap being taken forward in the industry in general. It is now getting to the point where it is hard to keep track of, but hopefully it is still fairly comprehensive!

Some of the events were private, but some are videos and articles freely available online, which make for a great set of new accessibility resources.

There were several internal awareness raising events, the first being at the BBC. They held a live streamed multi venue multi industry event, which included demos of switch-accessible preschool gaming:

two people playtesting ipad single switch games

And also had blind gamer SightlessKombat on hand, taking on challengers in Killer Instinct:

SightlessKombat playing killer instinct against a new challenger


Next up cross-industry accessibility consultancy Funka held a dedicated game accessibility awareness raiser at their head office in Stockholm, with 150 attendees:

two men playing nintendo switch while wearing vision impairment goggles


Gaikai, makers of PlayStation Now, also held an internal event, sponsored by their new Accessibility Committee. Opening talks by Mike Olsen and Dave Perry, demo stations covering a range of game genres, impairment simulations and custom hardware, and a wide range of accessibility resources. And cupcakes.

Crowd of developers looking at an ipad game with simulated colourblindness


Sony HQ also held an internal awareness raising event, with similar demo stations to Gaikai, and talks from blind gamer Brandon Cole, accessibility specialist & DAGERS editor in chief Josh Straub, and AbleGamers founder and CEO Mark Barlet.

Josh and Shuhei in playstation HQ
Josh Straub and Shuhei Yoshida

Ablegamers also had a twitch stream with BlindNewWorld, BlindGamerMisadventures, and BlindGamerDK:


It was a busy day for AbleGamers, they also had people visiting Google and Bungie too.

There were some other streams over the day, one from one handed gamer BatlerGaming, talking about his experiences:


And one from Tanya DePass of INeedDiverseGames and myself, chewing the fat on accessibility in general:


The IGDA’s game accessibility SIG published all of the talks from #GAConf (a new conference dedicated solely to game accessibility) on Youtube for free:

Em Schatz and Alex Neonakis of Naughty Dog onstage with Josh Straub


And also spent the day tweeting out some of the best quotes from the conference:


ID@Xbox put out two pieces of content, first showcasing the #GAConf videos:


And another on the recently added Xbox co-pilot functionality, together with recommendations of games to try with it:


Apple produced a set of videos showcasing various areas of system accessibility, not specifically on gaming but featuring well known pro blind gamer Carlos Vasquez, who was the catalyst for the accessibility mode now present in Mortal Kombat X and both Injustice games:

Carlos Vasquez playing competitively, surrounded by a smiling audience
Carlos competing at EVO


Another video, this time from Jesse Anderson on design tips for low vision in VR third person games:


Still on the topic of VR, Alice Wong posted an interview with Hannah Gillis of ILMxLAB on the accessibility considerations in their Star Wars VR project:


Zohar Gan released an early prototype of an accessibility plugin for Unreal:


Meeple Like Us wrote a really nice article covering both a retrospective on the first year of the project and some thoughts on the meaning and importance of accessibility in tabletop gaming:


Blind gamer Aser Tolentino wrote a piece on his experiences running RPGs, both remotely and in person:

A set of braille dice


SpecialEffect’s GAAD post showcased renowned accessibility leader and Abilitynet’s head of digital inclusion Robin Christopherson, and also the GAAD quiz – more on that a bit later.


Household Games announced a swathe of accessibility features for their upcoming game Way of the Passive Fist:

Way of the passive fist being played using just a left hand
Demo of fully remappable one handed gameplay


Mackenzie Eaton of Boat Rocker Digital showcased the design solution they adopted for colorblindness in Orphan Black:

Orphan Black gameplay, showing tiles differentiated by different symbols


Bryce Johnson of Xbox showcased a PC Gamer article on a Minecraft server for autistic kids:


UKIE ran their annual student game jam across global accessibility awareness day this year, with an award for most accessible game:


Barrie Ellis blogged about Tar Heel, adapting first person driving videos into switch controlled cause and effect activities:


Barrie also put up a detailed pin guide for modding Xbox One controllers:

circuit board of an xbox one controller


I posted a piece myself, on recent innovations and tools in the field of accessibility for blind gamers:

Xbox narrator help screen


I also put up the aforementioned 20 question accessibility trivia quiz, some nice and interesting facts amongst it including some pretty rarely known ones:


Christer Kaitila had a quick reminder for devs of why considering colourblindness is important:


Chris AKA Phoenix AKA deafgamerstv took part in a11ychi’s GAAD panel:

Deafgamerstv wearing a twitch t-shirt and pointing into the camera


Daniel Göransson gave a talk for t12t in Stockholm on console accessibility and how it relates to web:


And last but not least, Rinchen Emma Ridley gave a talk about both implementing and advocating game accessibility in globally distributed teams, for a11ybytes Melbourne:


To finish up, just a few of the many nice quotes from throughout the day:

Disabled people have critical creative & audit roles to play in accessibility to ensure it is authentic and actually works.
Robyn Hunt, accease

I didn’t actively consider player accessibility until Jason Canam brought it to my attention, it helps inform decisions now.
 – Mackenzie Eaton, Boat Rocker Digital

The video game is the conduit to the community…gaming is a window to the world.
Mark Barlet, AbleGamers

The community will help, we want the same access.
Brandon Cole

No-one wants to be defined by their physical limitations.
Josh Straub, DAGERS

We are people who want to play your games, but you aren’t letting us, you aren’t letting us participate. You’re getting our money, but we aren’t getting what we paid for.

It is part of our values that we will not compromise on.
Tim Cook, Apple

I used to tell friends that for a large part of human history, careers for the blind were restricted to beggar, musician or soothsayer. I graduated from law school in the top 5% of my class, record and produce a podcast enjoyed by literally dozens of people and make a nuisance of myself on social media just like anyone else. We truly live in a golden age.
Aser Tolentino, The Redacted Files

It means that, as gamedev, we need to offer a great UX to ALL players.
Celia Hodent, Epic Games

My life has been immensely enriched by the diversity of people within it.   I want my hobbies to be similarly enriched, and that’s only going to happen when we all accept the fundamental importance of accessibility for all. We’ve all got a role to play in this – as agitators, as advocates, and as informed consumers of culture.
Michael Heron, Meeple Like Us

It was very inspirational to hear Josh talk about accessibility in games, what impact we developers can have on the lives of many people 🙂
Shuhei Yoshida, Sony

I am loving all these game #accessibility tweets today. Just a flood of goodness.
Adriane Kuzminski, SmashClayAudio

Every day is Global Accessibility Awareness Day.
Elle Waters, simplyaccessible


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