Ways to further accessibility in the games industry

Since I first took an interest in the field I’ve had, as most people working in advocacy do, a mental checklist of the various things that would make a difference. Every sector of the industry has a part to play, so I’m sharing here as a way to spread some ideas to anyone else who has an interest in accessibility advocacy in the games industry.

The basics

Significant difference to the level of accessibility provision across the games industry amounts to wide-scale cultural change.

Cultural change cannot come about due to a single effort, due to the many combined forces on maintaining status quo. These forces are particularly strong in established companies in creative industries.

Wide-scale cultural change is dependent on maintained pressure from multiple angles. If any one of those pressures falters, which it will, the remaining pressures still need to be strong enough to outweigh the conflicting pressures for status quo, for long enough for behaviours and attitudes to be permanently changed.

These pressures at a minimum need to be a combination of bottom-up, top-down and external. The following is a list of ways that different industry sectors can contribute to these types of pressure.

Government/public bodies

  • Tax breaks and grants include encouragement to consider accessibility, in the same way as Screen Australia guidelines from the Australian government, and the EU Commission’s Creative Europe funding
  • Non-legislative support for best practice guidelines, in a similar way to the UK government’s soft-backing of the BS8878 standard for web accessibility
  • Ensure that digital accessibility initiatives such as the UK’s e-accessibility action plan include gaming to the same level as other industries


  • Adopt best practice guidelines
  • Share experiences, best practices, and code
  • Encourage accessibility discussion with gamers on social media & forums, and ask specific disability related questions in beta test feedback forms
  • Built direct experience and knowledge through simulators (e.g. color oracle) and contact with disabled gamers at events and during testing

Gamers with disabilities

  • Greater communication with developers about access issues through social media and beta tests
  • Proactively approach developers and publishers about taking part in play testing
  • Raise awareness in the wider gaming community through forums, reddit, youtube, social media etc
  • Introduce developers to disability communities, such as the audiogames forums
  • Attend trade events and speak/network at conferences to raise awareness with both gamers and developers

Industry/trade bodies

  • Encourage links & facilitate information sharing between specialist , academics and developers
  • Bridge gap between publicly funded games for health projects and top tier developers
  • Push for disability to be included in gaming demographic research
  • Organise accessibility-specific game jams
  • Publicise / support / encourage uptake of best practice guidelines by manufacturers, publishers and developers
  • Include accessibility categories in industry awards, as with the GDAA awards in Australia and the TIGA awards in the UK
  • Ensure that accessibility is included in industry/government dialogue (such as e-accessibility action plan & tax breaks)
  • Publicise & promote positive developments

Incubators / co-working spaces

  • Publicise best practice guidelines
  • Host accessibility events – talks, jams, etc
  • Encourage/facilitate inclusion of players with disabilities in group playtest events


  • Guest lectures from accessibility specialists
  • Discussion of accessibility in relevant general modules (eg. FOV/motion sickness discussed when teaching about camera work)
  • Assessable module focussed specifically on accessibility
  • Accessibility criteria in general mark schemes for non-specialist projects
  • Include best practice guidelines in lists of reading materials

Publishers & distributors

  • Include access info on features lists on website, press releases etc
  • Gather metrics on how many people use accessibility related settings (such as subtitles, button remapping or colourblind mode) to inform future business cases
  • Publicise metrics with wider industry
  • Include disabled participants in playtesting recruitment profiles
  • Include basic access requirements in publisher certification requirements, such as subtitles and avoidance of common epilepsy triggers (both of these examples are required at a publisher level by Ubisoft)
  • Include accessibility information on store listings (eg. Indiecity’s information on common accessibility features)
  • Allow filtering of store listings by accessibility feature (e.g. Steam’s ability to filter by caption availability)
  • Provide direct routes for gamers to get in touch with developers


  • Awareness raising articles in gamer press
  • Educational articles in developer press
  • Include accessibility criteria in mainstream game reviews, as Gamecritics currently does for hearing impairments


  • Permit standardised access info to be displayed on game packaging
  • Include basic access requirements in platform certification requirements (TCRs, TRCs etc), such as subtitles and avoidance of common epilepsy triggers (both of these examples are required at a publisher level by Ubisoft)
  • Encourage developers to consider other accessibility features through publicising existing accessibility guidelines
  • Allow access preferences to be set at a system level and read by games, eg. subtitles always on, subtitle display preferences, vibration on/off, stereo/mono toggle
  • Allow compatibility with unlicensed bespoke input devices, and backwards compatibility with previous gen controllers
  • Catch up with the built-in accessibility functionality that is standard on desktop and mobile operating systems, such as high contrast mode, text size, screenreader, and switch support

Engine/tool vendors (eg. Unity)

  • Include accessibility tools within IDEs, eg. Unreal’s built-in colourblindness simulator
  • Develop or support/publicise additional accessibility libraries, eg. subtitling system, button remapper
  • Support standard OS-level accessibility functionality, such as VoiceOver on iOS, TalkBack on Android, and the subtitle preference API on XB1


  • Investigate how generic solutions and tools could be developed, eg. cloud based text-to-speech
  • Gain a better understanding of game accessibility as a phenomena – its importance in society and the impact of of lack of inclusion
  • Advance general solutions, eg. haptics, binaural audio, eye-gaze
  • Share research with industry, through blogs,industry conferences etc

Advocacy groups & specialists

  • Raise awareness about all of the above items, and work with the above groups to bring them about
  • Develop and evolve best practices
  • Share & develop expertise internally, through formation of dedicated conferences, and discussion groups such as IGDA-GASIG
  • Share & develop expertise externally, awareness raising through guest lectures, guidelines, white papers, publications, blogging, social media, conference talks, code libraries, workshops, and direct dialogue with developers, publishers & policy makers
  • Provide longer term consultancy for developers
  • Facilitate relationship between developers and non-gaming advocacy groups (eg. RNIB)
  • Create links between disability communities and development communities, in particular to facilitate playtesting with disabled gamers


Some items on this are used with permission from the GFH2012 White House policy-briefing book, collated by a group of game developers, accessibility specialists and GFH professionals. Other recent contributors to this list include Barrie EllisThomas Westin and Richard van Tol.


Write a Comment