The Game Accessibility Guidelines, authored by Lynsey Graham, Ian Hamilton, and others (see complete list here, right sidebar), were created as a means for helping game developers, distributors, and console manufacturers to better consider people with disabilities when designing games for all platforms. These guidelines are particularly important given that over 20% of gamers have some form of disability. As a sufferer of seizures and nerve damage, I am definitely heartened to see effort made on the part of developers to make games more accessible, and apparently the FCC shares that sentiment, because the Guidelines were awarded the Chairman’s Award for Advancement in Accessibility on June 9, 2014.
The FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative strives to reward those who’ve made advancements in communication for a large group, and people with disabilities aren’t just the largest minority among gamers; they make up the largest minority in the country. Those of us with disabilities are often overlooked in areas of entertainment, because the focus with the Americans with Disabilities Act only forces companies to consider the so-called necessary modifications to an environment or process, meaning that while wheelchair ramps and elevators (as well as Braille in many areas) are standard sights associated with disability, more pressing matters like depression and isolation aren’t always properly dealt with. While mandating these things for the disabled isn’t necessarily the right call, the creation of the Game Accessibility Guidelines takes into account that the disabled need to have fun, too, and the FCC’s acknowledgement of their efforts can only mean good things for disabled gamers.
The Game Accessibility Guidelines cover all manner of disabilities, from something as simple as color-blindness, to more complicated conditions like autism and cerebral palsy. Modifications to gameplay, appearance, sound, and the way text is displayed can all have a major impact, and the website is divided into categories to help developers figure out just who will be able to play their game, and what changes they can make to include more gamers. These guidelines were tested by gamers with disabilities, is updated when changes are suggested, and the categories on the website also take into account the reach of the implementation, the cost, and the difference made to the target audience. There is also a page explaining how best to implement the changes, for clarity and ease of use.
This award means a great deal to the creators and maintainers of the Game Accessibility Guidelines, as well as the disabled community. For more information, visit the Game Accessibility Guidelines site. For more information about the FCC’s Accessibility and Innovation Initiative, visit broadband.gov.