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Video Gaming Accessibility

Playing video games can boost creativity, improve problem-solving skills, and cultivate teamwork. People with disabilities, however, have limited opportunities to enjoy video games: those with visual challenges may not be able to participate in games that are rich in graphics, and those with mobility challenges may not be able to use a standard game controller.

Still, many resources are available for gamers with disabilities. Individuals and organizations have taken up the challenge of adapting or modifying controllers for people with disabilities. Computer programmers have developed audio games (or audio adaptations of games) that can be played by people who are blind or visually impaired. In addition, there are video game experts who publish accessibility reviews of new games.

Listed here are some of those resources. This list is not comprehensive. Articles in the bibliography are available through the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled Reference Section. Please email [email protected] for more information.

Resources

Ability Powered

Features product reviews, articles, videos, and links to other resources for people with an interest in accessible gaming. Posts accessibility reviews of games before they are released to the public.
www.abilitypowered.com External

AbleGamers

Modifies and adapts controllers for gamers with disabilities and raises awareness of the importance of accessibility within the gaming community. Publishes articles on trends in accessible gaming and presents at gaming conferences. A nonprofit organization that does not charge for its services.
www.ablegamers.org External

Accessible Games

Provides standards from the AbleGamers Foundation for making games accessible to people with visual, physical, auditory, and cognitive disabilities.
https://accessible.games External

AppleVis

Publishes accessibility reviews of iOS applications, including more than four hundred games, submitted by Apple users who are blind or visually impaired.
www.applevis.com External

AudioGames.net

Lists games that are accessible to people with visual impairments.
https://audiogames.net External

Ben Heck

Modifies Xbox controllers so they can be used with one hand.
www.benheck.com/single-handed-controllers External

Blind Gamers

Shares nearly forty games for people with visual disabilities, developed by a retired Australian computer programmer who’s been creating accessible games since 2004.
https://blindgamers.com External

BrandonCole.net

Reviews the accessibility of games for people with visual disabilities. Offers sound demonstrations of games and links to gaming resources for people with disabilities.
www.brandoncole.net External

Broadened Horizons

Sells independent-living products for people with disabilities, including game controllers and consoles with sip-n-puff inputs that allow users with severe mobility impairments to interact with the game environment.
www.broadened.com External

The Controller Project

Modifies game controllers to fit the unique needs of people with physical disabilities.
http://thecontrollerproject.com External

D.A.G.E.R. System

Reviews video games and game controllers using a four-tier rating system to rank the accessibility of video games, Barrier Free being the highest. Annually honors one game with the Diamond Award for most accessible.
http://dagersystem.com External

Disabled Gamers

Offers help with controls, mechanics, or just general discussion for gamers with disabilities.
www.reddit.com/r/disabledgamers External

Disabled Gaming Reviews

Reviews games for their accessibility.
https://disabledgame.blogspot.com External

Game Accessibility

Reviews the accessibility of new video and computer games for users with specific disabilities. Informs game developers about the importance of making their games accessible.
http://game-accessibility.com External

Game Accessibility Guidelines

Offers examples and advice on how to structure video games for people with disabilities. Developed by gaming studios and academics.
gameaccessibilityguidelines.com External

Game Box Controllers

Adapts PlayStation and Xbox game controllers and switches for people with severe disabilities who cannot operate a standard handheld device.
www.rjcooper.com/game-controller/index.html External

Gaming Controllers for You

Reviews gaming controllers for a variety of users, including controllers adapted for people with disabilities. Also reviews switches that can be applied to controllers to give people with disabilities greater access.
http://gamingcontrollersforyou.com External

Geeky Gimp

Reviews games and game controllers for their accessibility. Published by a woman with muscular dystrophy.
http://geekygimp.com/about External

GMA Games

Designs and sells Windows-based computer games for people with visual disabilities. Offers some games for free.
www.gmagames.com External

Help Kidz Learn

Lists games for people with mobility and learning disabilities, including games specifically for use with the EyeGaze adaptive technology.
www.helpkidzlearn.com External

Ian Hamilton

Helps studios avoid excluding gamers with disabilities. Author collaborated with NLS to add and expand on resources in this publication.
ian-hamilton.com External

Illegally Sighted

Reviews video games on YouTube for people with visual impairments. Provides hardware reviews, tutorials on how to use assistive technology, and product demos.
www.youtube.com/user/IllegallySighted/videos External

International Game Developers Association: Game Accessibility Special Interest Group

Brings together developers with an interest in game accessibility, acts as a resource for them, and educates and collaborates with them to make more video games accessible.
https://igda-gasig.org External

Level Access

Offers a free white paper, webinar, and other information on creating accessible video games, in partnership with AbleGamers.
www.levelaccess.com/simple-ways-make-video-games-accessible External

OneSwitch

Offers ideas on ways to use adaptive switches to make gaming consoles more accessible.
www.oneswitch.org.uk External

PCS Games

Lists and reviews iOS, PC, and online games for people with visual impairments.
www.pcsgames.net External
7-128 Software
Reviews and rates the accessibility of games for people with visual disabilities and mobility impairments.
www.7128.com External

SightlessKombat

Reviews the accessibility of video games for people with visual disabilities as part of a fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust.
www.sightlesskombat.com External

Smash Clay

Audio engineer advises people who want to add audio to their games to make them accessible.
http://smashclay.com External

SpecialEffect

Matches players with disabilities with adaptive gaming consoles.
www.specialeffect.org.uk External

Titan One

Produces software that allows users—including those with limited functions in their extremities—to convert their game controllers into fully compatible game consoles without violating the warranty of the original controller.
www.consoletuner.com/products/titan-one External

Warfighter Engaged

Volunteer-operated organization modifies devices, including video game controllers, to meet the specific needs of military service members with disabilities.
www.warfighterengaged.org External

Streaming Videos on Disabled Gaming

“Disabled Gamers Who Can Beat You!”

The Next Top Gamer
September 2019
https://youtu.be/G6ALd9rcgks External
Features gamers with disabilities from around the world.

“Disabled Players Get New Life through Video Games”

CNET
April 2017
https://youtu.be/whJQs_EwukQ External
Explores gamers with disabilities and the organizations, like DisabledGamers, who help them.

“eSports for Disabled Gamers”

NHK WORLD-JAPAN
October 2019
https://youtu.be/bpl0ionqCSk External
Reports on gamers with disabilities who take on eSports in Japan.

“The Fight for Video Game Accessibility”

Noclip
Jan 19, 2018
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EJm3uwTaYng External
Accessibility specialist Ian Hamilton discusses small changes studios can make to make their games available to more people.

“Helping Disabled Gamers Play Minecraft”

Channel 4 News
August 2018
https://youtu.be/isEfnEPoSE0 External
Profiles gamer Becky Tyler who worked with Special Effect, UK to help bring Minecraft to millions of severely disabled people.

“How Accessible Were 2019’s Biggest Games?”

Game Maker’s Toolkit
November 22, 2019
https://youtu.be/vi98rAn4uXE External
Reviews accessible video games that were released in 2019.

“How the Xbox Adaptive Controller Empowers Gamers”

Microsoft
October 2018
https://youtu.be/P9f6iJwk4Pg External
Sean Marihugh shows Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella how the new Xbox Adaptive Controller enables gamers to create a custom setup that works for their unique needs.

“Level Up: With Xbox Adaptive Controller, Anyone Can Play”

VOA News
September 2018
https://youtu.be/Y-oSbOhq9XE External
Reports on the ways the Xbox Adaptive Controller makes it easier for disabled gamers to join in the fun.

“Making Games Better for Gamers with Colourblindness & Low Vision | Designing for Disability”

Game Maker’s Toolkit
August 2018
https://youtu.be/xrqdU4cZaLw External
Video game developer shares guidelines and best practices for making games more accessible to people with a wide range of disabilities. Provides information on design choices and menu options that will affect people with low vision and color blindness.

“Making Games Better for Players with Motor Disabilities | Designing for Disability”

Game Maker’s Toolkit
October 2018
https://youtu.be/Ufe0i26DGiA External
Video game developer shares guidelines and best practices for making games more accessible to a wide range of disabilities. Provides information on design choices and menu options that will affect people with motor, mobility, or physical disabilities

“Playing Video Games with Mouth Quadstick—C4 Complete Quadriplegic from Connecticut, Mike Hurlock”

More than Walking
September 2018
https://youtu.be/MUZFebAbf4I External
Demonstrates how to play video games with a mouth quadstick. Made by a Connecticut non-profit to promote independence after spinal cord injury.

“RockyNoHands: The Gamer Who Can Beat You with His Mouth”

Shot Callers Esports
September 2017
https://youtu.be/ZMvikz2cA-8 External
Profiles Rocky Stoutenburgh, aka RockyNoHands, who suffered an accident at 19 that left him a tetraplegic without the use of his arms but became a champion gamer.

“What Does It Take to Make a Video Game Accessible?”

AMI: Accessible Media Inc.
Mar 20, 2018
https://youtu.be/DU_uwDK_JpE External
Household Games Inc. founder Jason Canam explains how inclusive gaming starts in the initial stages of game design.

“Xbox Adaptive Controller Review”

All Access Life
September 2018
https://youtu.be/MHOYQQTvQu4 External
Demonstrates the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

Bibliography

Accessible Games: Assistive Gaming—Puzzles, Arcade and Brain Games Reviews. Disabled World, March 4, 2015. www.disabled-world.com/entertainment/games External.Baig, Edward C. “Video Games Are a ‘Great Equalizer’ for People with Disabilities.” USA Today, May 9, 2019. www.usatoday.com/story/tech/2019/05/09/passionate-video-gamers-dont-let-their-disabilities-stop-them/3661312002 External.

Bailey, Jason M. “Adaptive Video Game Controllers Open Worlds for Gamers with Disabilities.” New York Times, February 20, 2019. www.nytimes.com/2019/02/20/business/video-game-controllers-disabilities.html External.

BCAST. Technology Enables Veterans with Disabilities Ppportunity to Enjoy 360-degree Virtual Reality Live Broadcasts. Disabled World, September 27, 2016. www.disabled-world.com/entertainment/games/bcast.php External.

Conditt, Jessica. “Xbox Elite Controller Opens Up Games to People with Disabilities.” Engadget, October 14, 2016. Retrieved from www.engadget.com/2016/10/14/xbox-elite-ablegamers-disabilities-controllers External.

Egliston, Ben. “It’s Designers Who Can Make Gaming More Accessible for People Living with Disabilities.” The Conversation, January 17, 2019. https://theconversation.com/its-designers-who-can-make-gaming-more-accessible-for-people-living-with-disabilities-107594 External.

“Feet Operated Game Controller for Upper-limb Amputees.” Disabled World, June 29, 2016. www.disabled-world.com/entertainment/games/gear.php External.

Gerling, K.M., C. Linehan, B. Kirman, M.R. Kalyn, A.B. Evans, and K.C. Hicks. “Creating Wheelchair-controlled Video Games: Challenges and Opportunities When Involving Young People with Mobility Impairments and Game Design Experts.” International Journal of Human Computer Studies 94 (October 2016): 64–73. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijhcs.2015.08.009 External.

Gilbert, Richard L., Nora A. Murphy, Alice B. Krueger, Ann R. Ludwig, and Torri Y. Efron. “Psychological Benefits of Participation in Three-dimensional Virtual Worlds for Individuals with Real-world Disabilities.” International Journal of Disability, Development and Education 60, no. 3 (2013): 208–224. https://doi.org/10.1080/1034912X.2013.812189 External.

Hersh, Marion and Barbara Leporini. “Editorial: Serious Games, Education and Inclusion for Disabled People.” British Journal of Educational Technology 49, no. 4 (2018): 587–595.

Highwater, Celene. “Text-based Viewer Opens Second Life and Other Virtual Worlds to Disabled.” Disabled World, Jun 11, 2015. www.disabled-world.com/entertainment/games/radegast.php External.

Ira, Vanessa. “The Game Accessibility Special Interest Group (Ga-Sig) of the International Game Developer’s Association (IGDA).” EP Magazine, June 2015. www.eparent.com/wellness/the-game-accessibility-special-interest-group-of-the-international-game-developers-association External.

Israel, Maya, Quentin M. Wherfel, Jamie Pearson, Saadeddine Shehab, and Tanya Tapia. “Empowering K–12 Students with Disabilities to Learn Computational Thinking and Computer Programming.” Teaching Exceptional Children, September/October 2015, 45–52.

Kaminsky, Harrison. “Xbox One Elite Controller Provides a Better Option for Gamers with Disabilities.” Digital Trends, October 16, 2016. www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/xbox-one-elite-controller-disability-affordable-accessible External.

Kingett, Robert. “A Look into Developing Injustice’s Accessibility Mode.” Noobist, August 6, 2014. http://noobist.com/gaming/development-look-injustices-accessibility-mode External.

Kraft, Caleb. “Building Custom Game Controllers for People with Physical Disabilities.” Hackaday. June 20, 2013. http://hackaday.com/2013/06/20/building-custom-game-controllers-for-people-with-physical-disabilities External.

McCormick, Liz. “Leveling the Playing Field, Video Games Empower People with Disabilities.” NPR.com, September 4, 2019. www.wvpublic.org/post/leveling-playing-field-video-games-empower-people-disabilities#stream/0 External.

Microsoft Corporation. “Making Games Accessible.” November 9, 2017. https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/uwp/gaming/accessibility-for-games External.

Miller, Hawken. “‘It’s My Escape.’ How Video Games Help People Cope with Disabilities.” Washington Post, October 14, 2019. www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2019/10/14/its-my-escape-how-video-games-help-people-cope-with-disabilities External.

Murphy, Matt. “How Technology is Finally Levelling the Playing Field for Gamers with Disabilities.” Independent, November 28, 2019. www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/gaming-disability-technology-special-effect-access-a9204751.html.

Mut, Chris. “Accessibility Finally Matters to the Game Industry—But It Needs to Do Better.” VentureBeat.com, October 8, 2019. https://venturebeat.com/2019/10/08/accessibility-finally-matters-to-the-game-industry-but-it-needs-to-do-better External.

Rodrıguez, Antonio, Imma Boada, Santiago Thio-Henestrosa, and Mateu Sbert. “Cprforblind: A Video Game to Introduce Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation Protocol to Blind People.” British Journal of Educational Technology 49, no. 4 (2018): 636–645.

Sakellariou, Alexandra. “This Is How Video Games Are Helping People Cope with Their Disabilities.” TheThings.com, October 16, 2019. www.thethings.com/video-games-helping-people-with-disabilities External.

Stanley, Alyse. “Who Better to Review a Game for Accessibility than a Disabled Gamer?” Digital Trends, August 5, 2019. www.digitaltrends.com/gaming/who-better-to-review-a-game-for-accessibility-than-a-disabled-gamer External.

Starkey, Dan. “One-button Bayonetta: Disabled Gamers Fight for Inclusion.” Engadget, October 10, 2014. www.engadget.com/2014/10/10/one-button-bayonetta-disabled-gamers-fight-for-inclusion External.

Stoner, Grant. “How Accessibility Consultants Are Building a More Inclusive Video Game Industry behind the Scenes.” Washington Post, February 26, 2020. www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2020/02/25/how-accessibility-consultants-are-building-more-inclusive-video-game-industry-behind-scenes External.

Straub, John. “Game Accessibility: What It Is and Why It Matters.” Game Informer, August 3, 2012. www.gameinformer.com/b/features/archive/2012/08/03/game-accessibility-what-it-is-and-why-it-matters.aspx External.

Tullis, Ryan. “Blind Player Competes at Evolution, Says, ‘If You’re Playing Me … Don’t Hold Back.’” Event Hubs, August 11, 2014. www.eventhubs.com/news/2014/aug/11/blind-player-competes-evolution-says-if-youre-playing-me-dont-hold-back External.

Webber, Jordan Erica. “Disabled Gamers: Part of Your World.” Kotaku UK, April 30, 2014. www.kotaku.co.uk/2014/04/30/disabled-gamers-part-world External.

Wilds, Stephen. “For All the Players: A History of Accessibility in Video Games.” LadBible.com, January 25, 2020. www.ladbible.com/technology/gaming-for-all-the-players-a-history-of-accessibility-in-video-games-20200124 External.

Updated December 2020