Game Design with Disability in Mind 4: Visual Impairment
This is the fourth post in Deborah Southwell’s series on Game Design with Disability in Mind and it covers visual impairment and what we can do as game designers to improve inclusion in our games.
Game Design with Visual Impairment in Mind
Blindness is the substantial loss of vision in both a person’s eyes.
Low vision can include partial sight in one or both eyes, poor acuity (blurry vision), tunnel vision, central field loss, and clouded vision.
Designing games with this disability in mind requires consideration of both venue and game adjustments.
- Keep walkways open. Make sure the venue is easy to move through and free of obstacles.
- Handrails where the colour is sufficiently different from the background wall colour.
- Doors and frames with sufficient contrast with each other and surrounding walls to be easily visible when closed.
- assistive devices e.g., Computer with optical character reader, voice output, Braille screen display and printer output
- Audiotaped, Brailled, or electronically formatted game materials, handouts, and texts
- Verbal descriptions of visual game materials e.g., maps, charts, graphs
- Raised-line drawings and tactile models of visual game materials
- Braille signs and game resource labels
- Adaptive game equipment (e.g., braille or tactile dice, tactile timers)
Make your Word documents accessible to people with disabilities
Making Microsoft Word Documents Accessible
WBU PowerPoint Guidelines
Finding Game Resources
DOTS RPG Project
3D model braille dice software
Shapeways 3D Printing Service
See braille dice d3 – d100
Well, there are of course an enormous number of factors to take into account…
1. Is the use of specific colour palettes vital/rather importanrt? I think it’s immaterial what colour your spaceship may be, but for historical, toy soldier games I would say yes – no one would recognise the “…Thin purple line…” in a Balaclava game, or the ACW ‘Brown vs Yellow’.
2. If however colour is being simply used to denote groupings/function, can this be replaced by black & white geometric shapes? So the ‘hash’ symbol is for Prime Minister, the diamond is the ‘king’, ‘the ‘tank’ symbol/graphic is better than those god-awful ‘Nato’ boardgame glyphs etc etc.
3. Even where colours are used, some sets are familiar to all – a deck of normal playing cards uses both well-known colour *and* shape, the latter being so familiar that I would argue that it transcends the colour element.
4. As computerised facilities plunge in price, what about adding QR or bar-codes to key bits & bobs? I once worked on a glove/thimble for the fully blind which had a bluetooth code-reader in the finder; all the support had to do was label-up key items (kettle, tea coffee jars etc). The creation software is now widely available, and many smart-phones can access reader applications.
Problem is that human brains take in some 90% of their surrounding info via visual keys, of which colour plays a tremendous part. There is also the same amateur/shoestring budget element which I have mentioned before – if shopping for some coloured stickers to denote something or other on game badges, only the usual primary colour range is available in Smith’s et al. True, you can colour-print and cut out 100 of your own brown stars, then spray glu-tac on them etc etc. But who is going to do that?
There is also the hurdle of ‘explaining to the explainers’ – if the visually impaired person is going along to play it’s because *they* are the history geek. But if relying on a support person, you have to put it to them in a manner they can understand. Try explaining Monopoly board situations to a non-gaming older relative, let alone the reason for trading-off 1922 8″ cruiser limits to gain an advantage with dock-building sub-treaties, or force-marching your banner-guard via the eastern route to threaten the fyld-lands of the Bishop of Newscaster……..
Finally, accessability takes many forms, but let us never forget ‘financial’ – I would not want to design a game of any sort which had, say, a £200 entry-level requirement.