Making esports accessible to all

 

By Steven Woodgate – Dyslexic, Dyspraxic, Thinker at SQN

Being dyslexic and dyspraxic is great. It brings a whole host of skills, creativity, and different points of view.

In the esports world these skills can provide different vantage points when looking at strategy, a new way of tackling a challenge, or mustering ways of processing information that others may not be able to.

It’s no surprise then that with the rapid rise of esports that we’re seeing those with invisible disabilities – such as dyslexia, dyspraxia, autism, ADHD, etc – having a growing stake and significance in a sport that is rapidly becoming mainstream. Selling out arenas and inspiring Generation Alpha that the next wave of sporting talent may be the ones who can do it from the comfort of their own living room.

Brannon Zahand, Microsoft’s Senior Gaming Accessibility Program Manager for Xbox says it well: “Accessibility can not be done by a single advocate alone. You need to work at it as a team…. Neurodiversity is the toughest and most exciting area of inclusive design to tackle.”

At today’s Gaming Accessibility Conference (#GAConf), many speakers called for accessibility standards to be raised by game makers, console providers, experience creators to enable everyone to be in the position to experience and enjoy the games.

It doesn’t matter whether the person is blind, deaf, or has any other disability. We live in the world now where technology is finally catching up with human potential, not adhering to previous norms of gaming experiences of yesteryear. But is now focused on building the most brilliant custom gameplay for the individual.

At #GAConf it was a day of talks and networking, exploring accessibility for gamers with disabilities. What was quite clear is that the industry has made significant steps forward in terms of features and general thinking about accessibility. But what it needs to do now is build upon this momentum, create a movement and a community to drive and keep the standards that are required.

Disability is a mismatch between a person and their environment, making the sheer rise of gamers with disabilities in esports not surprising. Accessibility means removing unnecessary barriers and reinforcing how information is communicated, offering players some flexibility which then often means that it translates into a better experience for all players.

I was fortunate enough to share the stage with Cherry Thompson (Accessibility Specialist), Jamie Knight (Senior Research Engineer) and Shell Little (Accessibility Specialist) and we discussed approaches we take for addressing cognitive accessibility in our professional practice.

Being ‘Grounded in Neurodiversity’ is a key element, as between the four of us we share at least four invisible disabilities. The common threads were that of attention timespan, not having clear fonts or following inclusive design principles (UX et al.), and how, if the industry was going to cut through, they need to do more.

At SQN, where experience is everything, we’re building our capability and focus on how we create the exact environment needed for accessible participation. Our ‘Indispensable Communications’ promise helps brands and companies wanting to be the best in their field come to us. We help brands engage with their audiences whoever they are – their customers, their employees or the media.

By adopting the right language and tone of voice, we start a conversation that ignites a reaction. A meaningful reaction that fires their emotions – an emotional connection, that drives behaviours and results.