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Accessibility highlights of 2016

2016 has been a hugely significant year for accessibility in game development. This post is a compilation of articles, news stories and advances from throughout the year.

By Thomas Westin, IGDA-GASIG co-chair

2016 has been a hugely significant year for accessibility in game development. The following is a compilation of articles, news stories and advances from throughout the year. Many are news stories shared on the IGDA Game Accessibility SIG’s mailing list, but there are also others included from other sources.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it should give a sense of the ever increasing pace at which accessibility in the games industry is advancing.


Global Game Jam, which had several optional accessibility challenges, taken up by thousands of developers:

Global Game Jam 29-31 January 2016

Rocket League and MLB: The Show win AbleGamers game of the year awards

FEBRUARY now includes info on controller options and whether the game relies on colour, in addition to audio access:

A demo walking through how blind gamer SightlessKombat plays Killer Instinct using audio cues and stereo separation alone, and some discussion of how community effort led to some blind-accessibility features making their way into the game:

AbleGamers interview with another blind Killer Instinct player, Xavier Quintero:

Heroes Of The Storm win D.A.G.E.R.S. diamond award:

SpecialEffect’s new games room facility opened by a cross-party parliamentary delegation, including the UK Prime Minister

David Cameron and Justin Tomlinson recieving an assistive technology demo at SpecialEffect's new facility


Record number of accessibility talks at at GDC 2016:

Chad Johnson managed the GASIG roundtable at GDC:

Record number of game accessibility sessions at CSUN 2016:

Article on VR accessibility by Katie Goode:

A player being required to crawl in VR


Sony employee builds a custom PS4 controller for a gamer with cerebral palsy:

Gamer using customised PS4 controller

IGDA-GASIG panel at Microsoft’s Ability Summit.

Unity announce development of new input model, including engine-level remapping functionality:

GDC sessions up on GDC vault, with most of the accessibility ones freely available without subscription. Great selection of topics and record attendance too, average of around 120 people per session:

UKIE Student Game Jam, which had accessibility advice and an accessibility award:

One Click Jam, one button themed game jam held in various physical venues around South America:


Overwatch and Uncharted 4 released, two of the biggest games of the year and both with a range of accessibility considerations, such as Overwatch’s sound design and per-class remapping, and Uncharted 4’s wide range of motor accessibility features:

Uncharted 4's accessibility menu

One-handed Mode for Google Keyboard:”

24 hours of free online accessibility talks for Global Accessibility Awareness Day, including three on accessibility in gaming:

Microsoft announce their ‘gaming for everyone’ initiative at E3, which includes commitments to accessibility:

Accessibility interview with the developers of EVE online, including a request for public accessibility input:

Phil Spencer, head of Xbox congratulates Naughty Dog on their accessibility efforts in PlayStation exclusive Uncharted 4:

AbleGamers invited to the White House:

Mark Barlet giving a talk at the White House


Ian Hamilton’s Gamasutra blog post on highlights from the previous month:

Phil Spencer at Microsoft says: “We believe gaming should be fun for everyone”

Madden 17’s accessibility featureset for impaired vision announced:

Madden 2017 accessibility menu

Karen Stevens of the Madden 17 team sets up twitter account and email address for public accessibility feedback across all EA games:

Final Fantasy XV wait mode announced:

AJ Ryan chosen as first recipient of AbleGamers Fellowship

The Great Steampunk Game Jam, which had accessibility advice and an accessibility award:

Cliff Bleszinski shares veteran encounter story:


Surviving and thriving as a game developer with chronic illness:

Xbox confirm wheelchair avatars are in development:

Male and female wheelchair user Xbox avatars

Launch of Pokemon Go, inspiring a huge amount of accessibility discussion not only amongst gamers but also disability organisation that had not previously taken an interest in gaming, for example:

Article on VR accessibility by Brian Van Buren:

7128 top sites awards:

First iteration of a Game Accessibility Curriculum Framework was presented and published at ICCHP 2016, Linz, Austria


Demonstration of Pokemon Go running with a single accessibility switch:

Pokemon Go being played with a single electric wheelchair button

One Button Jam, nearly 160 entries:

Audiogame Jam, the best of which were showcased at Techshare:

Valve announce royalty free licencing for the lighthouse technology used in the HTC vive, opening up a path to accessible alternative controllers:

Twitch partnership with Ablegamers, including a week of disabled streamers featuring on the Twitch homepage and a trial of new live captioning functionality:

Launch of Hue, which gained large amounts of media coverage of its colorblind support, simply through mentioning it in the game’s presskit:

Hue's symbol based colorblind mode

Household Games hires Clint ‘halfcoordinated’ Lexa as an accessibility specialist


Apple add ‘hold at point’ functionality to switch recipes, making a huge range of iOS games compatible with accessibility switches:

Microsoft publish high level guidance on game accessibility:

IGDA-GASIG Game Accessibility Conference announced for Feb 27th 2017!

Advancing accessibility for gamers with disabilities. San Francisco - 27 February 2017

Seattle VR Hackathon, which had accessibility specialists present and an accessibility mentor:

WAG workshop on game accessibility:

Warlock of Firetop Mountain launch, a text heavy game with a rarely seen number of reading accessibility features – wide range of text sizes, choice of font, and configurable line spacing

Warlock of Firetop Mountain option screen showing configrable text presentation

Bosskey publish game accessibility survey to inform future development:

Talk by Tom Lorusso of Microsoft on research carried out with deaf/hard of hearing gamers:

Second iteration of the Game Accessibility Curriculum Framework was presented and published at ICEC 2016, Vienna, Austria.


PSVR launch, with nearly all launch games offering a choice between motion input and controller input.

Choice between controller and motion controls in The London Heist

XX Jam, which had accessibility advice:


Nice talk from Brian Van Buren about VR accessibility:

Ian Hamilton’s Gamasutra blog post also about VR accessibility:

And a great panel dedicated to accessibility from VRDC:

AbleGamers aquires Get Well Gamers Foundation:

Tangent wins the accessibility category of the Australian Game Developer awards:

Final Fantasy 15 includes accessibility section in game manual:

Final Fantasy XV manual page detailing accessibility options

Karen Stevens shares preview of EA internal accessibility reporting website:

Sony host a livestreamed accessibility panel at PlayStation Experience, including strong commitments to accessibility from Shawn Layden, head of Sony Worldwide Studios:

PSX accessibility panellists onstage

LSBU’s Enable Gaming accessibility education wins TIGA award


Full CSUN lineup announced, including a record breaking eight accessibility talks:

Steam announce full remapping support for PS4 controllers:

Steam controller configuration screen

Accessibility game jam in Poland:

Japan/Netherlands accessibility game jam:

Failbetter publish game accessibility survey to inform future development:

Failbetter Games tweet thanking 300 people for completing their accessibility survey

FCC grant games software a further one year waiver from CVAA regulation:

Favourite quotes from the year:

Research about game accessibility is also going forward in general. A search in Google Scholar on ”game accessibility” (exact phrase) during 2016 shows 74 results (excluding patents and quotes). A caveat is that this search also includes books and some articles may not be peer-reviewed.

Again the above post isn’t an exhaustive list, but even what’s here clearly shows a very exciting time for game accessibility, and 2017 is already shaping up to be even greater again.

/Thomas Westin (co-chair), and Ian Hamilton (member), IGDA GA-SIG

Reposted from IGDA-GASIG website

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