SpecialEffect Game Accessibility Rating System

Five Tricks Developers Should Use To Help Disabled Gamers

Dan Griliopoulos at

Usually, game jams are about pure creativity, albeit with a theme; they’re to challenge developers to think outside of the box. Sadly, as most disabled gamers know, the biggest games companies are usually the ones who are the least creative about accessibility, if they think about it at all. This year’s Global Game Jam, the world’s biggest collaborative development session, changed that up, featuring an accessibility challenge, with aim of raising awareness amongst the development community of the barriers facing disabled gamers - and how straightforward it is to avoid them.

Designer & accessibility consultant Ian Hamilton co-ordinated the UK challenge on behalf of the IGDA and he explained how it’s a deceptively simple problem. “The common misconceptions about game accessibility are that it is difficult, expensive, dilutes the proposition and only benefits a small minority. In reality, 1/5 of the average gaming age population is affected by a disability, and the kind of considerations involved are often simple design decisions that make the game better for everyone, and cost very little time or money if thought about early enough.”

Though AAA companies sometime make one-off accessibility efforts, like Treyarch’s colour-blind mode for Call of Duty: Black Ops, Hamilton emphasises that events like these are needed to raise awareness; “The red/green colourblindness that Treyarch addressed affects 8-10% of males, meaning they were finally able to tell their team-mates from their enemies. Even just a few minutes thinking about each of the four types of disability - motor, visual, hearing and cognitive - at the outset of a project can make a huge difference, as all of the Game Jam games demonstrate very well.”

Here in the UK, designers, developers, sound producers and artists spread across seven locations were given advice and accessibility mentors to help throughout the event, and split themselves into 20 teams to come up with new, accessible designs for games. We caught up with five of the developers and mentors to find out what their top tips for developing for the disabled were.

SpecialEffect - making gaming more accessible for everyone

Owen Hill at

SpecialEffect are a charity dedicated to helping anyone with a disability to enjoy games. They've recently launched the GameBase - a site dedicated to sharing accessibility-related tips and info.

They're also in charge of a Loan Library which loans out control devices to anyone with a disability and the StarGaze Plus scheme, which provides the equipment and training required to control computers by using your eyes alone; a bit like the technology Valve showed off at GDC.

It's cutting-edge tech being used for an admirable cause. Now SpecialEffect are trying to improve accessibility in games from source with their handy developer's guide. It's still in beta, but there's already value to be gleaned from the Game Accessibility Rating System. A bit like Minecraft.