Microsoft has revealed a plethora of new accessibility updates designed to make gaming more inclusive for disabled players as part of its October celebration of the disabled gaming community. Sony has been following Microsoft's lead, announcing more options for disabled gamers in the form of new, accessibility focussed controllers, but now we're seeing more of this inclusivity being brought into Windows and PC gaming specifically.
Accessibility for gamers with disabilities has become something of a hot topic in recent years, with one recent study from Samsung showing that 81% of participants who identified as living with a disability struggled to play their favourite games. Chief complaints identified in the study included hard-to-read text, fast paced gameplay and a lack of customisable control options, with 39% of respondents reporting that they were forced to stop playing or even abandon a game because of these issues.
Along with recognition of Craig Hospital's Adaptive Gaming Program, and the creation of a new guide to best practices for accommodating disabled gamers at industry events, Microsoft have also announced upcoming remapping options for its Xbox Adaptive Controller and the Elite Series 2.
This will add the ability to remap controller buttons to nearly 90 keyboard keys, with the aim of providing more options to gamers with limited mobility.
From October 19th, Xbox widgets in the Game Bar will also include a "Game accessibility" settings menu, enabling visual and audio-related accessibility controls to help players customise their experience to better suit their particular needs. Making these options accessible from the Game Bar itself strikes as a crucial step forward in the aim to make gaming more inclusive on PC, as hidden settings and unclear menus only serve to further complicate the process of making accessibility settings as hassle-free as possible to access.
Accessibility in gaming is important for all, but particularly those with disabilities who play fast-paced competitive online games. Noah Smith experimented with more accessible control schemes in Street Fighter 6.
The announcement also highlights several accessibility updates in a range of titles, including Forza Motorsport, Sea of Thieves and Age of Empires IV. Turn 10 Studios' latest racing adventure demonstrates a particular commitment to providing a wide range of accessibility features for disabled gamers, with the option to enable one touch driving, screen narration, text-to-speech, and a new feature they refer to as "Blind Driving Assists".
This last feature is designed for players who are blind or have low vision by providing a set of audio cues to help players navigate the circuit, and certainly seems a step in the right direction in regards to making racing games more inclusive for the visually impaired.
While disabled accessibility remains something of a work in progress for the majority of games, it’s nice to see the big hitters of Microsoft and Sony take further steps to increase the inclusivity of their peripherals, events practices and beyond. Gaming is a hobby and pastime for some and a lifeline for others, providing an outlet and means of entertainment for all of us, including those who have different challenges to overcome.