Making virtual worlds more accessible – a new context area for Human Factors

The Consumerist blog (of Consumer Reports) posted an article on the state of California suing Sony because their online Playstation services were not accessibly designed.

Quoted from The Consumerist post:

At the crux of the plaintiff’s failed case was their contention that, because PlayStation allows people all over the world to connect and play games together via their now-repaired PlayStation Network, that virtual world constitutes an actual public accommodation. And as such, it would need to be in compliance with the Disabilities act.

In their filing, they pointed to games like World of Warcraft, which does have adjustable settings for players with impaired eyesight.

As we’ve repeated before, this won’t (and shouldn’t) be a matter of changing font size. Accessibility in virtual worlds will include rethinking:

  • input devices
  • communication methods between persons (verbal, textual, graphical, physical)
  • communications from and to the world
  • time allowed for decisions
  • sound levels and environmental noise
  • screen interface design

…just to name a few.

Concern for individual experiences in virtual space has already begun. Check out Accessing Second Life: Universal Design in a Virtual World and work by Shari Trewin and colleagues.

6 thoughts on “Making virtual worlds more accessible – a new context area for Human Factors”

  1. Of the areas requiring re-thinking, I suspect that one of the ones that will cause the most issues is “time to make decisions.” This is because timing and/or time pressure are key components of many video games. Whether it is trying to be faster than your opponent(s) or just having score implications to playing slower, very few games do not have a time component that affects play.

    I like Animal Crossing as much as the next person (maybe more), but I don’t think that I’d be happy if it was the only game that I could play.

  2. Thanks for posting that link, Kel. Great presentation on an important topic… I look forward to keeping up with it.

  3. You may want to check a game such as Dragon Age:Origins which is famous for recently winning an award for being the most accessible…

  4. Getting sued by a state government is no way to enhance usability. Just as teachers often must teach “to the test,” I fear that designers and engineers will eventually be forced to shape their products according to a bureaucrat’s idea of good human factors.

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