Thanks to technology, the world is becoming ever more inclusive for people with disabilities. Adaptive equipment helps them navigate through their environments confidently and make valuable contributions to society. Numerous high-tech advancements have entertainment value for disabled people, too, particularly those who love gaming — here are four examples.
1. The Xbox Adaptive Controller
Disabled gamers often have to make sacrifices when playing popular games. For example, the controllers that work with well-known titles aren’t always easy to use and require significant amounts of practice to perfect.
However, Microsoft wants to change that by offering the Xbox Adaptive Controller this fall, which they designed for people with limited dexterity or mobility in their hands. You can pre-order it now for $99.99 from the Microsoft Store. The controller has two turntable-like pads users can program to meet their mobility needs. Standard controls are also on the left side of the product, as well as numerous ports that allow for further customization.
Although Microsoft’s product description page doesn’t offer such details, the TechSpot website reports the company will start shipping the item on August 3.
Sometimes, advancements for disabled gamers encompass entire virtual worlds instead of tangible products. Such is the case with 3DNovations, a project that allows autistic people to interact with virtual worlds while receiving training or meeting with potential employers.
A paper that mentions the kind of technology 3DNovations and similar initiatives use explains many people with autism are at least initially more comfortable interacting online compared to in the real world. While interacting with the virtual reality program, they guide their avatars through the video game environments and gain knowledge in a setting that’s most comfortable for them.
Prices for this kind of virtual reality technology vary depending on the needs and number of users. However, the company offers a four-week, four-user trial for people who fill out the form at its website.
3. The JAWS (Job Access With Speech) Screen Reader
Some people with disabilities who love gaming are so fascinated by the pastime that they yearn to develop games themselves. Coding is one of the primary elements of games development, which is why it’s fitting that Apple brought a kit to teach coding to blind and deaf students. That effort led to the development of a coding curriculum for blind and deaf students that’ll be introduced in participating schools this fall.
In the case of people with visual impairments, the ability to read the content of a computer screen is vital for coding. The JAWS Screen Reader provides speech and Braille outputs that allow blind people to use their Windows computers independently.
One blind programmer from Iran reports that screen readers are essential tools for everyday work, and brings up the JAWS option as a popular choice.
The home edition of the software, meant for non-commercial use, costs $1020, so it’s not cheap. However, for gaming enthusiasts who want to start learning to code and don’t have the benefit of a school curriculum and the proper supplies to do so, this screen reader could be a good start for that activity and others.
It could also become a productivity booster. Many people — whether they have a disability or not — use productivity-improving tools including high-tech digital assistants that respond to vocal cues and other feedback, thereby changing how people get stuff done. A JAWS screen reader could do the same by allowing blind people to use their computers in ways that make sense for them and don’t require asking others for help.
4. The GalaPro Captioning App
Deaf people bring up many shortcomings of captions in games. They point out that some of the titles they play — especially older ones — don’t offer captions, or that the manufacturers didn’t offer them on the initial versions of games.
Plus, there are complaints that the font of the captions is too small or presented with background colors that make the words hard to read. They say, also, that it’s not always easy to figure out how to turn the closed-captioning feature on within a game.
The GalaPro captioning app is intended for people watching live Broadway shows, not gamers. And, it has some elements that make it imperfect for what players need. However, it could theoretically solve many of the captioning issues gamers face, especially if someone from the deaf community had permission to tweak the app for that purpose.
It’s free for Android and iOS and uses voice recognition training to understand what actors say while onstage, then provides a live closed-caption feed to a user’s smartphone, showing text against a black background.
One helpful thing about the voice recognition feature is that it can tell if an actor skips a line or performs some elements of a scripted show in a different order than usual based on audience preferences.
So, if someone took the time to input all a video game’s dialogue into the GalaPro app, the tool could theoretically help gamers have better understandings of what’s happening without running into those previously mentioned difficulties — even as they play through various levels.
Although it may break a gamer’s flow to glance down at a smartphone screen when characters say things in a game, so too does straining to decipher text that is hard to read.
The Disabled Gaming Industry Has Room for Growth
This list gives a glimpse of some of the promising developments for disabled gamers. Unfortunately, there are still substantial unmet needs, leaving people to rig up homemade gadgets because what they need doesn’t exist yet. Similarly, some disabled organizations for gamers specialize in gear modifications that make video games more accessible.