At DesignHammer, we generally think about accessibility as it relates to websites, but I for one had not thought of how accessibility could be applied to making AAA video games accessible to players with disabilities.
The Last of Us Part II (developed by Naughty Dog) is getting a lot of press as potentially the most accessible video game ever and several of Naughty Dog's takeaways from the process of making an accessible video game illuminate similar issues with website accessibility. Most notably:
- Accessibility is about removing barriers, not about dumbing down a game or making a game easy.
- Accessibility features had to be planned early in production, as many (e.g. text-to-speech, fully remappable controls, and the high-contrast mode) required large technical resources, and they wouldn’t have been possible without significant development time.
- Rather than providing a "hearing impaired" player mode and a "motor-impaired" player mode, players wanted granular control over the accessibility accommodations to let them tailor the experience to their specific capabilities and preferences.
While accessibility for websites is a more mature discipline (with recognized industry standards such as WCAG 2.1), the lessons that Naughty Dog shared still hold value for organizations that are committed to accessibility. Specifically:
- Whenever possible, look to democratize your website content and functionality through accessibility. This will broaden your audience and your potential reach.
- Accessibility is not a "checkbox" that your web developers can enable. It encompasses all aspects of your website including information architecture, design, functionality, and content. As such, accessibility needs to begin in planning and be kept in mind throughout the project (and following launch).
- Accessibility compliance must be robust to allow users to work with the tools they need for their particular capabilities and life experience.