Last year, my husband deployed the requisite accessibility tools to the college science lab he runs to accommodate a bright student who happened to be blind, which opened a window for us into how people who are blind navigate tech. It’s flipping amazing what’s available in terms of searching and communication, and I don’t just mean phones!
So you might be wondering how video games have skirted regulation when it comes to accessibility; after all, the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 should apply to our industry too, right, particularly online games with chat tools? Turns out it’s because the Federal Communications Commission has been granting waivers for years at the request of the Electronic Software Association, and in fact, it’s just granted another.
As Gamasutra explains, the FCC has now extended the existing waiver again, exempting games released before 2019 from the CVAA requirement that “any communication functionality like in-game chat and any UI used to navigate and operate communications functionality must be accessible to people of varying sight, motor, speech, cognitive, and hearing ability.”
This does read like the last such industry-wide extension, however, as the FCC notes major games, like Splatoon 2 and Minecraft, are already in compliance using standard text-to-speech tools and the types of smartphone apps already utilized heavily by people with disabilities. Games that launch from 2019 onward will need to agitate for individual exemptions if compliance would be too much of a hardship or technical infeasibility.