FCC extends accessibility requirement waiver for online games once again

    
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lol gross

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.

Source: FCC via Gamasutra
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Veldan
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Veldan

Am I the only one that finds the legislation silly? Video games are a completely optional thing in life (one might even argue that a person is better off without…), so why does the US government feel the need to force game devs to account for people with impaired sight? Are online video game chat channels seen as some fundamental right, that they need to be made accessible to everyone?

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Jeff Mauney

Agreed. But politicians and bureaucrats love to meddle in people’s lives. It’s their raison d’etre. That government is best which governs least was one of the founding principles of the United States of America, but it has been subsumed in the ever-growing tide of state nannyism — which many voters have come not only to accept, but to actually expect.

You will find, however, that you’re beating your head against a brick wall in espousing such an opinion at this site, as the editors and most of the readership are politically naive to an almost child-like degree.

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Utakata

…and should give all their friends tax breaks instead? o.O

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Doug

I bet former Massively staffer Beau Hindman will not be happy about this.

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Ket Viliano

There is a core flaw in the legislation. Many, if not most people lack the cognitive ability to comprehend what has been written, the best example of this being legislators.

Smarm and snark aside, it is one thing for a movie to have subtitles for the deaf, quite another for an interactive media product to enable everyone to use it.

Does Capcom have to make Streetfighter work for people with slow reflexes? Must BF4 or COD be made to work for the blind, or those with shakey hands?

I find the requirement of accessibility for those with “motor” issues to be laughable with regard to video games, many of which are founded on eye-hand coordination as a basic game mechanic. Pong comes to mind, for example. How are you going to make Pong accessible to a guy with motor control issues and slow reflexes?

And what about puzzle games? How are those to be made for those who suffer from cognitive issues? Tetris and Myst come to mind, or really any game with a puzzle in it.

I can see the point about text size and poor eyesight. EvE is a beast to read, gets worse with a 4k monitor, and has a blurry font even for those with perfect eyesight. But if they can’t do it well, let alone get it working perfectly, how is the government going to regulate that?

You cannot mandate competence. Again, the legislature is a perfect example.

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BalsBigBrother

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Where there is a will there is a way and it would be nice if game devs had more of that will too :-)

(really am stepping away from the keyboard now off to bed o/ )

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Michael

Someone didn’t read the post

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Ket Viliano

Try again.

Like I said about reading skills, some are lacking in that regard, and apparently I need to add something about assumptions as well.

While the existing legislation is aimed at communication tools only, the legislators are wont to extend rulemaking beyond all reasonable bounds, and in fact, they already have.

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Nathan Aldana

Ajit pai, making sure EA never has to care about your cousin with health issues

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Grave Knight

Honestly, they should be setting up a grant for games that make themselves more accessible to people with these kind of disabilities rather just games a free pass.

Yeah, making these games is hard, and there isn’t much motivation to make them, and that’s why should should create such a motivation.

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BalsBigBrother

As someone who is starting to have some difficulty seeing text in mmos due to age I find this somewhat disappointing. I can in most games increase the text size to a point I can read it comfortably but this is certainly not the case for all of them.

In lotro for instance as I have mentioned before I have made use of the magnifier in windows as a kludge workaround so that I can read the quest text. Though to be fair to lotro I am able to increase the chat text so I can read it if I need to, yay I can read the goldspam chat … um *reduces text size* :p

Some companies are already putting some things in place for folks with poor eyesight and I have noted colourblind options being more of a things these days which is a good thing. Still there is so much more that could be done to make games and gaming accessible to everyone no matter what impairments they may have to live with.

Just because its not an issue for you now I would not take it for granted that is won’t ever be we all get old and no one knows what they may have to face in the future. So the more we can do to ensure such things are industry standards rather than the exception the better it will be for everyone.

Xijit
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Xijit

IMO this is less of disability issue and more of flat out shit development practices … but then again, simple shit like word wrap took decades to implement in MMO chat boxes, so it isn’t really a big surprise.

(and yes, I too have to run most games scaled to about 720p before I can read the quest text)

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BalsBigBrother

Its a money thing plain and simple. Such options cost money and companies will hide behind this exemption for as long as they can to avoid spending it. /sigh

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Ket Viliano

It is also a competence problem.

Most ‘game devs’ are not programmers, they are digital artists, and game designers, and are bad to average coders at best. They can barely get the networking to run, what makes anyone think they can get all this fancy accessibility stuff to work?

It either comes included with a middleware package and works out of the box, or not.

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BalsBigBrother

Oh fancy accessibility features like being able to change the text size, colour or back ground transparency of the chat box or ui text. Being able to adjust UI’s so that they don’t get lost in the back ground of a game. Having controller options out of the box for folks who find m/k difficult.

Thinking a little about about their screen design so you don’t do silly things like put white menu text on a light grey almost white background (like Overwatch has just done.)

Yeah those would be super hard I am sure /sigh

EDIT

Sorry don’t mean to sound rude but some of this is not reinventing the wheel and its stuff that has been around for a long while. So it always aggravates me a little when such things are ignored or not considered.

Stepping away from the keyboard now o/

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Ket Viliano

Like I said about competence…

Who puts a white text on a light grey background? …oh, Blizzard.

Input option issues I can understand. KBM is a totally different medium than Controller, and Touchscreen is just magically limited. It can alter everything about the game quite dramatically.

Text, on the other hand, like sheesh, how is this so hard?

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Bryan Correll

You ain’t the only old guy having to squint to read game text. And my vision wasn’t all that great even when I was young.

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Utakata

WOULD POSTING STUFF IN LARGE BLACK LETTERS HELP YOU TO SEE WHAT I AM TYPING BETTER? O.o

Kidding aside though…I agree with you. :)

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Rheem Octuris

Actually yes that helped quite a bit.

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BalsBigBrother

Well most web browsers have a nice easy to use zoom option mine being set at 150% by default but I adjust that higher for certain websites.

I appreciate the thought though and the joke ;-)

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deekay_plus

i still don’t understand smart phone apps for the blind. touch screens have effectively zero textile feedback that is at all useful even to the non impaired of cogniition.

anyways based on people being asshats in mumble with it’s default on tts i can’t imagine how dreadful the average mmo chat channel would be with tts on >>

Xijit
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Xijit

you could use the vibration effect for physical feedback, but I do agree that a blind person would be far better off with a phone that just had buttons.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

even physical keyboards for computers for the blind a re whole other story from my blackberry pkb.

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Ket Viliano

BB, RIP.

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

hey the kyeone is downright awesome. it’s everything i want in a phone.

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Ket Viliano

Oh, very nice, did not know about this.

Are the buttons big enough?

deekay_plus
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deekay_plus

they’re black berry sized? idk i’m not blind just crazy. lol

mosselyn
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mosselyn

Speaking as someone who used to volunteer in the low vision community, many blind folks would agree with you. But they would also point out that the is world rapidly going in a “no buttons 4 u!” direction, and they don’t want to be shut out any more than they already are.