New Microsoft Program Could Help Devs Make Games More Accessible

Everyone deserves to feel like Master Chief.
Everyone deserves to feel like Master Chief.
Image: 343 Industries / Microsoft Studios

Microsoft is starting a new program that will allow developers to send in Xbox and PC games to be evaluated by a team of accessibility experts, the company announced today.

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“Where issues are found, they are noted with reproduction steps, screenshots, and other information to help the developer understand what aspect of a given experience may be challenging for certain gamers with disabilities,” Microsoft’s Brannon Zahand explained in an Xbox Wire blog post. Zahand is the company’s senior program manager of gaming accessibility.

This program is part of a larger accessibility campaign Microsoft launched in early 2019 after the release of the Xbox Adaptive Controller the year before. Since then, the company has written and revised a list of best practices known as the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines for developers on its platforms to ensure as many people can play their game as possible.

“Perhaps the most important aspect of the program, however, is the inclusion of gamers with disabilities as part of the testing project,” Zahand wrote. “Every test pass includes members of the Gaming & Disability Community to not only run test cases against games, but to provide their feedback and insights as well.”

Microsoft has been on the forefront of the gaming industry’s recent accessibility movement, and it’s excellent to see the company work so closely with folks who so rarely get a seat at the table.

Staff Writer, Kotaku

DISCUSSION

monotransistor
Arturo Lugo Gonzalez

This is incredibly valuable and it matters. A very close friend deals with cerebral palsy and she’s constantly discouraged to grab a controller and play because of constant involuntary movements, preferring to watch someone else do it. She’s been dying to play Cyberpunk! So I changed my pre-order from PS to Xbox, and I’m saving to get her an adaptive controller with all the accesories (they aren’t that cheap! hehe and they don’t ship to Mexico) so I can lend her the game, my Series X, gift her the controller and let her hack some choombas.

It’s obvious her story’s not the only one. Thanks to efforts like these she can forget a bit about the recruiters that run away scared when they discover her disability, even if her caligraphy & graphic design work is outstanding. Or the doctor who told her she better get tied up because she’d never be able to meet someone “serious enough” to have a family, so, if she got pregnant, then it must mean she got abused and it was a mistake. And maybe she can use videogames, like the rest of us do, to get away from the shit around her for a moment.

The more visibility this gets, the better. And Nintendo & Sony should really try to follow up on those steps, because, as I said, it’s important, it MATTERS. Good one there, Microsoft.