Accessibility and Usability: notes for authors

I tend to sprawl all over the place, and a sprawling guide is no help at all to anyone. If anyone ever has any editing tips for me, to make it all more readable and useful, please chime in. Thanks!

You can use The IFWiki to collaborate on articles and present them in a clean way, without the discussion about the text. The wiki also gives us the change history, to note every future alteration.

Okay so I’ve been messing around a bit with Twine and screen readers tonight. Both the Harlowe and Snowman formats seem to work properly with the latest version of NVDA if you add aria-live=“polite” aria-atomic=“false” to the main story tag (which is

for Snowman and for Harlowe). This also I think works for the latest version of JAWS, but I was working with a limited-time trial version there so I don’t know for sure.

My ability to test this stuff is limited because A) I don’t know what I’m doing, B) I don’t have access to all the software and hardware I’d need to be comprehensive about this, and C) I really don’t know what I’m doing. But if I’m understanding properly, this might at least improve Twine accessibility for some users?

It definitely would! It’s exactly the sort of dev-tool-specific information that has very practical application! Much appreciated!

Oreolek, Wikis are wonderful things but they go over my head and try my patience. They’re just not for me, I’m afraid. But if anyone wants to do that, I’m glad to offer my assistance, based on the information that’s coming to light on this thread.

Note to self: Wade Clark had some great accessibility notes a while back. Self, you keep forgetting to go check them out, so I’m forced to remind you publicly in an attempt to shame you into just getting it looked at already.

It’s up to you, of course, to decide whether you want to do it or not, but for me the most tedious part of editing a wiki is marking up the text to make it conform with the style guides. But if you create your own sandbox page, you don’t have to worry about marking up the text. You can just paste the text in, and people can edit it at will, and at some point in the future people can try to neaten it up and make it an “official” public page.

“WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind” looks like a useful website.

Among other things, it has a contrast checker tool. You enter in your text color and the background color, and it tells you whether there’s enough contrast between the two.

That seems amazingly useful! I’ve added it in, thanks!

I have some screen-reader questions.

They read out the text as speech/sound, right? How do they handle nonstandard words? I’m thinking things like:
Made-up words
Weird fantasy names
Super-obscure English words
Foreign words and names
Dialog which the author intentionally misspells to indicate the character’s accent or speech difficulty
Partial words, e.g. you found a piece of a page that was ripped in half

Screen readers pronounce words properly when they’re spelled correctly, in most cases. Of course, homynyms sound the same. Unusual words - words not in the dictionary - are announced phonetically. It can be really hard to figure out how to spell these unusual words. If they can’t figure it out by sound, screen reader users need to follow the word character-by-character with the cursor to figure out how to type it. This is a problem for the built-in text-to-speech options in interpreters because you can’t scan text in this way. I’m guessing some screen readers can’t do it, either.


If an author is using a lot of made up words (like the spell names in Scroll Thief), how could they make it easier for screen readers to handle? Would it help to allow abbreviations of some sort, or respellings?

I think that adding likely phonetic misspellings could help:

Frotz is a spell. Understand "frots" as frotz.

(I’m guessing that this is what you meant by respellings.)

Offering alternate spellings is probably the best way to do it. If you wanted the player to spell it out correctly, you would need to distinguish the letters somehow and tell the player to treat them as a word: f.r.o.t.z. or *f r o t z *. Symbols are read out, so the reader will say “f dot r dot o dot t dot z period” or “asterisk f r o t z asterisk.”

Homynym-ish words can come up in perhaps unexpected ways. Is it “vorple,” “borpel,” “borble,” or “vorbel?” A “door” or “drawer?” In many cases such as these the pronunciations are slightly different, and whether or not the user can distinguish them will depend on context, the reading speed and volume of the screen reader, and the attentiveness of the user.


Hm…I currently have an “accessibility mode” in my game which alters a few cosmetic things (e.g. ascii art maps are replaced by descriptions). I could make it so that in that mode spells are given as f r o t z instead of frotz. Is that a good idea?

Yes, that would probably work well. I would use it. You should probably mention that the letters are to be typed as a word, too.


As usual, it is better to improve the interpreter than to improve any given game. (Although improving games is way better than ignoring the problem.)

I know that the iOS VoiceOver feature lets you read through any text word-by-word or character-by-character, in addition to a chunk at a time. That’s built into the OS; I didn’t have to do anything special to support it (beyond making the text available to the VoiceOver API).

If this becomes standard in screen-reader tools, it takes care of the problem. But I don’t know what the state of the tools is, outside of iOS.

This site has some simple suggestions for testing the accessibility of a web site: … ne-can-do/

You can also test how a website or game plays with a screen reader for yourself. You can get NVDA for free, and you can download JAWS from Freedom Scientific. The free version of JAWS only works in 40-minute mode, though. If everything works well in NVDA, it should also work well in JAWS. I’m not sure the reverse is true; I think JAWS is the most powerful.


In that case, apologies for Suveh Nux (soo vay nooks) – the spelling is pretty unguessable. :slight_smile:

I remember testing Soup and Nuts. I mean, Suveh Nux. I knew Soup and Nuts wasn’t quite right; the lack of soup or nuts in the game confirmed as much.

I think I didd get a bit frustrated, and I probably didn’t spend as much time on it as I would have had I been able to get the spells right. I think I ended up deleting several of my misspelled actions from the transcripts lest you think I was trying to suggest synonyms.


Actually, isn’t there a HHGttG style “Footnotes” extension that could do this like:

“The scroll has the ‘Frotz’ [14] spell on it.”

footnote 14
“Frotz is spelled f r o t z.”