Has our community, or a community closely aligned with ours, put forth any effort to survey, test and (if necessary) improve the current state of browser-based IF when it comes to accessibility? I mean this in the sense of providing affordances to assist those with disabilities in playing the text games we love.
During last fall’s IFComp, I corresponded at length with a blind player who expressed disappointment that the only competition entries they could play using their computer’s braille output device were downloaded Z-code games. While they could browse websites just fine, they found that web-based IF games of any sort invariably stumped their machine, leaving the games unplayable. At the same time, I also engaged in a brief conversation or two on Twitter involving other players asking about accessibility, particularly of the Twine-based entries. I’m sorry to say that neither I nor anyone else on the “IF expert” side could offer any definitive answers.
But this isn’t just about Twine, nor is this just about vision-impaired players. Almost every new work of non-commercial IF produced today — whether parser, hypertext, or something else — is either web-exclusive, or can be played through a web-based interpreter. And that’s great, in part because there today exists a wealth of well-developed technologies, techniques, and standards to help make web-based software accessible to as wide an audience as possible. (I was, for example, very happy to hear from my interlocutor that the ifcomp.org website worked great on their braille browser. I give full credit here to the site’s underlying Bootstrap framework, which provides a lot of accessibility magic for free.)
I do not at this time know, however, whether or how well we the creators and maintainers of IF web software have basked accessibility into our designs. This isn’t a rhetorical question — I really don’t know the answer! I’d love someone to tell me that one or more popular engines or interpreters has accessibility (or “a11y”, as the Twitterati call it) in mind. For popular web-based IF platforms not on such a list, though, I’d like to ask what we can do to start improving them in this regard.