IFTF's Accessibility Testing Project report

Hi folks,

IFTF’s Accessibility Testing Project has published its report to the IF community about the state of accessibility in interactive fiction. You can find it permanently hosted at http://accessibility.iftechfoundation.org.

As its announcement blog post says:

This report summarizes the work and research performed by the project since its launch in 2016. It includes the two games (one Twine, one Inform) that we concocted to test IF platforms’ accessibility fitness, and the survey responsesthat we received from dozens of players with disabilities who took these games for a spin on a variety of assistive-technology setups.

Most importantly, it lists fifteen recommendations to IF’s creative community for improving the accessibility of future work, both in terms of individual games and the software used to create and present them. These recommendations base themselves on Accessible Player Experiences, a thoroughly researched set of guidelines and design patterns recently published by The AbleGamers Foundation. We believe that these recommendations could help make IF games more accessible not just to players with disabilities, but to the entire potential audience for interactive fiction.

This work’s been a long time coming, and I hope that it proves interesting to the IF community, sparking further discussion and experimentation. Thank you!

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My thanks to those who organised or participated.

Having read through the report and recommendations, I was curious as to whether, re: parser games, the issue of having to spell made-up words (or just difficult or ambiguous words, or proper names) ever came up, based on the player only hearing them? There’s no mention of this, which made me wonder if it ranked below everything that made it to being a recommendation, or if it just didn’t come up at all?

-Wade

There is an extension made for this:

“Simple Spelling” by Alice Grove
https://i7el.herokuapp.com/extensions/simple-spelling-by-alice-grove

Thank you Hanon, I know about Simple Spelling. :slight_smile:

However, if I walked in off the street fresh from reading the IFTF report, I wouldn’t have considered using it, because I’d be thinking, ‘There are 15 bigger fish to fry first’. But I don’t know if the report just missed this concept - and fair enough, it’s the first report and then this is the conversation starter. Or if it came up, but maybe it didn’t hinder users much because of some mechanism they’re mosty using (e.g. copying and pasting.)

-Wade

Thanks for the report and the great list of recommendations.

There’s a word missing in the Twine section:

To our surprise, few blind or visually impaired players seemed to ??? any particular difficulty with the Twine game, and on average described it as far more accessible than the Inform-based test game.

experience? encounter? run into? have?

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I believe the concept didn’t come up because screen-reader software already incorporates mechanisms to spell out words when the user so desires.

E.g., iOS VoiceOver has a “rotor” control. This allows the user to adjust the reading speed and also toggle a spelling-out-words mode. (See the “Options for navigation” section on this page: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204783 .)

I worry that an Inform extension for spelling out words would actually interfere with the system-wide control. I don’t know that it does, but I’d want to ask regular users of screen-reader software before deciding. And that’s why we did this test project – to focus on the problems that exist, and get recommendations that will help.

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Thank you for this! Just repaired it. (Went with “experience”.)

This is an excellent example of a question that follow-up efforts by the community could help measure and address. Like Zarf said, this particular question just didn’t happen to make it into our list of primary concerns, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth getting a definitive answer to… and I’m sure that there are a great many unanswered questions like it.

I did take the liberty of bringing this one to the committee, and Austin Seraphin had this to say (quoted with permission):

Screen readers do their best with made up words, usually with mixed results. Words in other languages
completely throw it. Sindarin for instance.

Ah, good to know! Did he say what he prefers games to do about it?

For example, if Scroll Thief is played with a screen reader, it puts spaces between the letters of the nonsense “magic” words (“F R O T Z” instead of “FROTZ”) in an attempt to make the screen reader spell them out; is that helpful, or does it get in the way of what the screen reader tries to do on its own?

My quote is his full reply; rather than act as inefficient spirit medium, I would suggest getting in touch directly.

(I’ll also let the screenreader users on the team know that creators are asking some good questions on this thread!)

This has been somewhat impressive. But, paradoxically I was expecting too that twine was less accessible for visually impaired players.

I wonder if it could be of interest to add “mobile accessibility” to the future developing of Twine. Right now, I find that just most twine games are no playable on mobile, or are not optimal for playing on mobile.

Also, itchio is not helping (mobile and frame size options are not helping to visualize properly twine games that have a responsive code), but that’s another tale for another time.

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