[SOLVED] A puzzle design with an accessibility issue

I have designed an interesting puzzle, but, being born deaf, I recognise a serious accessibility issue for blind people:

is, without spoilers, centered on mixing colours, additive and substractive, and that can be impossible to solve for blind and daltonic people, and on top of it, I reckon that many blind people play IF thru screen readers, so prior of coding or scrapping this puzzle, I prefer to hear the opinion of other IF devs and players, esp. blind/daltonic ones.

as deaf, I consider unethical delivering a puzzle, even a non-plot related, whose can’t be solved by some people for physical reasons.

So, what I should do ?

TIA and
Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


I’m not blind, so forgive me if I come across as rude or not understanding, but if the colour mixes are straightforward enough, maybe you could implement a book or piece of text somewhere which describes all colour combinations to create other colours, and can even specify by colour (for example, >LOOK UP RED IN ART BOOK would give you a list of colour combinations/etc that include red in any way).


If it’s just a matter of RED + YELLOW = ORANGE, that’s not a problem for visually impaired people. They know that, just like you know that the scale for music is ABCDEFG.

By this reasoning, musicians are unethical for making music you can’t hear. IF is a medium that lends itself well to accessibility for visually impaired folks, and we should definitely consider that audience and accessibility in general as well as we can when we design games, but not everything is possible. People do make IF with sound and graphics, and sometimes those elements are crucial to being able to solve the game, or to enjoy it fully. That’s not unethical.


Without knowing all the details, it is hard to say. If you are dealing with something like hex triplets (web colors) to visualize and interact with the puzzle, then players may not have a frame of reference for either the goal or progress.

When this has come up here before, screen reader users have said that they would like to be offered a puzzle alternative. Ideally, the underlying logic and solution (which would be mathematic in my web color instance above) could be directly applied to a new, screen reader accessible presentation. That’s the way these conversations have gone, at least since I’ve been around, and I think it’s what I would do.

You may already have a screen reader mode toggle to deal with nonstandard characters and other display conventions, and an alternative puzzle could be part of that framework.

I did get advice from screen reader users during my project, and it was very helpful. I’m not very knowledgeable about these issues, myself, and I needed some guidance. If you produce a prototype puzzle, you might have success specifically soliciting screen reader users for your test.

Your choice of the word “unethical” may lead to a derail, since it could foment a debate of the wider question of accessibility in games, but, ultimately, we all have to decide what is right for us and our art. If making a game without a satisfying screen reader experience does not feel right for you, then it isn’t right for you. In all cases, follow your own conscience.


Like Drew mentioned, an alternative puzzle is most likely in order.

The problem with mixing colours is that it’s a triangular puzzle of sorts with deviations going in three directions. You might have to simplify it to something that’s purely linear (2 directions) and make it it’s own thing. Don’t know what would fit in your story though, but I wonder what kind of triangular puzzle would work for blind people. Hmmm…

Perhaps an alchemy puzzle of sorts where you need to make ingredients that make other ingredients? Think of it as a pyramid of goals that funnel down to the final goal. Something along those lines, maybe. Hmmm…

My brain hurts now. :wink:

I like that you are challenging yourself to make this game accessible to more people. That’s very commendable.

Edit: Oh, just reading over Amanda’s @AmandaB post about the colour mixing possibly being simplified to red + yellow = orange… depending on how your colour mixing actually works, you might be doing a pyramid puzzle already. (If the colour possibilities are pre-determined colours, and not a percentile variant of colour blends, like you might see when using a colour mixer in digital painting software.) A substitute pyramid puzzle would be on par with the colour mixing puzzle then.


Having a book with the answers in anyway is probably not a bad idea in any case if it is parser, especially if planning to go beyond the primary/secondary colour options for additive/subtractive puzzles - people who have a colour in mind and simply can’t work out what the game calls that colour is the sort of “guess-the-noun” issue that it would be good to have available.

There’s also the possibility of environmental cueing. If there’s something thematically linked to your puzzle that displays the same logic and is screen-readable, you could consider expressing that link in a screen-readable format. This could allow you to preserve the puzzle but give a different logic path to solving it that does not require colour vision.

For example, if the reason you want a colour additive and subtractive puzzle is because the player needs to dye some clothes to create a plausible disguise, you could have the player first interact with someone from the entourage they need to blend in with, and describe the colours of that person’s outfit as part of the character descriptor. Thus, the dyeing puzzle can be solved by either thinking about the purpose of the outfit and who the player needs to resemble - or solve the colour puzzle directly. The alternate could be left in the standard experience or be screen-reader-exclusive, depending on how well it fits the rest of your game, although I’d be inclined to leave it in if possible.

(I’m assuming you’re not putting in a puzzle that requires the answer to be expressed in hexadecimal or something. Now that would be difficult to express as an environmental cue. Although recipes would allow an escape method - especially if hidden behind a satisfying screen-readable puzzle…)


I don’t hide that I have now four or five alternatives stemming from your suggestions, whose raise an interesting problem: I can give only one solution… and this is rather unfair for the others.

So, thanks, and an heart, to everyone !

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.