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Xbox Celebrates the Disability Communities with New Accessibility Updates

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Xbox aims to empower everyone to play the games you want, with the people you want, anywhere you want. And that includes the over 400M players with disabilities in the world. Today with the 2022 Xbox Accessibility Showcase, we celebrate the Disability community and the many people and organizations working to remove barriers to play, ultimately making gaming more accessible around the globe.

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This year, we chose to host the Xbox Accessibility Showcase in the Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab, which is located on Microsoft’s Redmond, WA campus and intentionally built with accessibility in mind from the ground up. The lab strives to encourage developers and designers to intentionally include people with disabilities in the products and services they create, by showcasing how inclusive technologies allow everyone to participate. The same is true for gaming. When we make our experiences, games, and platforms accessible, more people get to experience the power of connection that comes from play, be it bonding with their family, seeing themselves reflected in a game or the joy that comes from helping others discover the fun of gaming. 

In fact, when we asked members of Xbox Accessibility Insiders League (XAIL) and the Xbox Ambassador community what they wanted in the future of accessibility, they emphasized:

  • The importance for more and wide variety of accessibility options year-round, in addition to customization of accessibility options including text, subtitles, captions, difficulty settings
  • How critical it is to include players with disabilities in design, as collaborators and as an audience.
  • The importance of standardized settings, increased discoverability of features and communication of accessible gaming.

As we work toward that future of accessibility, today we are happy to share updates that encourage everyone to create, play and connect through gaming. We look forward to partnering with the community and industry in the upcoming years to bring the power of play to more people. 


Create


In addition to updates on the Accessibility Developer Resource page, we are excited to share the following resources that make it easier to create games with accessibility and connect with community.

Microsoft Gaming Accessibility Testing Service (MGATS) Players with Disability Focus Offering

Since launching the Microsoft Gaming Accessibility Testing Service (MGATS) in February 2021, hundreds of Xbox and PC titles have had the accessibility of their titles validated against the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAGs), with feedback from players with disabilities shared and details on Xbox’s Game Accessibility Feature Tags applied. This month, a new offering called MGATS- Players with Disability Focus (PwD) launches for studios not quite ready for testing across 20+ XAGs. This service focuses on providing game developers with feedback from players with disabilities around core scenarios, menu navigation, and settings in their games.

Xbox Accessibility Guidelines – Touch Control Guidance

The Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAGs) are a set of best practices that have been developed in partnership with industry experts and members of the Gaming & Disability Community. Based off community feedback, this month we launched best practices around touch-based interfaces when it comes to gaming on mobile devices. These new guidelines include details surrounding touch target sizing and placement recommendations, swipe sensitivity, and the importance of supporting mobile-native input accessibility features.


Connect


Gaming has the power to bring people together, and at Xbox we want to bring the joy of play and community to billions of players, including the over 400 Million players with disabilities.

Xbox Ambassador Accessibility Explorer Path

The Xbox Ambassador program is a group of players that celebrate the uniqueness of everyone, promote a safe gaming environment, and above all else, make gaming fun for everyone. And a large part of that is knowing what options are available for gaming. To support this, we announce the new, free Xbox Ambassador Accessibility Explorer Path, an engaging, new learning path meant to teach Xbox Ambassadors all about accessibility. This includes trying out platform and game accessibility features, learning about industry leaders and players with disabilities, as well as discovering accessibility best practices. New missions will be added throughout each season, allowing Explorers to level- up their knowledge.  Check out more details and join the Xbox Ambassador program today!

A white Xbox Ambassadors logo is shown in front of a green background with blue hues. The words “Xbox Ambassadors” is shown directly beneath the logo.

Find Xbox and PC Accessibility Features Support on Support.Xbox.com

Xbox has a redesigned support hub for players to learn about all the accessibility features on console and Windows devices, so players spend less time figuring out how to use a feature and more time playing. With easier navigation, the accessibility articles are now organized by feature category, so players can find the support they need, discover new features and compare features between PC and console. New and updated articles coming in October include Narrator shortcuts (keyboard and controller), Xbox notifications, and copilot on PC. Check out the updated Support.Xbox.com Accessibility site (English available today, additional languages to be available soon) or the short video sharing the key updates.

A screenshot of the updated Xbox.Support.com Accessibility site is shown, with a header reading, “Accessible gaming on Xbox and Windows” and a subhead asking, “What can we help you with?” Underneath are four boxes, which users can click on. These include “Controllers and Other Inputs,” “Stay Focused on Gaming,” ”Discover Our Visual Features” and “Check out our Audio Features”

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Play


Through gaming we are able to experience new worlds, gain new perspectives and create new memories from play. For that to happen games need to be accessible. In addition to accessibility pages on to the Family Gaming Database, to make it even easier to find accessibility features on games, we share a few games recently launched, coming soon, or featured in the 2022 Xbox Accessibility Showcase.

Stories of Blossom

A storybook-drawn photo of Stories of Blossom’s title is shown, which depicts a girl with her eyes closed, imagining different stories in her head, including one of her on a pirate ship, one of her running down a hill, one of her floating in the sky, and another of her holding what appears to be a mirror.

Coming to Console and PC in 2023! Join Clara as she brings to life a series of short tales told by her nurturing grandfather. Explore storybook illustrations, befriend cute creatures in odd situations, and help solve their problems along the way. From the very beginning, accessibility was a central part of Stories of Blossom’s development. View the accessibility features in the game here and check out today’s Showcase to learn how the developers worked with Xbox to incorporate accessibility into the game.

Pentiment

An in-game menu display comparing the “Stylized Fonts” versus “Easy Read Fonts” options in Pentiment.

Coming to Xbox Game Pass & PC Game Pass, Console, PC, and Steam on November 15. Set in 16th century Bavaria, Pentiment will take players on a narrative journey through the eyes of Journeyman Artist Andreas Maler during a time of great social unrest. Led by game director Josh Sawyer, this game is brought to life by a talented team inspired by illuminated manuscripts, woodcut prints, and history itself.

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Late medieval manuscripts are calligraphic and can sometimes be difficult to read. Obsidian Entertainment worked with Xbox to ensure there were a variety of customizable font settings in the game, including font scaling, high contrast mode, text-to-speech, and Easy Read font option, which improves legibility by disabling some fonts and writing effects.

As Dusk Falls

Image of As Dusk Falls’ three main characters Zoe, Jay, and Vince

Available now with Xbox Game Pass, Console, PC, Cloud, and Steam. As Dusk Falls is an original interactive drama from Interior/Night that explores the entangled lives of two families across thirty years. Interior/Night believes as many people as possible should be able to play and enjoy As Dusk Falls. The game’s accessibility features can be found under the Settings menu on the game’s main screen or the game’s pause menu. These include a variety of text to speech settings, on-screen UI, gameplay adaptations, a companion app, and more. For more information, click here.

Grounded

Image of what a giant spider looks like with Grounded's Arachnophobia mode fully enabled, which appears as circular blobs with two eyes and no legs.

Available now with Xbox Game Pass & PC Game Pass, Console, PC, Cloud, and Steam. In Grounded, players wake up in a suburban backyard after being mysteriously shrunk to the size of an ant. Guided by a robot named BURG.L, players must explore, build, and survive while confronting the dangers and perils that come with suddenly being insect sized. Play single-player or co-op with friends as Max, Pete, Willow, or Hoops, and be sure to watch out for those pesky spiders. 

Obsidian Entertainment worked closely with the Xbox Research team to explore what triggers arachnophobia. The findings from Xbox Research helped determine the best form for spiders to take in the game, while also deciding how to vary their appearance depending on the severity of the phobia.

This resulted in the game’s Arachnophobia Mode, where players can use a slider to scale the alternate forms of spiders and limit their audio effects, helping to make the game more accessible for everyone. Read more about Grounded’s accessibility features by clicking here.


Work Together


Creating an accessible gaming experience doesn’t start or end with a single company. It takes a collective effort across many organizations and people who believe gaming is for everyone. Here are a few organizations Xbox would like to recognize in honor of this year’s Accessibility Showcase:

SpecialEffect: As seen in today’s showcase, SpecialEffect puts fun and inclusion back into the lives of physically disabled people by helping them to play video games. They are transforming the lives of physically disabled people across the world through the innovative use of technology. At the heart of their work is their mission to maximize fun and quality of life by helping people control video games to the best of their abilities. Microsoft Rewards members in the United States and the United Kingdom can earn and donate points to SpecialEffect throughout October.

RNIB: The Royal National Institute of the Blind (RNIB), is the UK’s leading sight loss charity. They offer practical and emotional support to blind and partially sighted people, their families, and careers. Xbox is delighted to be working with the RNIB to support people who are blind and partially sighted within the gaming community. We look forward to exploring a range of opportunities and initiatives, with the aim of welcoming more perspectives to our gaming communities, for the benefit of all.


Accessible Events


Gaming is one of the most popular forms of global culture, entertainment, and interaction. With over three billion people playing games, it is important to us to host events and content that is accessible, allowing more people to enjoy the moment at the same time as everyone else.

gamescom 2022

When everyone plays, we all win. This year at gamescom 2022, Team Xbox wanted to make sure as many people as possible could experience the joy of play at the event. Several elements the team focused on to create an accessible experience included live broadcast with English Audio Descriptions, along with ASL, BSL and DGS (German) interpretation for both the broadcast and in-booth experience, Xbox Adaptive Controller availability at all game stations and sensory processing gear for those who request it. Check out Brannon Zahand, Senior Accessibility Program Manager at Xbox, explain the accessibility of the event including additional elements that were considered.

Tokyo Game Show

Xbox’s Programming & Events Team is on a continuous mission to make its content and videos more accessible, including localized accessibility. This past month that included supporting the Tokyo Game Show 2022, which had Japanese Sign Language (JSL), Japanese Audio Descriptions and English-language Audio Descriptions read by an Australian to be true to the Asia-Pacific countries where the show was exclusively broadcast.  

A picture-in-picture screenshot of the Tokyo Game Show, showing an interpreter using Japanese Sign Language (JSL).

Check out the Xbox Accessibility Showcase via TwitchXboxASL, and YouTube (available with AD and ASL)

Website: LINK

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