Report shows accessibility in gaming is both challenge and opportunity

The gaming community, developers and publishers are beginning to embrace accessibility as a core part of the business and hobby, but there’s a long way to go. A report on the needs and habits of disabled gamers in the U.K. suggests that millions worldwide face difficulties regularly in how they play, buy or otherwise enjoy games.

Performed by disability advocacy organization Scope and compellingly contextualized by Eurogamer contributor Vivek Gohil, the study polled 1,326 people (812 disabled, 514 not disabled) on the problems they face in the gaming world.

Two-thirds said they face barriers in gaming, most commonly the availability or affordability of assistive technology. Many say they’ve avoided buying games because of a lack of accessibility options, or have been unable to play (or return) games they bought which lacked such options.

Interestingly, disabled gamers are considerably more likely to buy in-game items, watch esports and otherwise engage with various platforms. As Gohil points out, just within the U.K. there are some 14 million disabled people commanding billions in disposable income; a large proportion of whom are active gamers, valuable ones at that; yet they are seldom considered a demographic worth advertising to or including in-game.

That does seem to be changing as more big developers realize that accessibility options make their games better for everyone. Major titles like the new Ratchet & Clank, The Last of Us: Part II and Forza Horizon 5 include a wide variety of accommodations for everything from colorblindness to gameplay slowdown and granular difficulty options.

Better hardware is also on the way as small companies produce assistive devices for lots of different needs, and of course Microsoft’s Xbox Adaptive Controller has been a huge hit for people who can’t use traditional controllers.

The company also recently hosted an inclusion-focused esports tournament in collaboration with the Special Olympics.

But they’ll be the first to admit that more needs to be done, and it’s not all engineering and development. In-game chat, notoriously toxic at the best of times, is positively horrific when people with disabilities join in, the Scope study found. In fact “doing more to tackle negative attitudes about disability online” was the most common priority cited by the respondents. More and better representation of people with disabilities in games, and more affordable assistive tech, were also rated as important.

The need for better accessibility in the gaming world is clear, but difficult to quantify — so studies like this one are particularly valuable. You can read the full report here.