All your accessability are belong to us!

It is time for Gaming to join the 21st Century and welcome all gamers with disabilities. Legally:

A waiver offering video games temporary exemption from the Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 has expired, meaning that games released after the expiration date of December 31, 2018 have a set of new communication-focused rules to keep in mind to stay on the up-and-up with the Federal Communications Commission and dodge potential fines.

The International Game Developers Association has already shared some information about how the CVAA will affect games released in 2019 and beyond, and the organization says it’s working on a more in-depth explainer as well.

The CVAA requires that communication functionality like in-game chat and the UI used to navigate and operate those elements must be accessible to people of varying sight, motor, speech, cognitive, and hearing ability. The requirements themselves are outlined in the full legislation, specifically in section 14.21.

The list of requirements sounded absolutely ludicrous when I saw this earlier today. But the first link clarifies that they only apply to in-game chat, not gameplay.

I anticipate lots of post-release and post-post-release patches while developers bumble their way toward compliance.

I’m guessing websites are already doing this to some degree. But how? Do they use shared libraries like jquery? Are shared libraries possible in game development?

I anticipate lots of smaller devs ripping chat entirely out of their games because it’s now too expensive to bother with.

I’m guessing websites are already doing this to some degree.

Uh, no. That’s what screen reader software is for.

Are shared libraries possible in game development?

SpeedTree… Havok… Bink… SDL… Wwise… Scaleform… None of those ring a bell?

Anyway, this legislation is an insane bit of overreach.

Why is it overreaching? Why shouldn’t chat in games be accessible?

Most games don’t have text chat anyway, and voice chat is pretty easy to make accessible. I expect some sort of standard to come out of this, and that will be a great thing. It’s a real opportunity for Valve, Twitch, Discord, etc, to sell middleware.

Do I really have to explain to you the difference between “shouldn’t be” and “shouldn’t be required to be,” or are you just engaging in a bit of disingenuous trolling?

Video games are entertainment, not essential services. Accessibility is a plus, but legally mandating it is absurd. Imagine if this law was applied to, say, books. It would be illegal to publish any book that wasn’t also available in large print, braille, and spoken versions.

Here’s what in-game chat now has to support, as per the Paciello Group link above:

(i) Operable without vision. Provide at least one mode that does not require user vision.
(ii) Operable with low vision and limited or no hearing. Provide at least one mode that permits operation by users with visual acuity between 20/70 and 20/200, without relying on audio output.
(iii) Operable with little or no color perception. Provide at least one mode that does not require user color perception.
(iv) Operable without hearing. Provide at least one mode that does not require user auditory perception.
(v) Operable with limited manual dexterity. Provide at least one mode that does not require user fine motor control or simultaneous actions.
(vi) Operable with limited reach and strength. Provide at least one mode that is operable with user limited reach and strength.
(vii) Operable with a Prosthetic Device. Controls shall be operable without requiring body contact or close body proximity.
(viii) Operable without time dependent controls. Provide at least one mode that does not require a response time or allows response time to be by passed or adjusted by the user over a wide range.
(ix) Operable without speech. Provide at least one mode that does not require user speech.
(x) Operable with limited cognitive skills. Provide at least one mode that minimizes the cognitive, memory, language, and learning skills required of the user.

So at a minimum all games with voice chat will now be required to include a speech-to-text engine, and all games with text chat will be required to include a text-to-speech engine.

Or… games could just drop chat entirely.

“The main challenge is that there are a bunch of additional accessibility options that we are required to implement. This increases the cost of these sorts of features,” Holmes explained on Reddit. “As an example I’m pretty sure one of the things we need to support is TTS [text-to-speech] for any in game text based chat. This sort of thing unfortunately complicates what might normally be an easier feature… Right now we’re still figuring out what is feasible to do.”

I’d appreciate it if you don’t immediately accuse me of trolling. It’s rude.

Videogames aren’t physical objects, they’re digital, so you don’t have to print multiple versions of a book. I don’t see why all that stuff couldn’t be covered with middleware. But your point about cost and effort required to do it is well made, and it may well lead to games not including chat at all.

This is 100% absolutely what’s going to happen, regardless of what one thinks of the legislation. From a purely practical standpoint, small development teams are going to be much better served to just drop the feature rather than put in the necessary work to comply with this.

Or even big ones like Bioware. If I’m EA I’m not sure I want to open myself up to the liability anyway, depending on what the FCC fines are.

Eventually there will be cheap libraries for this because at the end of the day, people do care about accessibility. It’s hard to say whether it will take more or less time for that due to this legislation. You never know with this stuff.

What’s the benefit of having in-game chat operable without vision when the game itself is inoperable without vision? Am I missing something?

Maybe a chess like game where a player can say their move without seeing a board.

Proper HTML design should work in concert with screen readers. It’s not an “either/or” situation.

But games don’t currently have standards for accomplishing this.

In-game text chat also could pose a problem for people who have good vision but cannot use their hands well.

That thought crossed my mind, yeah. There’s a balance for big companies here between not leaving themselves open and saving themselves some trouble vs. making a big show of how accessible and friendly they are. Some will go one way, some the other.

Yup, hopefully sooner rather than later.

There’s a reduced incentive to make a big show as a corporate benefactor since it’s required by law. No one gets any brownie points now that it’s expected. Such weird timing too since Microsoft just released that accessible controller to a lot of fanfare.

Oh well.

Is it enough if games are just compatible with external software and devices? I’m guessing people with disabilities already have their favorite programs/tools, just like everyone else already has their favorite gamepads/joysticks/keyboards.


The fact that all this is limited just to chat makes things easier. Imagine if it petained to gameplay too.

Yeah, you just plug in some middleware that integrates with accessibility software via some standard API on a smartphone on the same network and it’s done. But that does add cost to license that middleware, and development effort to integrate it.

This is just going to lead to the developers killing any in-game voice or chat unless absolutely necessary.

This seems like another selling point for Steam chat and voice. Not sure if it’s compliant yet but it probably will be soon enough.

Which I am not saying is good for the market mind you, but it should be an easy solution if you need in game chat and voice.

What about discord, do they offer in game chat and voice through an overlay or something similar?

Is there a legal description of what a game consists of?

I did at first. That would be way too fucking stupid, even for the government.

The waiver exempting ‘video game software’ as a class expires, but individual games can still seek their own compliance waivers. Unsure how expensive or likely to succeed that would be though…

Also this may be why Nintendo implemented their communications stuff via smart phone app, so it can leverage the compliance built in to the mobile device there.