MICROSOFT’s second annual Accessibility Showcase premiered earlier this week, showing off their ever expanding accessibility options and features for its Xbox consoles.
The showcase, intended to celebrate the disability community and the many people and organisations working to remove barriers to play, was hosted by accessibility advocate, consultant, and content creator Steve Saylor at the Microsoft Inclusive Tech Lab in Seattle.
“At Xbox, we aspire to empower everyone to play the games they want, with the people they want, anywhere they want,” Xbox boss Phil Spencer said, introducing the showcase.
“An important part of that ambition is making gaming accessible to the over 400 million players with disabilities, including adapting our own games and platforms.
“We also want to empower game creators with accessibility tools and best practices, and build communities where people feel safe, welcome, and represented.”
I was particularly impressed by the inclusive tech lab, and the recent updates towards empowering more people to play games.
The updates announced include:
– Expanding the Microsoft Gaming Accessibility Testing Service (MGATS) to include a Players with Disability focused offering. This service will focus on providing game developers with direct feedback from players with disabilities around core scenarios, menu navigation, and settings in their games. This is ideal for those studios who want feedback from the Disability community on the accessibility of their games but are not quite ready for the MGATS’ full testing across 20+ Xbox Accessibility Guidelines.
– A touch controls update to the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines, which includes best practices around touch-based interfaces when it comes to gaming on mobile devices.
– An updated Xbox Accessibility Support page to make it easier to find which accessibility features are available on Xbox and PC, and how to use them. The new page will include support content for over 20 accessibility features across PC and console (like how to use Copilot on PC) so players can spend less time figuring out how to use a certain feature or device, and more time playing.
– A new Xbox Ambassador Accessibility Explorer Path, meant to teach Xbox Ambassadors about accessibility. It’s also a fun way to interact with other ambassadors, try out platform and game accessibility features, learn about industry leaders, players with disabilities and discover accessibility best practices. New missions will be added each season.
– A rundown of accessibility features in upcoming titles such as the story-driven point-and-click game Stories of Blossom, narrative adventure game Pentiment, and more.
Other things mentioned include the team at Xbox wanting to make video game events more accessible as well, with examples shared such as Gamescom 2022 featuring accessible live broadcasts with English Audio Descriptions, ASL, BSL, and DGS (German) interpretation. Accessibility at events extends to in-booth experiences as well with Xbox Adaptive Controller availability at game stations and sensory processing gear for those who request it.
As an Xbox Ambassador myself, I am particularly looking forward to exploring the Accessibility Explorer Path.
I believe the missions will help more people expand their gaming circles and discover how best to assist players in the community with disabilities. Knowing that I can help gamers from all walks of life have fun and play games is a great feeling. I would also recommend Ambassadors undertake the Gaming Accessibility Fundamentals Learning Path offered on Microsoft Learn.
For more on the accessibility work by Xbox, check out its latest Xbox Wire post.