A newly published article in the Journal of Serious Games pertains to our research team's work on accessibility in educational games.
Accessibility is part of every project in the Learning Games Lab. The team discusses and integrates accessibility features into products beginning with early designs, so a wide range of users can use the products without interaction barriers.
Over more than 20 years of designing educational media, team members in the Department of Innovative Media Research and Extension at New Mexico State University have exerted consistent efforts toward making their products more accessible. Since the early '90s the studio has worked to maintain basic accessibility in their products, including the use of appropriate fonts, text size, checking color for contrast and color blindness, closed captioning, limited audio, alt tags on images, tables, forms, and navigational structures.
In 2018, following Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 – US (U.S. Government Services Agency, 2022) the team revised their Math Snacks games to be in compliance with the section, reprogram the games out of Flash, and also enhance their educational quality. Section 508 aims to enhance accessibility to information and communications technology for people with disabilities, updating the requirements to be in alignment with constant technological advancements and aligning them with other standards in the US and abroad.
After reviewing documentation, the team was able to remediate most web-based content to meet the guidelines and strategies provided for images, text, audio, and video. However, few recommendations were provided on making interactive materials, such as games, accessible. Most games include visual graphic and audio aspects, as well as onscreen text, and opportunities for interaction. For educational games, multimedia grants opportunities to teach using all affordances of the media, which also makes accessibility more complex.
Facing the need for guidance on how to make interactive educational media accessible, the Learning Games Lab team launched a new research project to identify what best practices were and how others in the industry were designing affordances to meet this mandatory compliance measure in games and interactive media programs.
The team investigated the work of other developers, community organizations, and accessibility experts to inform their own development practices, and revisited previously developed games to improve their accessibility. As a result of this research, the Learning Games Lab team:
Established a framework for thinking about accessibility in their game design;
Used previously developed games as a model for thinking through specific changes to mechanics, interface, and visual design;
Identified barriers and challenges for making necessary changes; and
Refined processes for revising existing games and for developing new games which are more accessible.
Their research provided six recommendations to guide design teams in identifying easy steps for making accessible changes and described how to integrate these key steps into their design process:
Engage the entire team in accessibility design.
Create an accessibility guideline list for your team.
Design for as many players as possible.
Make your games better by improving accessibility.
Realize that your design team may face accessibility contradictions.
Find and reflect on your team’s accessibility approach.
Click the image to read more about the research:
Cezarotto, M., Martinez, P., & Chamberlin, B. (2022). Redesigning for Accessibility: Design Decisions and Compromises in Educational Game Design. International Journal of Serious Games, 9(1), 17–33. https://doi.org/10.17083/ijsg.v9i1.469
U.S. Government Services Agency. Section 508.gov: GSA government-wide IT accessibility program. Accessed on: Jan. 25, 2021. [Online]. Available: https://www.section508.gov/manage/laws-and-policies
To learn more about our products and design process contact:
Barbara Chamberlin, PhD
Interim Department Head
Extension Educational Media Specialist
Written by: Matheus Cezarotto PhD, Post Doctoral Researcher