• Matheus Cezarotto

Teaching Game Accessibility to Designers and Design Students

The Learning Games Lab team presented a workshop at the Games, Learning & Society Conference 2022 at the University of California Irvine.


The workshop focused on how to teach accessibility to designers and design students. Lindsay Browder, Senior Product designer at Roblox, joined us as a guest collaborator. While the game community has been increasing its accessibility efforts, it can still feel challenging for design teams to prioritize and design for accessibility, particularly on games for learning. Learners need an opportunity to think through accessibility needs on a spectrum, consider categories (such as visual, hearing, motor and cognitive), and review designs in ways that are meaningful and doable. In the workshop we used our established accessibility framework (Figure 1) to foster a participatory and collaborative learning experience.


Diagram showing the framework whereby a game provides information, a player determines action, and a player takes action.
Figure 1: Framework to discuss accessibility in games. Source: adapted from Cezarotto and Chamberlin (2021).

During one hour workshop, participants engaged in small group activities, reviewing accessibility in games, expanding/recreating the framework, and discussing ways to teach accessibility. They gained a practical way to articulate strategies and reiterate the knowledge they already know, while incorporating others' perspectives and experiences.


After the session, participants had a clearer understanding of a wide range of user needs and were able to articulate strategies to teach accessibility in formal and informal learning settings.


Workshop participants doing an exercise on paper using the accessibility framework.
Figure 2 : Participants using the accessibility framework to visually articulate their ideas. Photo: Matheus Cezarotto

The main takeaways are:

  • Expanding the framework: Participants talked about the possibility of expanding the framework by adding a fourth layer – “can the player thrive in the game?”. This additional layer will address the importance of providing more than just access, of engaging players in a fun and challenging activity that they can master and win.


  • Accessibility to what? Participants discussed the idea of accessibility for who and what. Questions to ask include not just who is at the table? but also what table is this?, what is happening there?, and what is the game intention?.


  • A toolkit for students: Participants discussed the creation of a toolkit to teach accessibility to design students, covering introduction to accessibility, UI and UX guidelines/framework for pre-production, and development.


Example of a note from a participant expanding the framework.
Figure 2: Visual representation from participants expanding the framework

• Structure for accessibility features: Participants considered using the framework’s four categories of needs (visual, hearing, motor, cognitive) as a way to organize accessibility features in game settings. This is a way to address the tension between giving lots of options versus overloading users with too many options.





  • Player variability: Participants highlighted the need to anticipate player variability, and how to make design decisions that consider those needs and variances.


References

Cezarotto, M. A., & Chamberlin, B. (2021). Towards accessibility in educational games: a framework for the design team. InfoDesign – Revista Brasileira De Design Da Informação, 18(2). Doi: https://doi.org/10.51358/id.v18i2.931.



Written by Matheus Cezarotto, post-doctoral scholar, Department of Innovative Media, Research and Extension.



To learn more about our products and design process contact:


Barbara Chamberlin, PhD

Interim Department Head

Extension Educational Media Specialist

Department of Innovative Media, Research and Extension

bchamber@nmsu.edu

575-646-2848