GAAD 2021 at Splash

In case you missed it, Global Accessibility Awareness Day happened last week, on 20th May. GAAD is always one of the biggest events in the Splash Damage calendar, as it’s incredibly relevant to the work we do to ensure that our games can be enjoyed by everyone.

We invited a number of speakers to join us over the week, and we posted about their talks on Twitter and on our Instagram stories (You can follow us or sign up for our newsletter to be the first to find out about future events!).

But before we sum up those talks and what we learnt, what is accessibility? The official GAAD website describes it as:

“Someone with a disability must be able to experience web-based services, content and other digital products with the same successful outcome as those without disabilities.”

In video games, accessibility covers things like subtitles, audio description, remappable controls, colour options and so much more; tools and settings which allow disabled players to alter the game to work with their specific needs whether that’s audio, visual, cognitive or physical.

To celebrate GAAD 2021 learn more about accessibility, we asked friends of Splash Damage to join us and share their experiences and knowledge with us:

  • Nick Streeter from SpecialEffect (@SpecialEffect), a UK charity which works with disabled gamers all over the world, providing custom setups to enable them to enjoy gaming.
  • Dr Amy Kavanagh (@BlondeHistorian), a disability consultant, speaker, trainer and gamer
  • SightlessKombat (@SightlessKombat), a regular visitor to SplashDamage and accessibility consultant, streamer, Xbox MVP, reviewer and gamer without sight.
  • Joe Kulik, a PhD researcher for the University of York’s IGGI research programme
  • Our very own Robert Macdonald, Head Of UI & Accessibility at Splash Damage.
SightlessKombat, taken on a visit to Splash HQ at a previous GAAD event; all of our talks were held virtually this year!

We learnt about the work that SpecialEffect do, how to make our online events and meetings more accessible, how audio description makes visual media more accessible, research into how accessible (or not!) our recent title Gears Tactics is, and how the Communications & Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) affects our work at Splash Damage.

While the talks covered a wide spectrum of accessibility considerations and situations, what really stuck out to all of us is how it all results in the same thing: inclusion.

By creating accessible games (as well as accessible game trailers and presentations!), we can ensure that everyone can play regardless of their disabilities, needs or requirements.

Nick from Special Effect told us:

“Accessibility in games offers an unparalleled opportunity for people to participate as an equal in astonishingly rich competitive gaming environments and social communities. It leads to greater independence, self-esteem, confidence, achievement, an opportunity to demonstrate to others the best of themselves… the list goes on. It’s way beyond simply having fun.”

This was echoed by both Dr Amy:

“Accessibility means being able to participate, it is the feeling of being included and having my support needs recognised.”

and SightlessKombat:

“Accessibility means so much to me, as its presence and implementation can be the difference between being able to enjoy a game without any assistance or not being able to enjoy it at all.”

The other surprising thing for some of us is how accessibility helps everyone, not just disabled people.

Dr Amy gave us the examples of “… the parents with a pushchair using a ramp, to the person carrying heavy bags appreciating an automatic door” or subtitles helping those in noisy areas or when they can’t watch something with audio, and SightlessKombat mentioned audio description being useful if you need to leave the room or look away from the screen, or if visuals are unclear.

As a company that grew out of friendships forged in multiplayer games, accessibility and inclusion are so important to Splash Damage, and we’re incredibly grateful to all of our speakers for taking the time to talk to us for this year’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

If you’d like to know more about ongoing accessibility, diversity & inclusion work and events at Splash Damage, be sure to sign up for our monthly newsletter.

You can also follow us on Twitter, where we have our live GAAD thread with more details on each of the talks, speakers and what we learnt.

And if you want to help us make accessible video games, did we mention that we’re hiring?