RNIB ousts gaming’s lack of accessibility for the visually impaired

Twitch stream puts spotlight on the challenges faced by sightless gamers by exposing viewers to an authentic representation of their hardship.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) and The&Partnership have released a new initiative designed to increase awareness of visually impaired people’s difficulty gaming.

The ‘Design for Every Gamer’ campaign aims to challenge the perception surrounding sightless gaming and facilitate an honest conversation about the issue within the community.

The campaign’s launch was headlined by a partnership between sighted, partially sighted and blind gamers on live-streaming platform Twitch, who played a series of popular video games to illustrate in real-time the problem visually impaired gamers face.

Toby Allen, Executive Creative Director at The&Partnership, said of using performance channels to galvanise change: “There’s no better mass-adopted technology than gaming to put sighted people in the shoes of blind and partially sighted people and no better place to rally the community to action than Twitch.”

Alison Long, RNIB’s Director of Consumer and Business Services, added: “RNIB’s research demonstrates that nearly 7 out of 10 people with sight loss reported it as a challenge when it came to enjoying gaming.

“Within the industry, there just aren’t enough conversations being had about accessibility and so these Twitch livestreams are a fantastic way for more people to get involved with building a community to make gaming more inclusive.”

Authentic exposure to the challenges

BehavingBeardly (who is sighted), SightlessKombat (who is blind) and the lead actor from a previous RNIB campaign, Eli London (who is partially sighted), led the live-stream.

To ensure viewers were exposed to an authentic representation of various gamers’ hardships, VFX company The Mill joined the initiative and created five different sight loss condition filters that use cameras to respond to gaze and head tracking.

The sighted gamers’ screens were hacked with these filters so they could experience the full range of challenges themselves - from partial sight conditions like retinitis pigmentosa, to showing the experience with little to no useful vision.

Illuminating an issue kept in the dark

A March 2022 study conducted by the RNIB in partnership with Goldsmiths, University of London and The University of Edinburgh found a disconnect between game developers’ desire to learn more about accessibility good practice and their actual understanding of how to meet visually impaired gamers’ needs.

According to the study, 70% of game developers would like to see sharing on accessibility knowledge and technology within the industry and better resources on accessibility good practice. However, only 15% of game developers reported currently having sufficient understanding of the needs of gamers with sight loss.

RNIB hopes this campaign will more clearly illuminate the problems people face and serve as a rallying cry to the industry to start making real change.