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3 March 2021

Microsoft has recently announced that it will provide developers with the opportunity to have their code checked for accessibility by programmers and gamers with disability as part of its support for game developers on their Xbox and PC platforms. This also includes a significant update of its own Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAG) documentation designed to support developers to incorporate accessibility features into games.

In a recent press release, Microsoft stated that:

“Developers now have the option to send Microsoft their Xbox or PC title and have it analyzed and validated against the recommendations provided in the XAGs. Where issues are found, they are noted with reproduction steps, screenshots, and other information to help the developer understand what aspect of a given experience may be challenging for certain gamers with disabilities…the reports include additional information such as links to gaming accessibility and inclusive design documentation, non-profits and industry-recognized subject matter experts, platform-specific technical documentation, and more.”

An exciting part of the program is the inclusion of gamers with disabilities as part of the testing project.

“Every test pass includes members of the Gaming & Disability Community to not only run test cases against games, but to provide their feedback and insights as well.”

The development of the program has stemmed from Microsoft’s work on the XAG which commenced in 2019 and has recently received a number of updates including:

  • Clear ‘Goal’: Each XAG now has a succinct ‘goal’ statement. Readers can more easily find XAGs relevant to their current work by quickly reading through goal statements.
  • Improved Overview: To ensure that developers understand the importance of each XAG guideline, improved overview sections now provide key contextual information including a summary of the impact a XAG can have on gamers with disabilities as well as those facing situational impairments.
  • Scoping Questions: High level questions ask developers to identify whether certain elements are present in their game. This yes/no determination can help developers more easily identify which XAGs are key priorities to be focused on first.
  • Key Areas to Target: Helps developers identify areas across their game experience that should be addressed when implementing XAG guidelines.
  • Background and Foundational Info: As some XAGs are more complex than others, additional background and foundational information has been provided to help make certain XAGs easier to comprehend.
  • Implementation Guideline examples: To help clarify guidelines that were difficult to understand, numerous examples (in the form of images and videos) have been created and aligned with various guidelines to demonstrate real-world examples of specific guidelines in action.

CFA Australia welcomes Microsoft’s announcement in committing resources to support developers in incorporating more accessibility features and providing feedback based on real-world user experiences.

Further information on the Microsoft Xbox Accessible Gaming requirements can be found at the Microsoft XAG website.

The Centre For Accessibility Australia is a joint project by Media on Mars, DADAA and Dr Scott Hollier and is funded by the Department of Communities, Disability Services.

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