There’s been some great discussion in the mainstream tech industry about the importance of digital access in Virtual Reality (VR). Two articles have recently been published highlighting the accessibility difficulties of people with disability. One in Wired magazine has highlighted the need to improve VR accessibility. The new Sony PlayStation VR2 launch is an encouraging improvement. The second article is in the Laptop online magazine and focuses on how the virtual worlds can be more inclusive.
The article in Wired features an interview with disabled game enthusiast Erin Hawley, and other accessibility advocates. Ms Hawley uses an Oculus Quest 2 but is unable to access certain VR games as she is only able to move her right hand a few inches. Ms Hawley acknowledges developers are doing great work trying to make gaming more accessible but explains her frustrations at what is currently available to people with disability. Like a number of other people, Ms Hawley would like to access historic simulations like the Anne Frank House VR tour. Due to the current AT available is unable to get access to these sites. However, the Sony PlayStation VR2 and its Sense controller have included some important built-in features which show some encouraging improvements.
- Visual Fidelity – OLED display players can expect 2000×2020 resolution per eye, as well as smoother frame rates.
- Headset-based Controller Tracking – integrated cameras allow better tracking of your movements and where you are looking.
- New Sensory Features – allowing gamers to feel the character’s virtual experiences.
- Eye Tracking – for better intuitive interaction with potential use for eye gaze support for people with disability
- Improved haptic feedback
While these features are likely to help some people with disability, the article highlights that there is still a long way to go. Unlike operating systems in everyday computers and mobile phones like Windows the iPhone and Android devices, immersive environments are still lacking a consistent feature set of accessibility tools and support.
The Laptop article is titled: The Metaverse marginalizes disabled persons — how virtual worlds can be more inclusive. It discusses the problems with the VR technology and equipment people with disability use. Xbox is the main VR gaming system that the article focuses on.
Issues raised include:
- Headset and controllers not being disability friendly
- The high price of the assistive technology used to access VR, particularly for those on a pension or low income.
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