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Oculus' philosophy towards system level accessibility features

ianhamilton
Level 2

(this is an expanded version of a Twitter thread left yesterday)

 

The video shared on Facebook the other day states that auto captions will be available at system level and apply to all VR locations a user/player can travel to. Auto captions - commonly referred to by the community as "craptions" - are not a substitute for proper captions. On top of the inaccuracy issues they are unable to fully understand context and meaning, especially for captioning sounds. And effective VR captioning has to be able to interact with the game world itself, as you can see in games like Vacation Simulator and Virtual Virtual Reality. This is necessary for avoidance of vergence accomodation conflict.

 

If you're going to continue down the path of offering them you need to very clearly explain that they are solely a player tool to improve the accessibility of the small minority of legacy games that were built without subtitling. 

 

You should not be telling developers that they are a time and money saving alternative to the real thing.

 

You should not be telling developers that the system colourblindness filters are an alternative to save devs time and money either. Filters are a wholly inadequate solution that can cause as many problems as they solve, subject to constant complaints from colourblind gamers, and they are in fact not a legally permitted approach under either Section 508 or CVAA.

 

The idea that you can save developers time and money by taking care of heavy lifting is good. But auto captions and colourblindness filters aren't ways to do that. By telling developers that they are, you're enabling and encouraging the spread of bad practices.

 

Going the opposite direction would be better. Explaining in the VRCs that auto captions and filters are a workaround for legacy content and are explicitly NOT a permitted way to pass either VRC.Quest.Accessibility.1 or VRC.Quest.Accessibility.6.

 

This is exactly what Xbox do for their accessibility guidelines Vs their system level functionality, and they're absolutely right.

 

E.g. the Xbox had platform level remapping and the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines state "Players should be given the option to remap their controls within the game itself, regardless of platform level remapping support that might be available".

 

Xbox are very open about how their system level colourblindness filters and remapping are only there for legacy games, and not as a tool for developers to fall back on as a cheaper alternative.

 

The announce of the VRCs last year was great. The announce now that they're heading towards being mandatory is also great. But the thinking behind the system level functionality is fundamentally wrong and will harm accessibility both on and outside the platform.

 

This isn't theory either, I've seen it all happen before. I've been at the coalface having to try to undo the harm caused by other similar things in the past.

 

If you want to give devs an easier job of captioning, look at the presentation side of it. A fully configurable system that balances the sim sickness impact of foreground / background focus shifting with the need for captions to always be visible.

 

There are some great examples of games that have done great work on this, I mentioned a few earlier. And a system level solution that isn't integrated into the game world cannot address these things.

 

So develop a robust subtitle/caption presentation system for Unity and Unreal, release it as a free plugin. That's how to make a positive difference to both experience and budgets.

 

For more info on effective routes to improve accessibility of both the platform and content, see this free resource -

 

https://igda-gasig.org/how/platform-level-accessibility-recommendations/

 

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