Visually Disabled Gamer Sues SOE

by Meagan Marie on Nov 08, 2009 at 09:58 AM

The inclusion of accessibility features in games – closed captioning, reconfigurable controls, high-contrast modes and so on – is often overlooked within the gaming industry. This happens for a variety of reasons, including an intentional marginalization of disabled gamers due to a misguided cost/benefit analysis. There are a handful of developers that have made marked improvements in the area of video-game accessibility the past few years, but it appears that some gamers aren’t willing to wait for a gradual change to occur within the industry. One such gamer is making the move and demanding that bigger, more substantial changes be made.

Alexander Stern, a visually disabled gamer, is taking legal steps to facilitate change. As reported by GameSpot, Stern filed a suit against Sony, Sony Online Entertainment, and Sony Computer Entertainment America alleging that Sony is infringing on the Americans with Disabilities Act by not including features that make games accessible to visually impaired gamers. It is worth noting that “visually impaired” doesn’t solely refer to blindness, but low-vision and even colorblindness. The act, implemented in 1990, was crafted to shield Americans with various disabilities from discrimination of goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages and accommodations.

Stern had evidently sent repeated requests to Sony asking for reasonable modifications (specifics have not been disclosed) to make their products more accessible. No explicit SOE games were called out, but it’s obvious that it refers to massively multiplayer titles. The suit makes a point to call out other games, such as World of Warcraft, allow for the use of mods that aid in accessibility. It also highlights the PC game Terraformers, which includes a high-contrast mode and audio compass.

Sony asserted that they don’t comment on litigation that is still pending, but we will keep you up to date as the events unfold. 

For more information on video-game accessibility (including a breakdown of features that help the visually disabled) check out our feature here.