If we want to make VR available to everyone, accessibility needs to be at the center of the development process. At OC4 Speakers from D.A.G.E.R. System and ILMxLAB discussed some best practices to create accessible content for more people around the world. I am sharing a few of the insights and resources that were presented in the hope we as the architects of the VR ecosystem can help to grow the platform to be as inclusive as possible.
Speakers at the OC4 talk.
Much of the discussions came from when the ILMX team attened the Star Wars Celebration convention to share Trials on Tatooine with the fans directly on the show floor of the convention. Over the course of the convention we served thousands of guests at their booth, including individuals with conditions that exposed usability issues in Trials on Tatooine that created barriers for some guests.
Despite the barriers at the time, VR still presented an amazing opportunity for the team to bring people joy and Ben was sent an email from a user that inspired the team to push this initiative. Here is an excerpt that was shared at OC4.
"Hi Ben, It was wonderful to meet yourself and your team at SWCE. I would like to thank your team for enabling X to enjoy the Game. X has [...] which is why he spends so much time in a wheelchair as he is unable to steadily stand for long periods [...]. This generally means that even though he is N years old, he misses out on so much. He is truly staunch Star Wars fan, having introducing it to him when he was only two. He was unable at this time to be mobile and had to sit still for long periods, I immersed him into a world that would take him away from all the tribulations he would go through on a daily basis! We would watch the original movies daily and interestingly when he eventually went to school they thought he would have difficulty with speech and spelling and yet he would spell out planets and names within the Star Wars universe that even the teachers had to check! In any case, we owe a great deal to both Lucas film and the world that is Star Wars. X enjoyed the game so much. He was able to enjoy it within the confines of his wheelchair and with the demo being one handed, he managed very well. He was in awe of the immersive aspect of the game and technology and has firmly placed it on his Christmas list! Some things were still a little out of his reach but that didn't stop him enjoying the game, we simply helped him where required. The wires trailing from behind also didn't prove an obstacle because as I was his support, I was aware of them throughout. The amazing thing about this experience is that X has to spend time standing and moving around each day, a tiresome exercise that most would find tedious if they were made to do it as opposed to choosing too. This game although designed for entertainment will also prove to be a supportive tool to allow X to exercise without realising or even being forced to do it. We cannot thank you enough"
The experience affected the team, and sparked an interest in researching what other industries and disciplines have done to address accessibility in physical and virtual spaces. The team did much research including a great survey that is linked in this post. This research led the team to work with Starlight Children's Foundation for the Starlight Virtual Reality program and create a experience that could be accessed by people with disabilities.
Link to VR Accessibility Survey PDF.
VR is a powerful medium and I was very happy to see that people understand this. I thank the team at ILMX and D.A.G.E.R. System for enlightening me to ways I can help make VR a platform for the betterment of the world. Once the video is posted I will be adding it to the post.