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Research: Gamers with disabilities still face barriers

October 4, 2023

Research from Samsung Electronics reveals the video game sector could be doing more to cater for gamers with disabilities. The study, conducted by Samsung Pioneers and OnePoll, sampled 500 adults with physical and invisible disabilities, and shows 81 per cent of respondents have struggled to play their favourite games due to inaccessible features, such as a lack of customisable control options (21 per cent), hard-to-read text (33 per cent), fast-paced gameplay (34 per cent) and flashing lighting effects (31 per cent). As a result, 39 per cent have been forced to stop playing a game – or abandon it altogether.

The study shows there’s a desire from disabled gamers for more inclusivity in gaming. With over half (52 per cent) of respondents expressing a wish to see characters that reflect their disabilities, the findings suggest that increased representation could substantially enhance engagement and gameplay duration.

However, despite the challenges raised, the study found over a fifth (22 per cent) of those polled feel empowered by gaming, while 40 per cent say the pastime gives them a sense of escapism. Added to this, 16 per cent say it provides them with a way to connect with other gamers with disabilities emphasising the invaluable opportunity for social and community engagement in the gaming world. Meanwhile, 28 per cent of gamers polled say video games are an ‘essential’ part of their routine.

Samsung recently launched its European-wide Gaming Training Initiative. The ‘Embrace Your Game’ Portal is designed to centralise insights, and provide expert guides, training sessions and video workshops for gamers of all abilities.

Steven Woodgate, Head of Category Management MX and Chair of the True Ability Employee Resource Group – those with disabilities at Samsung Electronics UK, said: “Gamers with disabilities not only make up a sizable portion of the player base, but they also provide valuable perspectives and experiences to the gaming community. While we’ve seen some strides in accessibility over recent years, this study reveals the pressing barriers still faced by many.”

Further barriers to gaming for those polled include games which result in ‘cognitive overload’ through complex control configurations and hard-to-follow information or instructions (28 per cent). Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) have experienced dexterity issues – such as controllers not being adequately designed for their ergonomic needs.

The findings found that Mario Kart (29 per cent) and Grand Theft Auto (23 per cent) were perceived to be the most inclusive and accommodating franchises toward disabled gamers. Those polled say the features and accessibility options they’d like to see in future titles include: more accessory options for differently abled players (34 per cent) and more online multiplayer options catering towards different disabilities (34 per cent). Nearly a third of respondents (31 per cent) want improved guides and tutorials to help them learn controls for games, and a greater range of customisable controller options (31 per cent).

Robin Christopherson, Head of Digital Inclusion at AbilityNet, a UK-based charity that envisions a digital world accessible to all, added: “It should be no surprise to learn that disabled people enjoy gaming as much as anyone else, but this research demonstrates quite clearly the negative impact on people’s wellbeing when hardware or software isn’t accessible. It also underlines that games are a vital part of the fabric of many people’s lives, creating social networks and bringing enjoyment which should be open to everyone. That’s why is so good to see Samsung leading the way in inclusive design and building accessibility into their products.”

“We must prioritise an inclusive gaming landscape, ensuring every player, regardless of their disability, can enjoy and connect through these digital realms. The industry owes it to all its players to make games as accessible and representative as possible,” concluded Steven Woodgate, Head of Category Management MX, and Chair of the True Ability Employee Resource Group at Samsung UK.

Categories: Articles, Consumer Behaviour, Games, Research

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