Chris Ashton

week11y issue 122

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Microsoft and Peel school board collaborate to launch Minecraft world focused on accessibility

For those who don’t know, Minecraft has an education edition. (I wish I had this while I was in school!).

That edition now has a new world, called BuildAbility. In partnership with America’s Peel District School Board (PDSB), it was launched on May 10th worldwide.

BuildAbility is designed to “help students understand, identify, and work to eliminate accessibility barriers in their school and community”. Students learn about physical and technological barriers, as well as organisational attitudes and communication issues. They’re then encouraged to create solutions to those problems, in an open play area, trying to create the most accessible and inclusive experience.

In the world, students will encounter physical barriers that disable wheelchair users, high noise levels in populous areas like the mall, etc. They can then rebuild parts of the world in an accessible way. Watch this brief video demonstrating the world (39s).

Best Practices for Overlays

Ken Nakata writes a thought-provoking article about controversial accessibility overlays.

Ken was once opposed to overlays, but has come around to the idea, on the basis that they can work harmoniously with other accessibility initiatives. He concedes that the damage has already been done by inaccurate marketing of overlay companies, who falsely claim they can make websites fully accessible with a single line of code. But if we can allow overlays to mature and have these companies taper their claims, Ken envisages a future where overlays are widely used and useful.

For example, a customer might hire an accessibility consultant, who spots a WCAG violation with a tab panel on their website. The developers fix that panel, but in the meantime, an overlay is programmed to spot and fix similar matches that don’t exactly match the original. As users come across these panels in the wild, the overlay does its best to fix the issue, and also automatically notifies the developers about the bug.

Ken thinks overlays are an inevitability because:

  1. There is simply too much inaccessible content out there, and it won’t ever be fixed.
  2. Not all users are experts – more traditional assistive technology can be difficult to use.
  3. Technology gets better all the time.

Ken finishes with a list of rules he believes all overlay producers should follow, containing good guidelines such as not automatically applying settings, and giving all users the option to quickly dismiss the panel.

Definitely worth a read.


This game accessibility conference is happening on October 24th and 25th. But there is plenty of archive footage from previous conferences.

It covers a really interesting range of topics, such as accessibility in first person games, gaming with a muscle disease, bringing accessibility to storefront descriptions and audio-based games mechanics. Looks like one to watch, even if you’re not in the games development sector.

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