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This is what #accessibility in gaming looks like

Updated: Mar 12

When Easterseals and Oxygen Esports launched the first ever Game4Access Collegiate Rocket League tournament, they also introduced a novel approach to accessibility in the college esports scene: an ASL interpreter to help hearing impaired and deaf viewers follow along to the action as it unfolded in real time. Check out a clip of how this was done below:



One of the highlights of the tournament was the participation of Gallaudet University, whose program is the world's first and only deaf-led collegiate esports program. They faced off against the heavily favored Northwood University team. Northwood is the 2022 Collegiate Rocket League champion, so this was a true David vs Goliath matchup.


Gallaudet was undaunted in their performance though. Northwood experienced a technical hiccup, forcing them to play with one less player for several games, which led to Gallaudet forcing a decisive game 5 against their heralded opponents. However, once Northwood was back to full strength, they proved too much for Gallaudet in the end. Their valiant efforts did not go unnoticed, as the announcers tipped their cap to the Bisons.



Making strides towards more accessibility in gaming


According to a study by Microsoft in 2021, they estimated that over 400 million gamers around the world are disabled. There have been advancements in accessibility for gamers with more companies producing adaptive controllers, in particular Microsoft's Xbox Adaptive Controller, which was released in 2018. Since then, others have produced accessible controller options and accessories. Check out this list of 10 adaptive controllers and devices by Cody Campbell from High Ground Gaming. Finally, Sony recently released their Access Controller in 2023 to bring all current-gen consoles up to speed with accessible controllers.





Captioning vs ASL


Accessible options for viewers have been relatively limited, though. While closed captioning is fairly widespread, many people assume that would be sufficient for the hearing impaired or deaf population. However, for many deaf people who were born deaf (pre-lingual), they prefer sign language interpretation. This is because they likely learned the sign language before they learned to read or write in their native language. Moreover, sign language has very little in common with written language, thus captions may in fact be more difficult for pre-lingual viewers to understand or keep up with. For more information, Languagers.com has a great writeup of the difference between captions and ASL interpretation.


Thus, it was encouraging to see that this tournament gained some attention on Twitter/X with some users commenting that it was the first time they had seen ASL in an esports competition. Others commented on how Brazil esports uses LIBRAS (Brazilian sign language - Língua Brasileira de Sinais) in their League of Legends broadcasts. Check out this article on Riot's efforts to bring their games to deaf and hearing impaired viewers. As more organizations realize that disabled gamers make up a large chunk of viewership, more options for accessibility will hopefully come to the fore.





At MGA Fundraising, we are continuing to work closely with Easterseals to continue the advancement of accessibility in gaming through their ES Gaming initiative. Our partnership with Easterseals has seen them increase their following on Twitch, Twitter and Discord. If you'd like to follow their adventures, please follow them on their socials or on the ES Gaming page: https://esgaming.gg/


Up next is the ES Gaming Fortnite Tournament on March 7, 2024! Stay tuned for news on this event or check out the ES Gaming Twitch channel to watch it live!









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