Braille Display Users Deserve Better From Blindfold Games
When you think of audio games, the Blindfold series of iOS games from Kid Friendly Software probably come to mind. Certainly, the Blindfold Series of games have been a huge hit within the blindness community. With over 80 titles now available, it makes sense that blind and low vision users around the world would flock to these games.
As a speech user, the Blindfold Games are completely accessible and easy to learn. The consistent menu structure to most games makes for a small learning curve. When Apple threatened to not allow more game summations of BlindFold Games without significant modification, the community backed the developer to push Apple to reconsider their decision. Whether this pushing back had anything to do with Apple reversing course is something we cannot measure for sure, but one thing was abundantly clear when all was said and done: Kid Friendly Software has met a need in our community that no other developer has done to date.
What you might not know, however, is that a majority of the Blindfold games do not provide good braille support; meaning that all-braille users like myself do not have the same access to these games as do people who use audio. Even though I don't yet have equal access to Marty's games, I wrote to Apple in support of Blindfold Games to support the community. Today, I'm now here to ask your support in making many of Marty's games more accessible to braille users.
Though many of the games in the Blindfold series have a special mode of operation for braille display users, this special mode sends messages to the braille display as flash messages. While this is technically now useable, it's not very practical.
Each time the user moves forward an item through a menu, which must be done on the touch screen in this mode, they have to refer back to the braille display to see what the next menu option is. This is also the case during game play. The braille user must have flash messages configured correctly and use the display with one hand while then interacting with the touchscreen with the other.
While it could be argued that this would require some time and resources to make available, if what I propose below is implemented, I know a few deaf-blind people who would put down money to have access to these games. At this point, it is my view that while the Blindfold series of games has addressed the needs of many in the blind and low vision community, users of braille displays do not have equal access to the games because of the design flaw outlined above.
While most games do not offer this, a few of the Blindfold games do offer proper VoiceOver support the way Apple intended it to be. This means that you can interact with all of the items on the game using VoiceOver if you like, or use the built in speech options if you prefer those. This makes the game fully useable by braille display users, as well as Bluetooth keyboard users, with no additional learning required beyond the knowledge of VoiceOver and iOS Bluetooth keyboard commands. The same would be true for braille display users who would then be able to play the various games without having to interact with their touchscreen and another device at the same time.
To further clarify what I mean, let's look at 2 games: RS Games and Words from Words. With RS Games, it is necessary to use the braille display mode and function within the app as I outlined above. With Words From Words, I am able to use VoiceOver without any sort of customization. Though those options are there, I also have the ability to just leave VoiceOver running and can use a braille display or VoiceOver the way it was intended by Apple.
Lack of Response from Kid Friendly Software
This post comes after contacting Marty in the past and after posting similar requests for proper and full braille support in the various iOS app directory entries on AppleVis. It comes after myself, and at least 3 other braille users I know of, have also contacted Marty to ask him to please make the games he can fully useable with a braille display. While it's understandable that games like Blindfold Racer, Bowling, and others which require specific audio cues to play can not be playable by braille-only users, there are many games that can be played. Words From Words is the only example I can think of where the player can use VoiceOver itself to play the game without the need for other voices.
Uno, Craps, RS Games, Wild Card, Spades, Rummy, Solitaire, Feud, and many other games are text-based; as such, it is my hope that these games can be made to work with VoiceOver in the conventional way. Doing so will provide a more inclusive gaming experience that will give deaf-blind and other braille users the ability to play equally with their speech using counterparts. This doesn’t mean utilizing the VoiceOver voices, but actually being able to turn VoiceOver on and play it independently without having to rely on another API for speech. As this has been done with at least 1 game, it is clear the possibility exists, but it is my view that it's time for possibility to become reality.
If you agree that the needs of braille users should not take a back seat to speech users, and that all should be able to play equally, I encourage you to add a comment below and/or email Marty expressing your support. Please feel free to share the link of this post when contacting him. Thank you very much for your consideration!
- In the top left corner of the screen, there would be a button to exit the game.
- Below that would be the last ten messages spoken by the speech engine displayed as text.
- Below that would be five buttons for performing the actions that would likely be most often used in the game. For example, in a card game, they might be "previous card", "next card", "play card", "draw card" and "announce cards in my hand". This would be similar to the gesture menu that is already in many games.
I’ve never used a braille display, so I can’t talk about this from experience, but you’ve raised an important issue here. I would’ve thought it was just good accessibility practice to use VoiceOver speech rather than having speech built in to the app, and I would encourage Marty to make the games playable with VoiceOver wherever possible. I honestly don’t understand the justification for not doing so. From the posts I’ve read, Marty’s reason is that it would make game play slower because the app can’t stop VO speech when the user performs a gesture, but if the games, especially text-based ones like the card games, could be made to use VO throughout instead of the TTS engine, that wouldn’t be an issue, for the same reason it isn’t an issue in any app that uses VoiceOver in the standard way. So while I sincerely appreciate Marty’s dedication to making accessible games, when there are so few of those in the app store, I’m glad you raised this issue..
There is another important reason that Marty uses custom speech and gestures. Many of the people who play Blindfold Games are people who are beginning to use iDevices and assistive technology. They need a highly polished experience where gestures are consistent and reliable--they do not know about advanced VoiceOver features like the four-finger tap, the rotor, or even how to change the speech rate or voice. Also, listening to the VoiceOver earcons and other extraneous information such as "button" detracts from the immersive game experience that Marty wants to create.
This is why I think the ideal solution is to modify the "use braille display" setting to use a text-based representation of the game, yet to still have the traditional option for those who prefer it.
I think the fact that the games are often played by people without much experience of iOS/VO is another reason for using VoiceOver as standard. It would make the games even more educational, because it would give people a fun way to learn about concepts like the rotor, and for people nervous about breaking something, as people who aren’t very confident with tech often are, it would give them a safe place to practice VO gestures.
Lysette, are you saying that you think that the games should only have the text-based option? If that is the case, the games would need to be completely redesigned because it would be inadequate for the speech to be written on the screen. As an example, in a card game, using what I proposed as an example which I think is a solution that could potentially be implemented relatively quickly, pressing the "flick left" and "flick right" buttons would make the app announce and display the currently active card, and pressing the "play card" button or its equivalent would perform an action on that card. If the games were redesigned, however, each card would be a button that could simply be flicked through and then activated, and there would probably also be buttons on the screen for other functions like drawing and discarding.
Here’s how I’d imagine it working ideally, again, using a card game as an example. If this would take too much work, maybe there’s a compromise, although I don’t know what that is yet. The cards would be displayed in a list so that the user could flick through them. Each one would have rotor actions: draw, play, discard, or whatever. For those who don’t want to use the rotor, a double-tap could perform the most common action, and, if this is possible without direct touch, a triple-tap the next-most common, Game status information would be reported with a two-finger double-tap or shake of the phone, and displayed at the top or bottom of the screen where it’s easy to find. In the textual display, the information would be separated into a couple of controls, so the order might be, for example, an exit game button right at the top, followed by information about your game, flick right from there for info about your opponent’s game, and then the list of cards after that.
I can definitely see what you're saying and think that it shouldn't be too difficult for most people to get the hang of. The problem, however, is that Marty would need to redesign many of the games. See this post on his blog for more information--it's from when he was told to combine them, but the principles are the same: https://blindfoldgames.org/2017/11/13/why-combining-games-is-a-bad-idea/
Basically, what I think we need to come up with is a solution that isn't too hard to implement, or a way for a radical redesign to be cost-effective.
As Marty is one day planning on bringing many of the Blind Fold Games to Android, I too also agree that a rewrite is in order. I'd make the platform act in a similar manner to how Quentin C's Playroom works. For those who want to use their own screen reader's voice/braille display (regardless of which one they use,) they should have the option if they so wish to do that.
I've been thinking about how to solve this problem for several weeks, ever since I got the email.
Firstly, Blindfold RS Games is a different beast, and to solve it requires collaboration between Blindfold Games and RS Games; we are talking about solutions.
Secondly, as I launch new games, such as the upcoming crossword puzzle, I've been working with the testers to see how to involve a braille display to enhance the game play. We are still testing some variants.
Thirdly, I am working with Apple to see if there are ways to get some of the functionality out of voice-over that I get with text-to-speech. The critical one is to be able to stop queued up sentences when you make a gesture. That's what makes the games so responsive. Even if there are 5 more sentences to speak, as soon as you touch the screen, it knows you want to move ahead in the game, and trashes whatever was about to play.
For anyone that thinks the games should work with voice-over instead of text to speech, most of the gestures that make the games work would no longer work - the voice-over engine processes the gestures first, which makes a gesture based game almost impossible. The games would be much slower to play and far less responsive.
However, the suggestion of buttons on a screen for common actions is actually not that unreasonable. I already do something like that in the game so I can debug the games in the iPhone simulator that runs on the mac, before actually testing it on a real phone. However, the bigger problem is that the screen in not voiceover enabled at that time, so even if there are buttons, they won't respond with voiceover labels, and you can't assign a braille display hotkey to them.
If I do make the screen voice over enabled, then lots of things in the game may break, since based on where you place your finger on the screen - for those people using the screen - may have unintended side effects. The internal grid or list cursor that keeps track of where you isn't synchronized with the voice-over positioning cursor, and that would require a major change to each game. All current swipe and tap actions on the screen would be lost; voice-over has priority on those gestures.
So the next best alternative is have an alternative screen with sufficient buttons that the game could be played in an entirely voice-over mode. There would be a button for each and every gesture, but properly labeled. For example, there would be a swipe left button as well as a button for "enter word".
Having the last 5 lines of text is a bit trickier for the following really dumb reason.
Apple requires that the screens look as nicely laid out as a visually oriented app. You can't imagine the number of times, I've had to adjust the font, or center playing boards, just to make Apple happy. In doing that, it removes much of the landscape from the screen for storing recently spoken sentences.
If I use an alternative screen that's fully voiceover, then we would have room for the last 5 lines of text. The screen would consist entirely of buttons and the recent text. I would appreciate feedback on that idea.
In response to one of the most common requests - centralized settings - I've been improving the Blindfold Games app, and some newer apps to test out a way to set your voice settings once and have all the games pick it up. As part of that project, I'll look into making the next game I build have a bunch of buttons and some way to get to whatever was spoken recently - probably a pop-up menu. We get feedback on that approach, we can continue to evolve it, the same way other things have evolved in the games.
By the way, I didn't answered your email yet because I've been pondering the solutions, and didn't want to commit until I have an action plan. Your wasn't the only one sent to me, but I do appreciate your insight.
By the way, while I do subscribe to dozens of Applevis forums for Blindfold Games, I didn't subscribe to this one, and I just happen to stumble upon it. In the future, if people have issues, please also post them in the Blindfold Games forum, so I can be made aware of them.
Most of the card games have many gestures to perform different actions - Solitaire, I think, used up every single gesture available.
You would not believe how frustrating these games would get if you couldn't stop the queued up sentences from speaking.
But, as you can see in my post above, Apple gave me a hint how to accomplish that.
I need to test it.
HI Marty. I'm not sure a redesign altogether would be the best solution, but having a mode where VoiceOver can work with the games independently would be the better route to go. There are plenty of people who prefer the way in which games are played now, so throwing that out wouldn't be good, I don't think. That said, I have a question. What makes it such a challenge to design, word games for example, in the way in which Words From Words has been designed? On this game, each element has its own thing which can be moved to by VoiceOver independently. In that case, no TTS is needed at all, since the gestures for scrolling, using the rotor for actions, flicking around the screen, etc. are already available by using VoiceOver itself. As a fast braille user, I can often times read faster than the TTS anyway, and as soon as I move from one element to the next, VO interrupts me with the new info. And if I'm moving on to that element, obviously I have all of the info I need. For braille display and keyboard users, they also have equivalent commands to carry out each of these gestures. So reinventing the wheel isn't necessary, I don't think, since it's all already there. I also think some of what Lysette suggested could be a good way to go with this. Would this mean things could be less responsive and that game play could be slower? Possibly, but for some people, it would be the difference between being able to play the games at all versus not being able to. And having this as a separate mode would insure that those users who prefer the other ways of accessing your games can continue to do so.
If you decide to go this route, I'm more than happy to test and provide feedback. This issue was something I emailed you about going as far back as October of 2015. Though you were responsive then, you stopped being so. in fact, we know you have been a bit confused about whether braille support has been working for quite some time, you indicated as such on AppleVis Extra number 36. My point here is that the lack of response and dedication to making these apps useable by braille displays is well documented. While I know it can't be a matter of not caring, since you did develop a special mode for braille display users, I'd like to work with you to make it a much better experience. That said, this requires it to be a 2-way street.
What I am working on first with Blindfold Wildcard is an alternative game screen that is braille display friendly, and only uses voiceover. It will be a setting for that game. As to moving a game entirely to voiceover for all users - such as word search - that would be a disservice to people who don't use a braille display would be forced to scroll through several buttons to find what the action they are looking for. Moat game players, even some I've spoken to who own multiple braille displays, only use the display on a PC and not on their mobile device.
On a braille display, with ios11, I've been told that you can map commonly used buttons to keys on the keyboard, so the alternate screen idea would work well.
I have no doubt that there are many braille display users who would be all too willing to assist in making all possible games accessible to those whose need for accessibility is often overlooked, and count myself among them.
To ignore the segment of the blind population who use braille displays by necessity or desire is to consciously overlook people whose need for app accessibility is already all too often passed over by many app developers. This is contemptible behavior on Marty's part, as he specifically develops games for the blind, yet blind braille display users cannot benefit from these because they are self-voicing.
To make these games inaccessible to braille display users lessens potential profit because very few will find themselves willing and able to recommend them as they are not equally accessible to all. Though my use of a braille display is a luxury, not a necessity, there are many for whom this is not the case. It is on their behalf that I cannot recommend Blindfold Games to anyone, as I cannot stand behind a company whose business practices I disagree with. The blind community would not countenance an app which was only accessible to braille display users while dismissing the needs of VoiceOver users after repeatedly being made aware of them, so why is the reverse perfectly acceptable to some?
A previous commenter said that it is possible Marty does not feel the time invested to rework these apps is worth it given the small number of users who would be helped by adding braille display support. Since when is a decision about app accessibility made based solely on the number of users who would benefit? Presumably, Marty is developing these games to offer blind gamers accessible, enjoyable games which is commendable. However, excluding a subset of the blind population because of their specific needs, or even personal preferences is not.
Why are these games only being made accessible to those who can take advantage of the self-voicing feature? Are the deaf-blind who must use braille displays out of necessity any less deserving of an enjoyable gaming experience than their hearing counterparts? Such an experience could be had by all if braille support were as high a priority as putting out numerous games seems to be. Perhaps more time should be spent on reworking available games in a way that allows for bbraille support where appropriate than continuing to release games which only VoiceOver users are able to truly enjoy.
The point was raised that many of those playing these games are new iPhone users. Isn't that all the more reason to use VoiceOver instead of having the games be self-voicing? This would allow new users to familiarize themselves with VoiceOver gestures in a fun learning environment, as well as offering braille display support to those who need or wish it.
No one is trying to ask for unreasonable amounts of work from you as an app developer. We are simply asking that you work together with braille display users to make these games accessible to all no matter their needs, or personal preferences.
It is obvious that you wish to provide apps to the blind community which offer something so few others do in the form of enjoyable, accessible gaming. Those efforts are greatly appreciated, and often praised by many VoiceOver users. It is very unfortunate, though, that those who use a braille display out of necessity are unable to enjoy an equally pleasant experience. It is my hope that work will be started to change this for all currently available games, as well as those in future.
As I mentioned in my answer to a post in another forum, I am experimenting with ways to support a braille display in some but not all games. I am working with several of my testers for a version of Blindfold Wildcard that will work entirely through the braille display. Once it's done and passes their approval, I'll see how popular that game is, based on the number of people who upgrade. If it's in line with the other games, I will gradually add more games. If very few people end up upgrading and using that feature, it indicates there's no real demand.
The decision about whether to add braille support shouldn’t depend on demand. To quote Shanda’s post, “Since when is a decision about app accessibility made based solely on the number of users who would benefit?” The number of blind users is small, and the number of deaf-blind users even smaller, so accessibility features will never have a really high demand, but adding them is still the right thing to do. If you don’t have the time or money to make the necessary changes, ask for volunteers, start a crowdfunding campaign, and I’m sure many of us on AppleVis would be willing to chip in. I’d also think that making as many of your games usable with VoiceOver, without direct touch or the TTS engine, would reduce your workload in the long run because you wouldn’t have to keep creating a separate braille display mode. As I said earlier, I do sincerely appreciate that you’ve made so many games when so few mainstream games are accessible, but without braille support, they’re not fully accessible to all.
The broader lesson here is that, here on AppleVis, we don’t pay enough attention to users with other disabilities. Of course we’re a site for blind users, and so blindness issues will be the primary focus, but some blind people have other disabilities that mean they have additional accessibility needs, and we also need to make sure we’re not breaking accessibility for other disabled users when apps are made accessible with VoiceOver. That’s something all of us, myself included, need to think about more when we contribute to the site.
Your assumption that using voiceover in the games is better than TTS is wrong. It would require more work and make the games less responsive and less fun. I have experimented with this amongst the testers.
As to the creation of this type of alternative way to play the game, Wildcard alone has taken over 8 hours, and is still in testing. If I end up doing 20 of the games, that could take between 150 and 300 hours.
If I had unlimited time and resources, your comments about demand would be correct.
However, both time and resources are limited, and if the demand is not there, it makes more sense to put my limited time into things that benefit more people. I'm not looking for the same number of people to download - obviously there are far fewer people who are deaf-blind than are visually impaired. However, if the percentage of people who upgrade is far lower than the norm, that means there the people who would benefit from this are not motivated to spend the few dollars to get this form of entertainment.
No one has volunteered to raise money for the development of this feature. Perhaps you want to coordinate this effort?
Firstly I will say that I fully acknowledge the work you have done Marty in creating your series of games, clearly they have had an impact and mean a lot to many in the community which is fantastic.
That said, I am rather saddened to read your comments stating that the level of perceived demand will effect your decision on this. That's the kind of logic we as a community have fought against for years, in advocating to companies like Amazon (Kindle), Spotify and Facebook to try to ensure that we have full access to those services, in spite of our respectively low numbers. The fact is that as well as universal design being the best way to maximise a user base, it is the right thing to do.
For some in our community, braille is an option, for others including the deaf-blind members of our community, it is quite simply a necessity.
So I genuinely am sad to see that particular line of argument being put forward, and hope you will think again.
I have never questioned your right to charge money for your work, just like any developer has a right to be paid for their work. Nor do I doubt that there would be work involved in this, just as there is work in creating more games and doing regular updates for existing ones, but I would feel strongly that this issue should be given some priority.
My solidarity to those who require braille support.
I am both blind and also a braille user. That being said, and I agree there needs to be better access, @Dave82, you missed one very important difference. Amazon, Facebook and Spotify are all huge companies with the purse strings to make their apps accessible. What's a few thousand dollars to them. There was an app that used to be accessible which went through a re-design phase which took away its accessibility. I called the company and spoke with the higher-ups asking them to bring back accessibility and explaining about Voiceover on an iPhone. A couple of days later, I got a call back and they explained that, while they were sympathetic to me, they were a small company and the cost of having to completely re-design the app would be more than they could financially afford. Just wanted to throw that out there.
If it were not for the blind-deaf community, I probably would not do the braille display, mainly because I put that into a convenience category, not a game requirement. I do understand that some people use a braille display to interact with their mobile devices, but that is an option, not a requirement. All of the games I've built are designed to operate with text to speech and swipe/tap gestures, since they make the best playing environment.
When people told me they wanted the convenience of a keyboard, I cooperated and made that work, where the keyboard uses shortcuts to generate the swipe gestures. But to completely redesign the game to use voiceover and fully take advantage of the braille display - building an alternative screen with voice over buttons, etc. - I am experimenting that because I don't want to ignore the needs deaf blind community.
Maybe I'm missing something here, but perhaps you can explain to me why someone is not deaf-blind would need a braille-display solution. Again - we are talking need, not preference. If it falls into the preference category - that would justify charging for this, since its optional. But again, not wanting to discriminate against deaf-blind, charging for something that is required to play the games, is obviously wrong.
But, getting back to my other idea - someone, perhaps you - should organize people to fund this effort. Then the whole concept of convenience vs. need becomes moot.
If, when you suggest that I or someone else coordinate the fundraising effort, you mean I should start and manage the crowdfunding page, I’d have to research the legal ramifications of managing something like this on behalf of someone else, since I assume I’d be handling money on your behalf, unless there’s a way I could just be an administrator and leave the handling of finances to you. I’ve never done anything like this, so I just don’t know what sort of risk I’d be taking on. Or did you have something else in mind? Were you just hoping I’d promote the cause, for instance?
As an alternative or supplement to the crowdfunding page, you could add a tip jar to each game app, or maybe just the most popular 5 or 10 games, so that people could make donations as in-app purchases. That would make it easy to donate, as people wouldn’t even have to enter their card details. Would it be worth the effort to add that? How much would you need to raise anyway?
As for your limited time, given the extremely low employment rate among VI people, I’m sure there would be quite a few aspiring IT professionals who would volunteer to help with the coding as a way of getting some work experience. Unfortunately I have neither the skills nor the resources to help with that side of things myself, but I’m sure there would be people on here who would love to have that opportunity.
I hadn't laid out exactly how to approach it, but if there are enough people who want something, it seems a campaign would be a good way to organize funding it. Before diving into those details, I would like the community to comment on this, and determine if they think its feasible. It would be up to the community to start spreading the word, and money could be raised via word-of-mouth. I have not established a budget or time-frame, but if enough people here think its worth the effort, we can work together to achieve this.
Hi @sockhopsinger while I get where you’re coming from there, my experience is in fact that often it’s the smaller developers who can adapt and make changes more easily and quickly, less red tape internally and often less complex products.
But I know what you’re saying. The fact is though that I’m not for one second suggesting that Marty should or could overhaul his apps overnight, it might take some significant time to reach the point he would like to get to, but that he commits to trying to solve this issue, which is of great importance to some members of our community.
The argument about the size of the demand is inherently problematic for me. It’s not a feature request we’re discussing here, it’s a need for a group of users. Just as we as a blind and low vision community don’t accept it in the mainstream, nor should Braille dependent users accept it within the community. That principle was the nub of my point really, not so much the resources.
I'm not a Braille user, but agree with many of the comments here; would much prefer these games to use VO instead of being self-voicing; in theory, wouldn't that instantly improve the Braille support?
My second thought is probably better kept to myself as I don't know how to articulate it without coming across as overly snarky, but I will say this: given the way that so many contacted Apple and fought to keep these games in the app store, it's sad that the wants/needs of loyal players are being all but disregarded by this developer. For myself, I seriously regret the money I've given to this developer: probably well over $100 over the years. If I had it to do over, I probably wouldn't support this developer at all as it seems that the only thing he truly cares about, at least at this point, seems to be making money. Yes, making money is important; we all need money to live, but... I don't know. Doing some guestimating, it would seem that this developer has made quite a bit of money from the blind community; I know he's made far more than I'd care to admit just from my purchases, and I'm pretty sure most people posting here have bought at least a few of the games, otherwise Braille support wouldn't be the issue it's become.
In closing, all I can say is that I hope the developer does the right thing, and if not, I hope that people will take note and stop supporting him so unconditionally.
I have a few thoughts about recent comments.
Shanda wrote "Since when is a decision about app accessibility made based solely on the number of users who would benefit?" The answer is quite a lot. I shall use an analogy.
The World Wide Web Consortium says that websites should make alternative pages which have the content but using simpler language for people with cognitive disabilities. This is rated as a level AAA guideline which means that it is difficult and possibly time-consuming to achieve, and may only increase the websites' accessibility for a very small percentage of the user base. How many websites do you know that offer their content in easy-to-understand language? Very few. I cannot even think of a website promoting accessibility that offers this feature.
For Marty, I think braille display access is a similar concept. Unless there is a financial incentive to assisthim such as a crowd-funding campaign or a very strong desire from a large number of people, does the necessity of some people to access these games which detracts from Marty's ability to spend his time making more games for the vast majority of people worth it?
Accessibility is the right thing to do, but limits need to be created. I fully believe that universl access is the best possible outcome, but only we as a community will be able to decide that through supporting Marty by using the new mode in Blindfold Wildcard and by supporting the crowd-funding campaign.
Please do not think I am doubtful about whether this will eventuate. I continue to be surprised at what our community has been able to pull off. Think about the crowd-funding campaign for Dictation Bridge where over $20,000 was raised in the space of one month to help people, the majority of whom struggle to type due to physical disabilities in addition to their blindness. The same thing may happen here; only time will tell.
I'd just like to suggest one thing that, if you decide to go through with the crowdfunding, may get more people to donate based on platform alone. Indiegogo in my opinion is a much easier, much more accessible crowdfunding platform. I'd go for Indiegogo at this point.
I took a while to digest what people have said, and I think the participants in this forum need to understand the perspective of a software developer.
Firstly, after you subtract the cost of development tools, third party licenses, royalties and marketing expenses, these games do not even make enough money to cover even half of my health insurance; much less any salary. On average, about 100 to 200 people will buy an upgrade for a game. Thousands will download the game, play for free, and move on. Dozens of people try to "game the system": re-downloading the same game multiple times, and play for free.
The average game is now taking about 100 to 200 hours to create (it used to be longer); the average programmer makes about $50 per hour, hence the cost to build a game is between $5,000 and $10,000. If you think these games even break-even, you are completely misled. If anyone thinks I'm in it for the money, I could make more money serving fries at McDonalds.
Second, keep in mind - these are just games. They are not productivity tools, nor are they technologies to make your life easier. They are just a way to have some fun, relieve some stress and keep yourself occupied for a little while. I understand why websites or other software tools that are critical in people's lives need to be held to a higher standard. But these are just games.
Thirdly, I make these games because people appreciate what I do. The reward in this hobby is the handful of Thank You notes that I receive every day from people across the world. If I went by what was demanded of me in AppleVis, there would be no incentive to continue.
There are two ways people can indicate they appreciate what I do. Either they let me know by emailing me, and if they can, they buy a favorite game to support the effort.
I can say that I have been contacted by a few deaf-blind people who explained their situation to me, and they told me that if I made these changes, they would buy the game. The fact that they would spend their money is a real indication of support. And it is for those people that I am investigating the braille display.
There's a noticeable lack of other software developers who provide products for this community. Either they never complete the project they started, or they leave the community after building one or two apps. While I don't know the reasons why they choose to stop, the negativity expressed here can be very demotivating.
I don't have your games because I can't afford them right now. I may skim through them and see what I haven't tried or something I don't know. I am not much of a game person honestly.
Marty: you wrote that these are just games and that they are meant to relieve stress, have some fun, and so forth. They would be for the deaf-blind community as well. I don't feel the community should have to pursue crowdfunding for this sort of thing since this is a money making venture, not something like Dictation Bridge which has been offered up to the community free of charge. What is being asked for is equal accessibility, not an add-on. As to your comment about lack of rapid play, there are other tools which exist for VO users which speed things up when there are proper labels and correctly implimented code for the screen reader user. Custom rotor actions, the item chooser, and for us braille users, a find mode are just a few examples. I can, for instance, jump to any element I wish on the screen with braille by pressing space with F, entering the first few letters of text, and then pressing enter. As for most of the people you know only using braille on the computer, I would argue this is because the people you are asking are those who are already playing your games. The people you are leaving out are the ones you should be asking this question.
I don't think anyone here would expect all games to be done this way overnight or that all games could have this support, as I wrote in my initial post. All I can do is support the games which have these built-in features and not the ones which do not. After all, if it doesn't work with braille, I can't play it. As a customer, I have the right to rate each app 0 Stars in the App Store due to lack of accessibility for deaf-blind people. Do I want to do that? No. I'd rather work with you to bring this access to your games instead of working against you. I'm more interested in bringing access to deaf-blind people and those who wish to use VoiceOver itself instead of needing to use the TTS. I understand you have a beta team already in place, but how many of those people use braille regularly? Are these the same individuals who passed the current implementation of braille on as a workable solution? That's not necessarily their fault, and I have no idea who they are, but maybe it's time to look for braille specific testers to get this right?
Looking at the economics and marketability for a second, I have noticed you have tried to push toward the audience of blind educators. Many in the field, which I work in by the way, are pushing toward a path of braille literacy. Wouldn't it look good on you if you took the time to develop this support? Further, while many gestures are customized for game play, think about if those learning VoiceOver could have the same support with your games as they do for other apps. Then, you would have people using your apps to relieve stress, to pass some free time, and also learn VoiceOver in a fun way.
All this said, at the moment, I often use Blindfold games to show how apps developed for the blind are not always created in such a way that braille users can also benefit from them. I'm sad to say I may have to continue to use your games as examples of what happens when developers do not use VoiceOver support in the way in which it was intended. So from that perspective, you are making my life and job easier. But the ethical side of me, the one that cares more about equal access than putting less effort into presentations, knows that's a disservice to the very people I'm both attempting to support along with my own needs.
I am not a braille user myself (or even a gamer). However, I really hope that you will take on board the comments and suggestions made in this thread, as ensuring that all blind and low vision users have fair and equal access to your games is simply the right thing to do.
I think that we all are aware and accept that there would be some challenges and issues along the way, but this thread should have made it clear that there are many people keen to help you with overcoming those challenges; and that nobody is expecting it to necessarily be quick or easy. People just want to be able to play your games, and you should take great pride and satisfaction from this being the case.
I think you were one of the ones that initially told me about your needs, and kept bugging me to do something about it. And, it was your insistence that made me think about the problem. And that's why I'm starting with Blindfold Wildcard - my variant of Uno - with an alternative voice-over enabled screen, and I look to you for feedback once it's ready.
Until I'm convinced otherwise, I see alternative screens for some of the games as a requirement for the deaf-blind community. I do not see creating voiceover enabled screens for the non-deaf people that use braille displays as a critical component to the games. That would exclude games like Blindfold Racer or Blindfold Hopper.
I assume that the deaf-blind community will support me once the game is ready by purchasing the game. Some have already committed to do so, and it's that commitment that motivates me. The few dollars the game will earn won't effect much, but it is a way - other than words in a blog post - that indicate my efforts are important.
As to the game design - for many games, it's a tradeoff between rapid game play and braille display. In a game like Wildcard, it's possible to make the game play equally fast in both user interfaces. For many of the other games, the extra button pushes would slow down the game.
As to pushing out to educators - I think its equally important to create some games that actually reinforce braille literacy, than simply use the convenience of a braille display. But in the end, you'll get some of what you want.
Thanks for your support.
Again, I don't disagree, but at some point, when investing time into creating something, the community must respond by purchasing the product created for them. Most don't. Many try to "game the system" to get it for free.
There are people who have mobility issues who are also visually impaired - do I modify the games for that community for equal access? And I have heard from blind people who have cerebral palsy. Do I slow down the games to make it viable for them (I have with one or two).
There are people who have cognitive issues who are also visually impaired - do I simplify the games enough to make it accessible for them?
Every decision has its tradeoffs, and by serving one community, you are denying another.
The attitude taken by large software development companies that produce products for "special needs populations" is to charge very high prices, sell to school systems that are funded by the government or grants, and ignore the consumer population.
Please do come back here and post when this game is available. I appreciate you taking the time to give this a go. Certainly, games which require audio play that do not have text alternatives do not make sense to develop to meet this need, but Wild Card is a good starting point. I look forward to your release of this game, and hope it is the start of a new kind of access for these and the word games!
email me directly and i'll send you a beta copy
I must admit that I agree and can appreciate Marty's perspective. I enjoy the Blindfold games, particularly the ones with sound and varying levels like Blindfold Racer, as well as board game classics like Blindfold Clues. Do I personally have all of the games installed? Nope, and I know I haven't paid for all of the ones I did download because some didn't catch my interest long enough to run out of free playthroughs. I don't think I'm in the minority when it comes to player behavior, either.
The blind and visually impaired community is a small subsection of the greater player community, and I am frankly surprised that Blindfold Games has come out with so many titles, because as earlier stated, developers create one or two projects, and they find it to be unprofitable or de-motivating when we as a community become too negative.
I agree that adding Braille support to word, card, and trivia games which don't rely on audio (such as the recent one involving naming songs), would add a level of accessibility for the deaf-blind community. However, I don't think that telling Marty he should do this because it's the right thing to do is the most palatable approach. Nor, in my opinion, is countering him when he states that it would take hours and hours of time to go back and re-coe the games. I'm going out on a limb here but what do we know about him? Maybe (and I mean no offense by this), but perhaps he himself has his own challenges which make coding more time-intensive or labor-intensive than we think? Who are we to make this determination?
I stand wholeheartedly bby the idea of adding Braille support to more games to broaden access to Marty's games, as I have several friends who are deaf-blind that might enjoy the occasional cerebral challenge. I think that providing constructive and positive feedback, spreading the word, and voting with our wallets (when desired and feasible), will enable things to move in the direction of greater accessibility.