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!