Pokémon Go: Are incense and Street View the key to more inclusivity for disabled people?

Everyone seems to be playing Pokémon. It's hard to explain the game unless you've played, but the app uses augmented reality so that when you hold your phone camera up, you'll see a virtual pokemon world around you full of various species of Pokémon, who are cute, and a bit tricky to catch.

The big question we’ve been pondering at AbilityNet is “how accessible is Pokémon Go?”.  Few in our office admits to playing Pokémon, but bloggers, reviewers and disability charities have plenty to say on the matter, including how incense can offer a handy fix...

Unstoppable Gamer is not happy that people with a physical disability are almost instantly limited from being able to play Pokémon Go.

One of the site's bloggers AJ Ryan, who uses a wheelchair, has managed to find a fix so you can, to some degree, play Pokéball without leaving the house. It means making a small in-game purchases of “incense”. This seems to attract them so they come to you, rather then you having to go out and get them.

Pokéball flinging and colour blindness

Catching a Pokémon also relies heavily on your ability to see colours and have good target skills, notes the Unstoppable crew. Different colours define how easy a Pokémon is to catch: a green ring means it is easy to catch, and a red one means very hard. So, that's the two main colours that get confused for people who are colour blind!

Flinging the pokeball is pretty tricky too as this excellent video about the craze shows.

The American Federation for the Blind says that audio cues would be good to let you know where the Pokémon is and whether or not you’ve aimed the Pokéball properly.

Audio cues and Pokémon Go Plus

A visitor to Apple accessibility site Applevis agrees: “My sighted husband has been playing the game and we had a bit of a brainstorming session on how it could be made accessible. The most tricky part would be actually catching the Pokémons as you have to 'aim' and flick Pokéballs at it.

I figured some sort of audio cue ala Audio Archery would probably work here. Interestingly, at some point in September a special add-on is set to be available to aid the above gamer, at around $35. It's a small bracelet called a Pokémon Go Plus which vibrates and has an LED light to let you know Pokémon are near. It will apparently let you catch it simply by pressing a button.

Pokémon street view option?

Action for Blind’s guest blogger is frustrated at the lack of thought around disabilities. They suggest one option for inclusivity would be to offer an option to play Pokémon Go from home using a street view application.

AbilityNet’s Head of digital inclusion, Robin Christopherson, says “While on the face of it it seems an entirely visual game it actually lends itself very well to being made accessible – even for blind VoiceOver users. Let’s hope that the practical suggestions provided by these users will lead to accessibility improvements in the near future and that all users, regardless of ability or impairment, can enjoy participating.”

Pokémon Go positive

We should stress that there has been some really positive feedback too, such as the recent BBC clip of autistic teenager and Pokémon fan Adam who has suffered from anxiety and has hardly left the house for five years. He's found the game easy to relate to and he and his mum now love going out into green spaces every evening to catch Pokémons. She says it's changed their world.

The Huffington Post reports too that Ralphie who is six and has autism has found Pokémons to be a great tool to help with social skills. And, guest blogger Shaylee Rosnes, who has cerebral palsy, writes in The Mighty that Pokemon gives her a chance to forget about her disability.

Just a last important note - while we can advise on all sorts of technology and accessibility (0800 269 545) including free home visits for older or disabled people, we do not advise on Pokémons.

Alex Barker and Claudia Cahalane

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