Accessibility Insights with Anita Mortaloni of Xbox at Microsoft

Date of webinar: 
7 Dec 2021 - 13:00

Anita Mortaloni, Director of Accessibility of Xbox at Microsoft, joined us for our free Accessibility Insights webinar on Tuesday 7 December.

Robin Christopherson and Anita Mortaloni

In this episode of our Accessibility Insights webinar series, AbilityNet's Head of Digital Inclusion, Robin Christopherson MBE (pictured above, left, alongside Anita) chatted with Anita about a range of topics:

  • Xbox Adaptive Controller and gaming 
  • Gaming's accessibility progress
  • How the digital community can learn from an inclusive approach to gaming
  • The future of gaming
  • Microsoft's Gaming and Disability Player Experience Guide
  • Diverse experiences and abilities in gaming development
 

With a background in Software Engineering at Microsoft, Anita is now Director of Accessibility at Xbox, and recently joined AbilityNet's TechShare Pro 2021 conference on our Accessible Video Games discussion panel.
 

Listen to the podcast

Transcript available below.

 

Webinar FAQs

A recording, transcript, slide deck, and podcast are now available below, and Q&As from the webinar are also answered below.

You can find an archive of our webinars on our website and we also offer paid role-based accessibility training.

Find out more in our webinars FAQs and sign up to our next free webinar in our AbilityNet Live webinar series.

 

You may also be interested in AbilityNet's training course (recording coming soon): Video Game Accessibility. Get access to best-in-class resources in this training course that covers diverse user groups and how they apply to video games, plus hardware considerations, such as the Xbox Adaptive Controller. 

Webinar Q&As

This webinar lasted 30 minutes and included an opportunity to pose questions to the guest, please see below the questions and answers from Anita. You can find an archive of our webinars on our website and we also offer paid role-based accessibility training.


Q: Where could I find the Xbox accessibility guidelines for developers? 

Anita: The Xbox Accessibility Guidelines (XAGs) are a set of guidelines intended for designers as a catalyst for generating ideas, for developers as guardrails when developing their games, and for test teams as a checklist to validate the accessibility of their titles. The XAGs aren't intended to act as a checklist to validate any type of compliance or legal requirements. Rather, they seek to ensure that the user experience in a game is enjoyable and playable for everyone. They can be found on Game Stack Docs at Aka.ms/XAGs, alongside other resources like the Gaming Accessibility Fundamentals Learning Path, Gaming and Disability Player Experience Guide and details on the new Accessibility Feature Tags.
 

Q: Other than Xbox's accessibility guidelines, is there any other resources that you would recommend looking into for general accessibility and processes? 

Anita: Because many barriers that gamers with disabilities faces are not unique to gaming, let me first share some additional resources for gaming accessibility:

  • Gaming and Disability Persona Guide –  A supplemental resource to the Xbox Accessibility Guidelines intended to help game developers gain a more holistic understanding of the barriers that players with certain types of disabilities may experience when gaming. This guide shows what mechanics, display, content, and other aspects of a game’s design may look like when they are not developed with members of the Gaming and Disability Community in mind. (This sentence was a bit long, so broke it up for clarity).
     
  • Gaming Accessibility Fundamentals Learning Path - A free course offered on MS Learn to broaden the understanding of what “game accessibility” is. This resource is intended to establish foundational knowledge that will help bridge the disability divide and increase the number of people coming into the field by providing ways for users of the course to ‘validate’ their accessibility knowledge. At the completion of the course, the learner receives a virtual “badge” to certify completion, that they can then share. 

For general accessibility resources, I would recommend people take the Accessibility Fundamentals course on MSLearn that walks through what accessibility is, language to use when talking about the disability community, and other etiquette and inclusion topics. The entire course takes around 30 minutes to complete. You can also check out Microsoft Accessibility resources on our homepage, which includes details on Accessibility support for our customers, as well as the Disability Answer Desk (aka.ms/DAD), a free resource where customers with disabilities can get support with Microsoft Office, Windows, and Xbox Accessibility. This includes product issues, accessibility questions, and use of assistive technology.


Q: When you say you listen to what players want as you develop products? How do you source people to ask?

Anita: There are several avenues that Xbox listens to players as part of product development. A recent program is the Xbox Accessibility Insider League (XAIL) a public group of people who self-identify as having a disability and allies of the community. XAIL gives players the opportunity to provide feedback on the accessibility of a range of content provided by developers, including for example games and different accessibility features available on Xbox. In addition, teams at Xbox work with our user research team to get feedback across the community, as well as listening to player feedback provided through other channels, such as social media.
 

Q: What have you learnt about accessibility from the gaming industry and gaming communities that can be applied to website platforms and content? 

Anita: Xbox is about creating experiences that allow billions of people to have fun and play, including the over 400 million players with disabilities. But we know that how people play can change over a course of a day, week, months, or years be it due to permanent or temporary disabilities, or situational circumstances. Providing customizations or options that allow people to play how and when they want is important and cannot be understated. Not everyone plays a game the same way, and how someone plays may change depending on the game. Actively seeking out perspectives from players with disabilities, taking into account the wide range of ways that people play and examining the different barriers players face is something that goes beyond gaming and can translate to website platforms and content.
 

Q: I believe “accessibility features” mean additional help to the game player. Why normal people can't avail it? How do you segregate between normal player "help feature" vs "accessibility" feature? I mean where's the border/ boundary line?

Anita: One of the inclusive design principles is ‘solve for one, extend to many.’ Accessibility features fall into this category.  For example, night mode is useful for individuals with light sensitivity, but also extends to people who may wish to avoid blue light prior to bedtime. Another example is closed captions for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing, but also extends to individuals who may be in a noisy coffeeshop, house, or have a broken headset. In Xbox products and experiences, we intentionally place features that may be needed by the disability under “Accessibility” menus to make them easier to find.