How I Play Visual Games While Visually Impaired

Hi y’all. I’m Christy, and I review Switch games for low vision accessibility. If you’re interested to know why I play on the Switch, please check out my Why I Play article.

Today, I want to talk a little about how I use my Switch and specifically what gear and setup I use, though much of what I talk about will apply to all console gaming. If you’re interested in what I see, please check out Steve’s video on the subject. He and I have the same condition and see things very similarly. I’m not a technology expert at all, so please don’t think that a solution doesn’t exist if I don’t mention it here.

Monitor

Playing in handheld mode on my commute is great, but I wanted to find a way that I could play on a bigger screen and still be close enough to the screen to see it. I started looking around the internet for ideas, and I struggled to find low vision gaming setups.

I realized that what I needed was a dedicated gaming monitor that I could put on my desk. Having the monitor on my desk as opposed to a TV on an entertainment stand would allow me to wheel my desk chair partially under the monitor so that my face could be closer.

I use Mac computers because they have VoiceOver and zoom features built in. My Mac displays and desktops are not compatible with the Switch, so I would have had to use a capture card to play my Switch on the screen. I was worried about latency using a capture card, because it already takes me longer to process visual stimuli, so I decided to go with a dedicated monitor.

That’s where the hunt really started. All of the monitor reviews and recommendations I could find were not directed toward my needs. I needed high refresh rates, decent resolution, blue light filtering, excellent anti-glare coatings, and lots of physical adjustability. Some monitors were designed to reduce eyestrain, but these monitors never seem to have good enough specs for gaming. Gaming monitors didn’t seem to include the eyestrain features.

I ended up choosing this monitor. When I went in, the staff members didn’t really seem to understand my accessibility questions, even though I had my guide dog with me. They didn’t know that the monitor does have a blue light filter option called Comfort Mode that’s built in. That was a nice surprise after they told me that it didn’t. (Sidenote: The monitor was a lot cheaper when I bought it.)

When I saw it in the store, the curvature concerned me. I had not planned on getting a curved monitor, and it reflected a lot of light from the store’s overhead industrial lighting. However, once I got it home and onto my desk, that wasn’t an issue.

If you’re looking for a gaming monitor or other low-vision gaming pieces of equipment, let me add several items to your list. I really like the monitor I got, but I wasn’t anticipating the placement of ports to be an issue. By far, the most frustrating aspect of this monitor is the port situation. The ports are located on the bottom, inside of a little channel. There aren’t good bumps to identify the location, so I haven’t had much luck plugging the HDMI cable in blind (pun intended). I move my Switch back and forth between my monitor and my TV because it’s better to play multiplayer games on the TV. Having to plug in the HDMI cable in all the time is a pain. The other concern is that the monitor doesn’t have an adjustable height. It’s not too much of an issue for me, but it does make the ports harder to access. I could certainly add some bump dot identifiers to make it easier, but it’s still problematic.

Also, think about your setup. If glare is a problem for you, don’t set up your monitor opposite any lights, but especially if you’re thinking of a curved monitor, lighting could be a struggle. In the store, it was really trippy to have different inputs coming in each eye. I don’t have depth perception, but I do see out of both eyes. It made me incredibly dizzy to get the weird reflections off the curved screen. But since bringing it home and setting it up opposite a dark corner, I’ve had no issues, and I actually like the curved screen. It seems to help a bit with depth perception because the screen is a more uniform distance from my eyes instead of the edges of the screen being further away than the middle of the screen. If you’re a bioptic user, I would definitely try out a curved screen, because it might keep you from having to refocus to look at the edges of the screen.

Systemically, I’m frustrated that there isn’t more information out there about which monitors and features work well for visually impaired folks. I’m frustrated that stores don’t include more comprehensive lists of features in product descriptions. Statistically, disabled folks have less discretionary income, and I’m frustrated that we can’t get good information about products before we buy them when spending money is a big deal for us. When my vision is closer to 20/500, it’s really hard to play most games in handheld mode. It’s so much more accessible to use the monitor, but that adds a huge expense to an already $300 Switch and $60 games. That cost is a big barrier to entry. Even so, I think a nice desktop monitor is the best thing you can do to make your Switch more low-vision accessible.

Controllers

Joy-cons are great, but they’re not the most comfortable things for long play sessions. I have both the SN30pro+ from 8bitdo and the Nintendo Pro Controller. From a visually impair perspective, I would recommend the Pro Controller because it’s much easier to connect. The 8bitdo controller is remappable with some free software, but I can never get it to sync up easily, and the battery lasts less than that of the pro controller. If you use other consoles or PC, you can hook up the 8bitdo controller, which adds a lot of versatility. I wouldn’t personally recommend wired controllers because of the hassle. But if you’re willing to take the time to make sure you don’t get the cords caught on anything, going the wired route is a great way to save money.

If you prefer an alternative controller, there are likely ways to use that preferred controller. There are USB adapters that allow the use of Xbox or other Bluetooth controllers, likely including the adaptive controller. I don’t have any experience with this, but it’s definitely worth checking into if you have a controller that you’re used to.

Bump dots and colored stickers are a great way to make your controllers more visually impaired friendly if you find that helpful.

Grips

If you do want to play in handheld mode, I would recommend the Skull and Co. grip. I’ve tried both the Satisfye grip and the Skull and Co grip, and for fully-sighted folks, I would probably recommend the Satisfye grip. It’s more ergonomic if you’re holding the Switch a foot or more away from your face. But if you’re holding the Switch less than a foot from your face, ya know, like you do if you’re visually impaired, the Satisfye grip is not at all ergonomic and makes your wrists bend in an uncomfortable position. The Skull and Co. grip is much better in allowing your wrists to turn to accommodate the closer position. If I’m playing handheld, I’m playing with the Skull and Co. grip.

(You can also get the Skull and Co. grip in Splatoon colors, so that’s a plus).

I really enjoy the analog stick caps Skull and Co. makes as well. They also come in Splatoon colors, which can help you see what you’re doing. I have a bad habit of leaving my Switch on the couch, and the bright stick caps help me find it.

Other

If you’re looking for other ways to make your setup more accessible, consider a second charger or doc so you can avoid having to move your Switch and plug in cables. An HDMI splitter might also help if your TV only has one HDMI port.

If you can’t get a monitor with a blue-light filter, there are a variety of options. If you don’t wear corrective lenses, you can get fairly inexpensive glasses with non-corrective lenses that block blue light. If you do wear corrective lenses, the blue light coating can usually be added when you purchase your next set of glasses. If you won’t be getting new glasses for a while, you can also check out blue-light filtering screen protectors that fit over your monitor screen. I haven’t used these, and I would probably only apply them to non-curved screens. And like most screen protectors, it would likely go better if you have a sighted friend apply it for you.

I chose to go with a dedicated monitor, but some people may prefer the use of a capture card. The upsides to this could include using zoom software on your gameplay footage, though this would probably be a complete pain to try to do while also playing. Capture cards are also generally cheaper than monitors, so if you’ve got a good computer setup (that for some reason isn’t already compatible with the Switch), it might be the best option for you. It would also give you the option to start streaming or making videos.

Lastly, I want to mention cable control. Especially if you can’t see your cables reliably, take some effort to make your setup safe so you don’t trip yourself or knock over your fancy tech. If your desk is black, see if you can find white cables. Get some cable ties to help organize. You might need an extension cord so that your cables can be taped to the ground and then taped up the leg of your desk. There are colored cable labels that can help you identify your cables. I also recommend only having one interactive cable. What I mean by that is if you use wired headphones, don’t use a wired controller, and vice versa. One wired item that you hold or wear is probably enough. If you have two, they’ll get tangled. Of course, you can have as many wires as you want, but to be the most accessible, I wouldn’t have too many. If you’re looking for Bluetooth headphones that are compatible with the Switch, check for ones with a USB adapter. Some of the old Playstation headsets are compatible, if you happen to have one of those lying around.

If I’ve missed anything here, whether that’s a solution you’ve found or a problem you can’t solve, leave a comment. You can also find me on Twitter and our new CIPT Discord.

More Resources

The BEST 4k Gaming Monitors for Consoles, Xbox One X and PC by WulffDen

How to Stream & Record Nintendo Switch Gameplay by WulffDen

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Christy Smith

Christy Smith is a visually impaired gamer whose main goal in life is to snag a seat on the metro instead of having to stand so that she can play Switch on her commute. She/her/hers or They/them/theirs

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