Accessibility at conferences often seems like an afterthought. Whether for developers or the general public, visitors are often left to fend for themselves. Recently we’ve seen a few companies setting the right example.
Unreal Fest 2022
Unreal Fest 2022, a conference for developers on the Unreal Engine, has opened up registration for the event on October 17 – 20 with a small but important detail added to the registration form. One of the questions asks if the attendee requires any ADA assistance. Depending on the answer the attendee will be contacted beforehand to make arrangements to provide adequate accommodations at the event.
This might seem like a small step, but it is still rare in the industry. The effort behind providing these accommodations often proves difficult to defend in larger organizations, with several departments involved. Seeing a company like Epic, giving this example is something we hope to see in more conferences.
Gamescom, obviously operating at a completely different scale and aimed more at the press and public, has demonstrated that accessibility is hard to find at conferences like these. While the venue itself provides accommodations, many booths and presentations proved to be so inaccessible. A caregiver was spotted carrying a ramp around for powered wheelchair access.
An exception and shining example of this has been the Xbox booth. It was wheelchair accessible by design, had sign language interpreters available in multiple sign languages, and staff was on hand for assistance. They even had earplugs, sunglasses, and fidget toys available for people with sensory issues. And a quiet room in case it was all too overwhelming.
Other considerations went so far as to include arachnophobia warnings for a large-scale spider statue that was present at the booth. The Xbox Adaptive controller was on display and available to use for those attending.
It is great to see these companies demonstrate what can be achieved for in-person events. On a somewhat smaller scale, we have also seen GAConf provide accessibility with sign language interpreters, live captioning, and accessible venues. We can’t wait to see conferences large and small become more accessible for developers and players alike, both online and in-person!
If you happen to be organizing an online event, we have a checklist to help you make the event more accessible.