In a community forum post this week, Blizzard Entertainment has shared its plans to improve the accessibility of Hearthstone, after the creator of a popular mod announced support would stop after the next update.
The mod for Hearthstone, called Hearthstone Access, improved the accessibility of Heartstone for blind and low vision players. It did so by making it compatible with screen readers on Windows. The creator Guide Dev recently shared their intent to stop supporting the mod. This due to the time commitment it required was becoming too much, which in turn affected the quality of the mod itself.
In response to this news, the Hearthstone community called on Blizzard to provide native accessibility for blind and low vision players, with a petition quickly reaching hundreds of signatures. At the time of writing the petition has over 2000 signatures.
Blizzard’s response to the community
A few days later a post on the community forum shared the developer’s intent to further improve the accessibility of Hearthstone. One concrete example mentioned is the ability to change the volume levels for separate types of sound. This should arrive in a patch after the release of the next expansion, March of the Lich King. The ability to change volume levels separately allows players to better focus on the sounds most important to them.
In direct response to Hearthstone Access support ending, they are switching from accessibility that complements the functionality of the mod, to integrating similar functionality in the game. It goes on to explain that this will take time to complete. They apologize to players that will lose the ability to play the game in this time.
While the mod is an example of the flexibility and ingenuity of communities to find and provide ways to play, it is also a warning. Accessibility in a game should not depend on mods, and by extension the goodwill and free labor of people. We hope this example will encourage developers to support and work with accessibility mod makers. To integrate the accessibility improvements they come up with. Ideally of course, no mods are needed at all.