Hi Dark,
Yes, and unfortunately what this really tells me as a society, the
majority of the human race, really has a problem dealing with
disability issues head on. It is almost as though most people,
especially companies, act as though as long as they ignore it the
problem doesn't exist. However, as a society we are increasingly
dependant on electronic devices like cell phones, computers,
microwaves, you name it. As a result it is not just the mainstream
game companies turning a blind eye to the problem but the corperate
sector of our society in general. If and when they do decide to add
accessibility to a product or service it usually comes at a much
higher cost to the customer who in all likelyhood doesn't have the
money to spend. Case in point.
Back in the mid 1990's when I was getting ready to move out of my
parents home, go away to college, my parents were looking into the
idea of buying me a talking microwave that was being sold through one
of the Independant Living Aids catalogs.  It was a nice idea, but the
whole problem with the idea was it was way too expensive. If memory
serves me correctly the microwave in question was produced by General
Electric, had a large print display, braille keypad, and of course
could speak the time, etc. As I recall it cost something like $600
when your standard everyday G.E. microwave could be purchased at any
department store for around $125.  Why the insane difference in price?
The way I see it G.E. could have simply made that accessible microwave
the standard moddel, mass produced it, and shipped it, or something
like it, to every store in the country. That way everyone would use
that moddel of microwave weather they are young, old, disabled, or
not. The cost of research and development of that microwave would be
shared equally between all of General Electric's customers and so  the
cost of research and development wouldn't have really been that much
in the long run.
Instead of that, though, G.E. decided to produce your everyday
standard microwave which they ship to department stores around the
country, and then manufacturered an accessible version which could be
purchased through accessibility catalogs for several times the cost of
the standard moddel. So as a person with a physical disability I was
expected to pay a higher price for something that came from the
factory with accessibility in mind, and probibly didn't cost them much
more to produce to begin with. It hardly mattered that I was on SSI,
making less than minimum wage, and trying to save money for college
and didn' have the money to buy their accessible microwave in the
first place. One would think since microwaves are a standard household
appliance used by young and old alike large displays and voice output
would eventually become a standard feature, but of course it hasn't
happened yet even though the technology exists to do it quite
inexpensively. Admitedly microwaves can be brailled and used with out
large print or speech output by the blind, but that is beside the
The point is that the Baby Boomer generation is now in their early
60's and beginning to become disabled in some way. Their children and
grand children grew up playing video games, using microwaves, using
cell phones, etc and they aren't exactly getting any younger either.
sooner or later weather it is five years or fifty years from now all
those people are going to grow old, need accessible products designed
for the elderly, and what exactly will the corperate answer be? Will
it be something as harsh as so sorry but we only make games,
appliances, cell phones, etc for younger healthier customers?
Well, things are improving on that front,but it still doesn't mean it
is necessarily affordable. It will be interesting to see how an aging
technologically advanced society will handle the fact the moment they
become blind, low vision, have motor impairment issues, etc the cost
of everything goes up just to acquire accessible products made
specifically for their needs.  It isn't just microwaves but cell
phones and everything else that costs more if you have a disability.
Not long ago my wife and I decided to look into getting a couple of
cell phones. As it turned out the smart phones that were accessible,
those with Talks or Mobile Speak costs more than your basic cell
phone, and not only that if I wanted a smart phone with a screen
reader on it I had to purchase a cell phone plan that includes
internet access. I argued up and down with them saying I'd pay for the
phone, but didn't want internet service on my smart phone as the plan
was too high for our budget. As it turned out every cell phone carrier
we spoke to had the exact same polacy, and if I wanted a phone that
was fully accessible, or mostly so, I had to pay for a more expensive
phone and a more expensive plan to get it. That's just wrong in my
opinion, but that's our society for you.
The thing is given the general attitude of companies towards the blind
and other disabilities it almost seams impossible to get Sony,
Nintendo, Activision, and other mainstream game companies interested
in addressing accessibility problems with their games even though
their customer base is growing older and sooner or later become
disabled at some point. It is all too possible their management will
just say that's too bad, and continue selling to their younger
non-disabled customers basicly screwing their older customers out of
new products they can play. In turn they will eventually be screwing
themselves out of the money they would have made by selling to their
older customers as well. It is all because as a society we just have a
problem dealing with disability issues face to face, and haven't made
an honest attempt to fix the problem accross the board.
This is where independant game developers can rush in to fill the gap.
Most write their own games because the mainstream game companies have
in one way or another ignored there long term customers and turned
their interest towards younger and younger markets. As a result there
are independant game developers all too willing to fill some nitch in
the market that has been left open by the big mainstream companies.
One of these markets is accessibility, and this is where independant
game companies can really shine if they decide to take on the
accessibility issue head on instead of acting like it doesn't exist as
the mainstream companies do.


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