[Correction] FCC Extends Waiver on Accessibility Requirements for Video Games

Published: December 31, 2016 9:45 AM /


Nintendo Switch PC gamers

Correction: Originally, we reported that the extension applied to video game hardware, services, and software. The new waiver only covers video game software [PDF], and the ESA did not request extensions for video game hardware and services (Page 4, Footnote 25). Additionally, we mentioned 'color-blind modes' as an example feature, but this doesn't appear to be a requirement for the types of communication covered by these regulations; rather, the law in question only mandates that such features apply to mobile web browsers (in addition to previously existing requirements). We apologize for the error.

Original story continues below.

Video games have received a short reprieve from FCC accessibility requirements after a successful petition from the ESA as reported by Broadcasting & Cable.

The requirements are outlined in the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 which outlines specific requirements for accessibility for disabled people in any "advanced communications devices" unless it is wholly unachievable. In practical terms, this means that these devices would have to support features common on many operating systems such as color blind modes and text-to-speech.

The Entertainment Software Association (a group representing US-based gaming companies, best known for running E3 and the creation of the ESRB) requested and received extensions to existing waivers covering video game hardware and online services tied to video games. They made particular note of the complexity of all of the different devices and software that would fall under these particular classifications and how compliance with the law is a nontrivial task; each console and each gaming service run on their own distinct software and would require different methodology to meet the law's requirements.

While the FCC granted the request, the ESA is obligated to produce a report that will go into specifics about the technical hurdles that the various companies are facing in complying with the law. The report must include "greater specificity" regarding these challenges as well as the status and future plans of the ESA and video game companies to remedy the situation. The waiver's extension was helped by the fact that gaming hardware and software tend to feature communications as a secondary feature rather than as a primary function of the devices.

How challenging do you feel it will be for the ESA and the video games industry to meet the accessibility requirements of this particular law? How well do you feel video game companies succeed in making their games and hardware accessible to disabled users? Which games or companies are particularly good at being accessible to disabled people? Let us know in the comments below!

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One of my earliest memories is playing Super Mario Bros. on the Nintendo Entertainment System. I've had a controller in my hand since I was 4 and I… More about Robert N