The PC is the favorite gaming platform for many gamers since it allows for unparalleled flexibility. Because of this popularity, we have decided to look at it next in our series of articles examining hardware accessibility.
The reality is that, taken by itself, an out-of-the-box PC is already leaps and bounds ahead of other systems from the standpoint of accessibility. This is primarily because of the sheer number of options a gamer has when setting one up. Most operating systems have built in accessibility modes that will read the text to you if needed. There are also features such as on-screen keyboards that come preinstalled on most computers. Combine that with your standard interface customization options that accompany most operating systems, such as text size, color contrast, and screen resolution, and it’s easy to see that the operating system on most Windows PCs is the most accessible of any gaming platform for most people with disabilities.
Another area at which PCs excel is in the aspect of hardware. The simple fact is that it is easier for most players to manipulate a keyboard and mouse laid out in front of them, rather than trying to wrap their hands around a controller. Even if they only have one hand, a player should have an easier time accessing a keyboard and mouse set up rather than a console controller set up. But that’s the beauty of it—PCs feature hardware that is so customizable that in most cases a player can plug in an XBox 360 controller if they don’t want to use a keyboard and mouse.
In addition, there are also thousands of customized gaming peripherals that the disabled player can consider when trying to set up a system that is more accessible for them, whether it be an oversized keyboard with 16 extra keys that can be reassigned to any combination of keystrokes, or a gaming mouse that has extra buttons that can be assigned special functions, or even a completely specialized peripheral like a gaming pad which has a series of keys that can all be assigned specific functions. On my own personal computer, I have each of these peripherals, which means that I am not only able to enjoy games to their fullest, I am even able to compete competently at games like Starcraft II.
And when it comes to gamers with sight disabilities, they will always have the option to increase the monitor size, as well as the text size of the interface. Players with hearing disabilities will have no problems since, like most other gaming platforms, the PC only uses sounds as an add on.
In addition to store bought peripherals, because the PC operating system allows anybody to design software, for someone with access to rehabs and other places with in-house shops that build adaptive devices, it is possible to have peripherals designed specifically for their accessibility needs. Furthermore, there are dozens of pieces of software that help the disabled person access the computer more easily, whether this be a voice interface, such as Dragon Naturally Speaking, an advanced on-screen keyboard, or another piece of adaptive software.
The PC only faces one major barrier to total accessibility. Ironically, this is the price. There is no end to the amount of money one can pour into peripherals and especially into specially designed software. And the reality is, it takes triple the investment to build a PC that is almost barrier free than it would to buy the most accessible console.
In conclusion, the PC could justly be considered the most accessible gaming platform on the market. However, this accessibility comes at a price since each peripheral or piece of software a player uses to overcome a barrier has to be bought separately and increases the overall cost of the system.