Monday, January 21, 2019
Disability RightsGamingHot TopicsPop Culture

Lack of Accessibility on Twitch Leaves People with Disabilities Out of E3

It seems like only a few years ago E3 was all over traditional television. With the rules for television requiring television shows to offer closed captioning, it opened up the conference to a wide variety of individuals with disabilities. In just a few years, the quintessential gaming network, G4, shut down all its shows, and with it went E3.

While E3 remains the biggest conference for games, at least in relation to how gamers learn about new gaming technology, systems, accessories, and the latest games to be released each year, after making progress towards inclusion, new technology on the Internet has set the conference back by making the conference inaccessible. As our society turns increasingly more and more towards the internet for communication and entertainment, it seems only logical and natural for E3 to move to this medium. However, when it is at the expense of an entire community of individuals, something needs to be done to rectify the issues this has caused.

A purple background with white block lettering that says Twitch

This year, all of the press conferences, which once aired on television with plenty of commentary in between them, were available on Twitch, which is a live streaming website for gamers by gamers. I get that the point of live streaming may make it difficult to include closed captioning, but for something as big as E3, some kind of effort needs to be made to ensure that anyone who needs captioning is not excluded. There also is a way to offer closed captioning on live television, so Twitch could implement something similar for their software.

There is absolutely no option to turn on captioning through the Twitch website. Not only do individuals who are D/deaf or hard of hearing need this option, but individuals with learning disabilities, autism, and even some physical disabilities, use closed captioning to help them process what is being said. I always look for closed captioning because I am not only a Coda (child of a deaf adult), I endure frequent ear infections, which often keep one of my ears plugged, and I cannot hear out of it. I also have a high frequency hearing loss, which I have had since I was a child, and a consistent and persistent ringing in my ears. If I do not use closed captioning I often miss what is being said, and have to ask someone to repeat it for me.

That being said, I can still hear most things without assistance, and when I hear something, I can also process it, relatively easily. There are many others who are dependent on this technology in order to hear and/or understand what is being said. There are many gamers with disabilities who have been left out of E3 this year, and it is absolutely unacceptable. I should add that closed captioning would also open this up to gamers worldwide, because it could allow for captioning in other languages. English is not the universal language of the world, so non-English-speaking gamers could also have the chance to enjoy E3, if Twitch allowed captioning on their site.

I understand that a lot of this has to do with regulating new technology. It took a long time and intense negotiations to get the current rules implemented for closed captioning on television. With new technologies moving to the Internet, all of those regulations no longer apply. While technically one could argue that this breaks the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), the regulations for this law were written in 1990, before the Internet became mainstream, so there is technically nothing that states that Internet technology should be required to follow ADA standards. Further, there are no regulations for the web, especially since it falls into an international gray area, and it would be hard to determine who would regulate the rules if they were in fact implemented.

This is about doing what is right and being inclusive. There are many gamers with disabilities, and our community is often left out. The gaming industry needs to stand up and say that all gamers need to be included and considered. We just want to play, just like everyone else. All those of us who utilize closed captioning want is to give us the same access as any other gamer. Is that too much to ask?

To help encourage inclusion in the next E3 and on Twitch, please sign the petition.

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Dominick
Dominick is a director/filmmaker, activist, writer, advocate, FTM transman from the Midwest who lives in New York. Follow his film career and join his weekly Twitter chat on film and disability by following #FilmDis. He received his BFA in Film Production in 2014.