OSM keeps an eye out for the visually impaired

24 April 2019

Whether you’re playing a game on your mobile phone, or if you’re working at a game studio, you don’t usually realise that there are blind and visually impaired people who also like to game. While we are bombarded with new game releases daily, there remains to be little choice for the visually impaired. This is what Galip (iOS developer and Community Manager at Gamebasics Studio) realised after he received messages from our visually impaired OSM players…
“Hello everyone,

My name is Doerak (name changed for privacy), I’m one of the blind guys who play OSM.

First of all, congratulations on the game that I really find very much beautiful and, above all, something not seen every day, very accessible even to those who, like me, use a screen reader for both the phone and for the pc.

In this regard, I would like to ask if there is a way to understand what kind of referee will direct the game, from an accessible point of view: so that depending on the color one can understand its severity but for those who do not sees all this is inaccessible because the programs we use are not there allow to decipher the images or the colors connected.

Same goes for the progress bars of players like those of the form; I know that they are there because the program announces them but it does not tell me the status of the bar; would it be possible to have one description even in percentages only?

For the rest, believe me, this is one of the best games for non-blind; I know you have other, much more important things to do, but small improvements could make our life easier. :-))

Thanks in advance for your help.

See you soon.”
On the second of April, I received the above message from a visually impaired OSM player. It was one of the four messages we received that week about “accessibility in OSM”.

Over the years, we’ve received some suggestions to improve OSM for visually impaired people, but never so many in such a short time. I suspect the recent update of the new Dashboard to be the cause; In this update, the strictness of the referee is only shown visually, without the text that it had before.

“Why would that cause problems?”, you might wonder. Well: When a text is shown on your screen, you can let your phone read it out loud using ‘VoiceOver’ on iOS or the ‘TalkBack’-mode on Android. Super useful!

Unfortunately – though understandably so – this doesn’t work for images. Your phone is not smart enough to understand what all those pixels and colours mean (yet). Because of this, visually impaired OSM players weren’t able to see how strict the referee would be in their next match. And that is, of course, essential information to play OSM properly.

Screenshot dashboard osm

Recently, we had decided to focus the development of our iOS version on fixing bugs, so I took the chance to fix this properly!

I responded to the messages and asked the visually impaired users what their biggest problems were in playing OSM. This resulted in a nice list of issues. Aside from the above-mentioned problem with the referee, users appeared to also have trouble closing pop-ups in VoiceOver mode, and in some cases they weren’t even able to open their to-do list at all!

Furthermore, using the spy to find out the opponent’s lineup didn’t work great, it was impossible to know how much fitness and morale your players had and the users had trouble in choosing the correct tactics for the next match.

Let’s fix it!

At that point, I didn’t have any experience with accessibility in iOS, in particular because most accessibility is already handled by default. However, after a bit of research I found out that it’s actually super easy to build. “How easy?”, you ask? Let’s look at a technical example: the fitness bar.

The fitness bar is an image (the outline) with an other image (the green bar) in it, which in code is named ‘fitnessBarView’. Looking at this technically, it is impossible for the standard accessibility system to translate this to something useful to the user. So we have to help it a bit!

First, we indicate that this view can be tapped:
fitnessBarView.isAccesibilityEnabled = true
Next, we indicate what should be spoken by the accessibility sytem when you tap it:
fitnessBarView.accesibilityValue = {fitnessPercentage}
When the visually impaired user now taps the fitness bar, the percentage will be announced by the accessibility system. That’s it!

Because it was easier than we had initially thought, we just fixed everything that was on our list. The update with these fixes has been live for a week and we’ve already received multiple positive messages from users who use the app in VoiceOver mode!
“Many thanks to everyone, from soneone who, as a visually impaired user, has had problems in some parts of the game for quite a while. I can play much more comfortably with the latest update.”

“Thank you for the newest update!
Thanks to everyone who made it easier for me to play.”
Personally, I’ve learned two valuable lessons from this. Firstly: There are more visually impaired users than you would initially think there to be, and secondly, it is very easy to provide support for them.

In the future, I will definitely keep accessibility in mind with every new feature that we build. And on that matter; we’ve already received more suggestions for impovement!
“Nice job on the improvements for visually impared users. Unfortunately, a problem occured, which prevents voiceover from scrolling through the players in the training list by swiping left or right. It would be very nice if you can fix it too. Thanks for the improvements you have done.”

“Thanks for the accessibility

Excellent the last update, since they improved some things for the screen readers. In this update who we use screen readers talking about my person the VoiceOver, it complicates us when sending a player to train because when moving around the screen I return to the first player on the list. There is also a failure in the tactics section, To go to the right to choose the game system. When passing the Game System that I have, there is a space where the VoiceOver does not read anything and changes me the way to the first page that is long balls.

I appreciate the effort you make so that more people with visual disabilities can be part of the players of this excellent game. Hoping these little mistakes can be corrected, receive my congratulations and thanks for being inclusive”
We’ve also already started asking users for improvements to the TalkBack system in the Android version of OSM, and we’ll start working on that soon.

After all, giving everyone the feeling that they are the manager of their favourite club is the motto of OSM, and that goes for visually impaired people as well!

Galip Çal??kan
iOS Developer | Community Manager
Team Rocket (OSM)

Share this article