Xbox highlights its efforts to improve accessibility in gaming

Images from Xbox's Global Accessibility Awareness Day post.
(Image credit: Xbox)

What you need to know

  • May 18 is Global Accessibility Awareness Day, which aims to teach the importance of accessibility in all walks of life.
  • Xbox is participating in GAAD by highlighting some of its recent efforts to improve accessibility in video games.
  • The company continues to invest in accessibility at every level, including in the development, discovery, and playing of games.
  • Xbox is also furthering its partnerships with other accessibility-focused organizations.

Hundreds of millions of gamers identify with some form of disability, which is why it's vital to invest in improved accessibility for video games as a whole. Xbox has been a huge player in the space for years, and it's continuing to make new moves this Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Every day, it gets easier for more people to enjoy video games.

On Thursday, Xbox released an in-depth blog post past and future investments in video games accessibility, as well as the company's partnerships with other firms and organizations. There's a lot here, so I'll do my best to condense the most important information for you below.

The Xbox Store now features new ways for players to find accessible games for them. (Image credit: Xbox)
  • Working with the community to improve accessibility in gaming. Xbox has done a lot to improve video games accessibility alongside its developers and partners, but it can't do it alone. It's important to include the people that are actually affected by these changes and investments.
    • The Xbox Ambassadors program has collectively completed over 1 million missions centered around providing feedback on accessibility features and investments, with over 18,000 Ambassadors participating
    • The Microsoft Game Accessibility Testing Service added a "Player with Disability" offering to developers building games for Xbox, with members of the Gaming & Disabled community providing over 13,000 hours of testing on accessibility features and design in the last year
  • Improving accessibility in other areas of the Xbox ecosystem. Accessibility in video games is crucial, of course, but Microsoft also wants to make it easier for players to use the Xbox ecosystem and discover new games.
    • Last year, Xbox unveiled a newly redesigned Xbox Support hub, which now includes support articles for over 150 accessibility controls
    • The Xbox App on PC also recently introduced a brand-new accessibility settings menu to help players customize the app for their needs
    • The online Xbox Store has been improved with a bevy of new filter and search options, including the ability to filter for specific accessibility tags and features (this was introduced as part of the Xbox May Update)
  • Helping developers create more accessible, approachable video games. Accessibility starts at the very beginning of game development, with an inclusive approach to game design improving every aspect of the finished product. Xbox provides a wide array of tools to help developers build more accessible games.
    • The Microsoft Game Accessibility Testing Service is a program that lets developers validate the accessibility of their projects, and has added 119 test steps and 124 examples to provide further aid in validating a game for Accessibility Feature Tags on Xbox
    • Improvements to accessibility in gaming has also led Microsoft to raise the bar necessary for a game to be featured in Xbox's "Accessibility Spotlight," with titles needing at least 6 Accessibility Feature Tags (versus just 4 in the past)
  • Partnering with other companies and organizations to increase awareness. Xbox isn't doing this alone. In addition to working alongside developers, publishers, and the Gaming & Disability community, Xbox is also working with other companies and organizations.
    • From May to Sept. 2023, Xbox is partnering with the Korea National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art on a new "Game Society" art exhibition, with one of the showcasing highlighting accessibility and featuring an Xbox Adaptive Controller for visitors to use
    • Xbox Netherlands is partnering with the HiPerks Foundation to release a series of videos showcasing the impact the Xbox Adaptive Controller is having in the lives of Gaming & Disability community members, including guest Paul Van Der Made
    • Xbox is partnering with the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 and Humanelektronik to provide accessible Xbox gaming stations for athletes to use

I did say it was a lot, but the work isn't done yet. Ultimately, improving accessibility in gaming comes down to the video games. We're still seeing a lot of innovation in this space, with Microsoft highlighting some recent and upcoming Xbox games that feature impressive accessibility features.

The Gaming & Disability community is millions strong, and they help make video games better. (Image credit: Xbox)

This includes games like Forza Motorsport (2023), which is aiming to elevate accessibility in the best Xbox racing games to new heights (even more than Forza Horizon 5 already did).

Hi-Fi RUSH was also featured, which is one of my favorite games of the year and features an in-depth array of considerate, well-designed accessibility options to make the rhythm brawler (historically a rather inaccessible genre), playable for as many people as possible. Many of the best Xbox games that Windows Central lauds are there in part because they aim to be accessible, and developers are still finding new ways to allow more people to play their games.

I'm happy to see Xbox participate in Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Gaming is at its best when we can share these wonderful experiences with everyone.

Zachary Boddy
Staff Writer

Zachary Boddy (They / Them) is a Staff Writer for Windows Central, primarily focused on covering the latest news in tech and gaming, the best Xbox and PC games, and the most interesting Windows and Xbox hardware. They have been gaming and writing for most of their life starting with the original Xbox, and started out as a freelancer for Windows Central and its sister sites in 2019. Now a full-fledged Staff Writer, Zachary has expanded from only writing about all things Minecraft to covering practically everything on which Windows Central is an expert, especially when it comes to Microsoft. You can find Zachary on Twitter @BoddyZachary.