Is Pokémon Go accessible to blind and partially sighted people?

Post date: 
Thursday, 15 September 2016
a close up of a hand holding  a smartphone

Pokémon Go is the smartphone game that everyone’s talking about. However, it's difficult for blind and partially sighted people to join in on the fun, as Pokemon fan Jesse explains.

 

The new craze

Pokémon Go is the smartphone game that everyone’s going crazy for. It’s a brilliant concept, but for blind and partially sighted people like me, it’s almost impossible to access. Much of the game involves looking through an iPhone camera, and using hand/eye coordination when you ‘catch’ a Pokémon – all of which, I have to admit, I’m terrible at!
 
The main drawback for me though, is that the game asks you to find Pokémon in loads of different locations. Planning and following routes is the most difficult part of being partially sighted! But there are changes that could make Pokémon Go even bigger and better. 
 
As it stands now, there are features that could benefit blind and partially sighted people. The game could be used by mobility trainers to motivate their students to practise their cane and orientation skills. When I started mobility training at age eight, I used a symbol cane because my trainer was worried that I’d reject a long cane once I’d got one -  it took eight years of persuasion but from sixteen onwards, I’ve happily used a long cane, now with a pink handle!
 
All joking aside though, I do think Pokémon Go would be great for encouraging little ones who are just starting out with cane or orientation skills. I found it hard to be motivated for training when I was younger, so the incentive of Pokémon Go would’ve helped a lot. ‘There’s a Pokémon at the bottom of the tree on the corner of this street – let’s go and catch it’ sounds a lot more appealing than ‘let’s go and find the tree on the corner’!
 

Changes that can help

The really frustrating thing for me is, with a little bit of extra in-game help, I’d be able to play with no problems. If I could programme in familiar routes, I’d be able to find Pokémon pretty easily. As for walking up to and catching them, that’s where it gets harder, but with good audio cues and VoiceOver, I’m sure I’d manage, possibly with a little bit of help from a friend. The game could then be used as a tool for blind and partially sighted people to practise routes, as well as giving them an opportunity to socialise with other players of the game.
 
The ideal way to make the game completely accessible would be to have modes within game play, so that players had the option to either play completely on their device, to use a street view application, or to use the full virtual reality mode. If you could programme the game to target specific areas, I’d love to find Pokémon around my house!  This would also be great for blind or partially sighted people who have difficulty leaving home.
 
Pokémon Go could do so much for blind and partially sighted people but until the game creators start to get inventive with accessibility, we’ll just have to sit and wait.
 
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