TTS was a excellent addition to wows accessibility features. It worked brilliantly from the start and I’ve personally had no issues with it at all.
The addition of TTS also opened the door for addons to be able to read back other parts of the UI. My previous post spoke about 2 of these addons and how blizzard could help further the accessibility they provide.
Even though these addons are being developed, the recent announcement of a UI overhaul in the new expansion could see blizzard add many of the addon UI and keyboard navigation features provided by these addons into wow.
The features of these addons have brought many new blind players to wow in the past 6 months. Personally I do not use these addons but this is due to the fact that I have built my own mix of addons, macros and keybinds over the past 12 years of playing wow blind.
With this post I hope to give the devs some personal ideas of accessible changes I would like to see come in with the UI overhaul.
- UI keyboard navigation key bind.
This would be a accessibility toggle function that you can set a custom key bind to toggle on/off. It’s function would to be enabling navigation of the UI to be accessible with the keyboard. I believe this function is essential as it eliminates conflict with other key binds that may exist or key binds that may want to be used to enable play in other areas of the game. It would also stop unintended navigation into the UI at a time it’s not needed. Example, if I’m mid boss fight and I hit the wrong key combo then end up in my inventory without realising.
- UI sector key binds.
The UI has sectors. Map, inventory, action bars and the menus area. These areas could have a access key bind, these key binds to access areas would only work once the UI keyboard navigation toggle was on. A example of the possible key binds for UI areas could be ctrl+I for inventory or ctrl+a for action bars. Specifically for the action bars ctrl+a would cycle through active action bars each time it’s pressed. These bars could also have their names read out by TTS, their names in settings are pretty descriptive. The one addition would be the main bar and it could be simply named main.
Having key binds for specific areas would enable quick access and then also allow navigation within the selected area to be done with the arrow keys, enter and back space.
A example, once the action bars are selected and you cycle to main bars you navigate between slots with right and left arrow. TTS would read the slot key bind and the full ability or item in there. If on a slot pressing enter could bring up a selection menu, use and remove. Up and down arrows would then go through the menu then pressing enter on the selected option would perform that action. Backspace would bring you back out of the menu and allow you to navigate the slots again.
These are only a couple of examples but the principle of quick easy and simple navigation could be applied to the other areas.
- Menu based inventory.
Currently the inventory is very limited in its accessibility for blind players. One way it could be made accessible is with a menu style access similar to the auction house categories. This menu could activate when the keyboard UI navigation toggle is on. Similar to action bars it’s navigation could be done simply with arrow keys, enter and backspace. Sub menus could allow actions to be performed on a selected item, the same as with a selected slot on the action bar. Further to this info could be added as a sub menu on a item so any stats or text would be read out in full.
The ability to manage inventory, equip items and use items is crucial to a MMO. The ability of a blind player to do this independently would not only give them great autonomy but it would also filter into other areas of the game. We would be able to quest much easier and equip things like fishing gear, currently we have to rely on friends using team viewer in order to access our inventory.
- TTS and keyboard navigation support in the options menu.
This is a major accessibility change that’s needed.
The root to all accessibility features is through here. Accessibility features are great if the route to access them is also accessible, currently that route isn’t for blind players in wow. Again we have to rely on friends with team viewer. Yes there is scripts to turn TTS functions on but there are so many other options we need access to, sound settings, aoe looting and key binds are just some. Support in these menus is greatly needed.
- Spell book and the ability to cut and paste ability’s.
The spell book is a window that needs TTS and keyboard navigation support. Once it has my idea would be that with the UI keyboard navigation toggle on and the spell book open TTS and keyboard navigation would automatically move to that window. Once within the window navigation would be done with arrow keys and page up and down would turn pages. Three other key binds would also be used by the spell book. Ctrl+c, ctrl+p and ctrl+d. these would be to cut, paste and discard any highlighted ability you have navigated too. This would enable us to setup our bars independently and change things if we need to quickly. An example, I’m in the spell book and I find kick. I then use ctrl+c to cut the ability. I then close the spell book and use ctrl+a to jump to action bars, I cycle ctrl+a until I find main. I then right arrow until I come to my empty slot and use ctrl+p to paste it in that slot. If I made a mistake and cut the wrong ability then I just ctrl+d to discard that cut.
As with the spell book, the talents page needs TTS and keyboard navigation support. Again, once the talents window is opened then TTS and keyboard navigation would jump to that window.
With the talents revamp I’m not sure how the live layout will be. What I would like to see would be a simple navigation that would use tab to navigate down talent lines, shift+tab to navigate up the lines. Right and left arrow to navigate between talents on that line, enter to place a talent and backspace to remove a talent. TTS would also read the full text of any talent you navigate too. I also think it would be good if TTS read out the talent line number as you navigate between lines. This would help for letting us know our current position and give a mental picture of layout.
- Quest log.
When I was able to see, the quest log was laid out pretty well in a menu style. Again the quest log isn’t accessible.
As with the other areas once the keyboard navigation toggle is on then ctrl+q would jump to the quest log menu. Tab would be used to navigate to headings, these are things like class quests, region quests or crafting quests. Once on a heading the up and down arrows would be used to navigate quests within that heading, enter on a selected quest would bring up the full quest details window for that selected quest and backspace would bring you out and back to the main quest log menu. Once within the full quest window, for a selected quest, the up and down arrows could be used to navigate each as it’s read out by TTS or a key bind like shift+r could read the quest from start to finish.
There are other areas of the UI that could be covered but these are the ones that I feel are crucial to accessibility for blind players to play independently.
There are addons that help to some degree with some of these things but I believe it is vital for game developers to include accessibility features as base line within the game itself for consistency of those accessibility features.
The work addon developers do is brilliant, the down side is that it is usually just themselves doing it as a side project. These developers are vulnerable to life happening which in turn has the knock on effect of stopping access to wow for players who rely on the addons to play. The game developers implementing these accessibility features removes the vulnerability and gives consistency of accessibility to those who require it…