Twitch: The Problem With Accessibility
Twitch is one of the biggest video streaming services in the world. Twitch enables streamers to broadcast live creative content, music and so much more. But one of the most popular types of content for streaming on Twitch, which is rapidly growing, is video game streams. Twitch has become the home for many new-blood video game streamers looking to make a name for themselves. It is also a popular platform for well-known video game streamers that have transitioned from Youtube.
Ninja, Pokimane, Joltzdude, Tfue – these are names that are prominent in the Twitch gaming community. Even Apex Legends’ actor Johnny Young has taken to streaming videogames. However, Twitch’s platform has become troublesome when it comes to accessibility for its users. Something that needs addressing. We’ll be diving deep into the problems with accessibility on Twitch and how they can be addressed.
What Is The Problem With Twitch’s Accessibility?
From what we’ve seen, we know that one of the main issues of accessibility on Twitch is for those with visual impairment. Although accessibility also remains problematic for a range of other disabilities. However, we found that a good chunk of the complaints were made by the visually impaired (VI).
The complaints predominantly address Twitch’s functionality with screen readers. Screen readers are a text-to-speech program used to navigate computers and other devices to assist VI people. The trouble on Twitch revolves around the inability to use the screen reader on the main website to log in. Additionally, screen readers struggle with the video manager and reading chats on the IOS app.
Closed captions are also another major problem that affects accessibility. They are subtitles that can either be auto-generated through detecting a person’s voice or inputted manually. In this case, auto-generation would be ideal for Twitch due to its real-time streaming. Even with a clear voice and a good microphone, the closed captions system isn’t 100% on Twitch. This means that miscommunication is bound to happen on both sides.
Twitch’s accessibility poses another problem through a lack of disability tags. Tags refer to the use of categorising your streams into separate sections. For example, a videogame tag would show that the stream is about a videogame. Although Twitch has recently added LGBTQIA+ tags for streamers in the community, there are none that categorises disabled streamers or disabled-friendly streams.
Despite Twitch having a mobile app version, browser extensions are usually impossible to integrate with it. According to Reddit user and Twitch streamer tristengrant: “The issue with this is that (most) mobile users don’t have access to [extensions]”. Extensions are browser add-ons that people can install on the internet. This allows you to improve the experience or accessibility of another website.
What Does This Mean For Twitch Audiences?
Disabled viewers who are not catered by Twitch’s accessibility will find it difficult to use the platform. Because of Twitch’s lack of accessibility, this will force disabled viewers to find alternative ways into tuning in to streams. Furthermore, anyone not comfortable searching for alternate ways for accessibility will miss out on a lot of content. They need to rely on assistance provided to them by the company in order to enjoy its benefits.
Visually impaired viewers rely upon screen reading. Without it, they will be unable to navigate their way through the website. This means that finding the content they want to listen to or watch will be difficult. Additionally, essential features such as viewing the settings, logging on, and so on will be impossible for them to activate.
Closed Captions can be a tremendous help to HI viewers or viewers who needs visual confirmation of the streamer’s dialogue. Without CC, those viewers will misunderstand what the streamer is conveying. We know communication is incredibly important in streaming and the audience should hear their streamer loud and clearly. Personality, iconic phrases, names – all of them important for the viewer to acknowledge. Any competitions or announcements to be conveyed need to be done so accurately without mistakes.
Accessibility tags – although not crucial – can go a long way to improve accessibility. Without them, Viewers will have no idea which streams cater to their disabilities and which don’t. In an endless ocean of creative content, having various tags to differentiate disabilities can narrow the search massively. Viewers will find it a lot easier to locate accessible-friendly streams this way.
What Does This Mean for Twitch Content Creators?
For Twitch content creators, there are two ways in which this could affect them. Both of which are detrimental to whether they have these type of disabilities or if they plan to cater to a similar audience.
Disabled content creators may face similar obstacles to the viewers, and not allowing proper access with screen readers means VI content creators won’t be able to access their twitch profiles. Streaming will be a lot difficult to manage – hearing the chat, finding a way to stop or start their broadcast, and even navigating the page will be more tedious without assistance.
Disabled content creators also won’t be able to let their viewers know of their condition, which could affect the way their audience will respond to them. Viewers that don’t notice the streamer’s disability may treat them like any other streamer and accidentally cause offence. If Twitch were to create disabled tags, disabled streamers can differentiate themselves as having their own condition. This benefits them by making them becoming easier to find.
Twitch content creators looking to appeal to making their streams accessible, consequently will have trouble doing so with the current accessibility tools. Without great CC, their VI viewers will struggle with understanding their commentary or dialogue. Therefore, Creators themselves will have to go the extra length to researching and installing add-ons to cater to accessibility. With no official add-ons by Twitch, it could lead to content creators accidentally installing viruses or untrustworthy programs.
How Can You Help With Twitch Accessibility?
Sending in Suggestions To Twitch
You all know the phrase ‘sharing is caring’ right? Twitch is a platform of thousands of Streamers and millions of viewers. Twitch is not only a platform but a community; and helping build that community is a great way to help others.
If you’re a tech wizard, an ideas person, or even know some way to help – reach out. Your ideas and contributions could possibly be the answer to improving accessibility. This helps not only the company, but all the viewers and streamers that need it. Additionally, Twitch will make accessibility a priority when they see your growing suggestions and assistance.
Here’s an example of how effective this is! Twitch streamer BlindlyPlayingGames addressed the problems with accessibility with screen readers through a post on Reddit a year ago. A Senior Project Manager caught this and discussed the problems with the streamer through phone calls. After a “healthy dialogue”, they together identified the problems in accessibility with their latest update.
Spreading the Word
A good word of mouth is sure to get the gears working. When you mention the need for improved accessibility and others share that view, you start creating a demand for it. Twitch will notice this high demand, and start to realise what they need to work on to match their goals.
Spreading the word also does more than inform the company; it attracts collaboration from others. Programmers of good spirit may work on helping improve the community with their work. Already there are many programs out there which improved the experience of streamers and viewers alike.
Plug-Ins and Expansions for Twitch
As we mentioned recently, programming plug-ins and expansions that can be integrated into Twitch is a great boon for all. For those that don’t know, plug-ins and expansions refer to adding new functions to a host program without changing the host itself. For example, Grammarly is a browser plug-in that works to spell-check and act as an editor to any document websites such as WordPress.
Already there have been many expansions to assist with streaming with accessibility. if you want to try to make your aesthetics accessible for VI people, contrast light text with dark backgrounds and vice versa. You should apply this not only to simple backgrounds, but detailed and illustrated ones as well. They will find it easier to read the text – don’t forget that size, style and boldness are all important as well.
A great program to work on the colour is Contrast Checker by WebAIM.org. They allow you to customise the right colours through RGN hexadecimal format. This can be tested with foreground and background colour to measure your contrast ratio. Colorzilla is also recommended to check the hex value of the colours to get the right contrast and sharpness.
Considering An Visually Impaired Viewer
As a streamer, it’s easy to get lost in the razzle-dazzle of making your stream look pretty and cool. But there are additional factors to consider when designing and streaming on Twitch. Like making it easily accessible for an audience of varying disabilities. For example, people suffering from Epilepsy can have their condition triggered by flashing images or pop-ups on your stream. We know placing trigger warnings can be incredibly helpful.
For the visually impaired, it really helps to be as descriptive as possible in real-life streams. Streams such as cooking, painting, vlogging are best suited appealing to VI viewers through vast descriptions. Describe the colour of the paint you’re using, the shape of the ingredients you’re prepping, what the weather is like, the room and atmosphere. This can bring fantastic results for you and your viewers by building that connection.
The key to appealing to the accessibility of screen readers is utilising tabbing order and the alt text. Tabbing Order is a tool used by the user to read outlines of code; almost like braille. Alt Text acts as the alternate name for the image for screen readers. A screen reader will read out the Alt text of the image to describe it to the viewer.
It is imperative that you avoid using additional symbols such as ~ or –> or <3. This is because the screen reader doesn’t register them as you intended. We believe that adding descriptions to links also helps the viewer know where it leads to, to which nothing is worse than clicking on a link you don’t recognise. We recommend adding the link after the description; which ensures the viewer knows what to expect before clicking on a link.
Considering a Hearing Impaired Viewer
When considering your HI viewers, utilising captions are your way to go. Not only do they help with HI viewers, but work for you in many ways. They work for when your surroundings are too loud, your volume needs to be low, or when audio difficulties occur. Having in-game captions activated are a nice addition to use. They help your viewers understand the game’s dialogue as well as yours – meaning that clear communication is established between you and the game.
Adding a CC Twitch extension to your channel helps massively. This helps with creating captions for your HI viewers to read easily. If you have OBS, you can create your own captions to go alongside it. However, be wary of the placement of them; If they overlap with the in-game captions it can be messy. You should always consider that your viewer will need to see the captions and the content as well. prioritise on the sizing, colour and placement of your captions for the best results.
Sometimes you’ll have multiple speakers with you; whether that be an online game, or an accompanying streamer. Colour coded captions and names are your best friend here – use them to your advantage so your viewers know whose who. For example, have a list of names that are colour coded; then have each caption of that person in their colour.
What Are Some Changes Implemented Since These Concerns Were First Brought Forward?
Ever since concerns were mentioned, Twitch has improved massively with its accessibility. These improvements assist in bringing in people with disabilities to the community, by catering to their needs. Now with a statement on Accessibility, Twitch aims to make their platform “A place where anyone can play and make memories together”.
Twitch launched UltraViolet in late 2019; a visual redesign that is said to be their biggest. This included aligning with requirements around element spacing, colour contrast, font size and improved clarity and wayfinding. They also reduced accessibility bugs by 57% across the web, IOS, and android versions.
In May 2020, Twitch participated in Global Accessibility Awareness Day by sharing a video of various disabled streamers. Streamers from the likes of Brandon Cole, Sweet Anita, Stacey Rebecca and SteveInSpawn discussed on camera their disabilities. With the personalities being open about the platform, and some of the troubles they’ve faced.
Meanwhile, Twitch has also created the Access Ability Guild. The AAG are a resource group of employees with disabilities, working together to combat the difficulties they would experience in streaming. This allows for many great achievements to be made. One example is the replacing of the “Blind Playthrough” title in videogame streams; changing it to “First-time playthrough”. This was done to become more inclusive to VI users.
A function known as Live Closed Captions was also added to live streams. Similarly, Twitch events such as Twitch weekly and some TwitchCon events, now have professional stenographers covering them. Their job is to caption everything as quickly and accurately as possible. Caption size, colour, placement and other settings are all adjustable to your liking, as well. As such, it has become a great tool in personalising your captions to suit your condition and preferences.