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E3 Replacement Events Criticized for Lacking Accessibility

Xbox and Bethesda's joint showcase was highlighted as the exception, adequately addressing accessibility issues.
Xbox and Bethesda's joint showcase was highlighted as the exception, adequately addressing accessibility issues. / SOPA Images/GettyImages

UPDATE 6/16/22 5:43 p.m. ET: An earlier version of this story repeated Steve Saylor's claim that Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed showcase included only a subtitled version of a trailer, without an audio description version. Ubisoft did release an audio description version of the trailer, which is available here. The article continues as originally written.

The raft of gaming events that have stepped into the vacuum left by E3's fall from prominence have come under fire from video game accessibility consultant Steve Saylor, who accuse the events of failing to cater to disabled gamers.

Saylor, who has consulted on games such as The Last of Us Part II and is himself blind, said most of the events failed to include audio descriptions or adequate subtitles for the deaf or hard of hearing.

"Disabled gamers were once again pushed aside and forgotten," he tweeted Wednesday. "We need to do better."

Saylor highlighted the Xbox and Bethesda showcase as an example of games companies putting in the effort to reach disabled gamers. That broadcast included captions and subtitles for the stream, an American Sign Language translation, and a separate audio described version of the showcase. Official social media posts around the broadcast also included subtitles in trailers and alt text on images.

"There was nothing else that even came close to what Xbox and Bethesda was able to produce," Saylor said in a video.

"There's been a lot of conversations over the past few years about wanting to include disabled players as part of this hobby that we enjoy, but it seems that it's more lip service than actual efforts made into accessibility."

Saylor says companies can avoid these shortcomings in the future by hiring disabled people and accessibility advocates that produce policies to increase accessibility at showcases.

"Help us to help you so that next year, in E3 2023, disabled people can actually enjoy and be part of the same hype as everyone else is," Saylor said.