Switching on Pokémon Go for disabled gamers

Pokémon hunters come in all shapes and sizes – including on wheels. Let’s look at how easy it is for them to catch the elusive critters using their preferred method, which is sometimes a single switch (See more on Switch Access software here). For those who have difficulty using a mouse and keyboard, a 'switch' can be used to work a computer instead. Switches come in various styles and can be activated by certain actions including pushing, pulling, pressing, blinking, squeezing, kicking, puffing down a tube or making a noise, for example. 

Catching nearby Pokémon single-handed – or no-handed!

Can wheelchair users or people with limited or no use of their arms catch Pokémon? Tecla, who provide excellent switch access systems, similar to that used by Prof Stephen Hawking, have given Pokémon Go a road-test, as you can see on this video.

Last week we wrote a post about the Eye Tribe Tracker technology that promises to open up affordable eye-gaze access to computers, smartphones and tablets. Eye-gaze tech is fantastic but still not as tried and tested as the trusty switch as used by Stephen Hawking and tens of thousands of others. The guys at Tecla - Komodo OpenLab, based in Toronto - have been exploring how easy it is for wheelchair users with spinal injuries or multiple sclerosis to to catch Pikachu, Charmander and friends using a single switch combined with their switch access software.

Catching Pokemon's inaccessibility

As you can see from the video, the Tecla controller installed on the users' wheelchairs allow control over iOS or Android devices paired via Bluetooth. A control unit switches the target for the Tecla controller between their wheelchair and the smartphone with which they are hunting Pokémon. It also works with single or dual switches, including those that respond to light touch and ‘sip-and-puff’ switches for users with less or no mobility in their hands.

The team behind Tecla first did some testing on the use of their system with Pokémon Go in late July, but since then they've been able to run an actual field test with the help of local Toronto Tecla users Neil and James. The result? Some freshly caught Pokémon (as you can see in the video) but not without some accessibility shortcomings. 

Is Pokémon Go playing fair with inclusivity?

It’s all very well to have a fantastic method of playing an app, but when that app has some flaws in the inclusive experience for disabled users, then it might still prove too much of a challenge for many.

In our article last week Pokémon Go or Not to Go we explore some of these accessibility issues. A recent article on the accessibility of Pokémon Go by the American Federation of the Blind explains how, with a bit of tweaking, even blind users like myself could catch ‘em all. We’ll update this article with any new improvements (or decline) in the accessibility of Pokémon Go, but now it’s time to stop reading this article and start rounding up those pesky critters however you can – and the very best of virtual luck.