Steam Deck proves that handheld computers are still not designed for disabled gamers


Recently, Valve unveiled This Steam deck, A system that allows players to access their Steam library anytime, anywhere. The design of Steam Deck is similar to Nintendo Switch, and it is the latest attempt by development studios to enter the handheld device market. Although beneficial for those who travel or cannot afford a gaming PC, its announcement emphasizes that handheld devices are not always the easiest concept to use for people with disabilities.

Whether it’s a standard Nintendo Switch or Switch Lite, Backbone-controllerOr simple smart phones, mobile and handheld devices constitute a large number of choices in the gaming market.Even the regular Switch model Includes a series of controllers and accessibility features, such as fully customizable controls, No disability is the same. Certain conveniences and choices that apply to one person may not benefit others. Blind/low vision players, players with arthritis, and even people with disabilities with limited hand use cannot see the screen correctly or hold the controller or system when playing games.

Content creator Steve”Steve the blind player“Due to poor eyesight, Saylor has difficulty using handheld devices correctly. and Nystagmus, A disability that causes involuntary eye movements, Thaler’s vision with glasses is 20/200, and his vision without glasses is about 20/1400. Therefore, he needs to sit very close to the screen in order to play normally. Although handheld devices have handheld capabilities, the screens are usually too small.

“Whenever I have to use an iPhone or a tablet, I have to keep the screen very close to my face,” Sailer said. “Whenever I use a handheld device like Nintendo Switch, I usually have to hold it very close to my face in order to be able to see whatever is happening on the screen. I cannot hold it at a more comfortable “normal” angle , Because of the screen size, I will miss a lot of information and a lot of details,” Saylor said.

To help reduce the small size of the screen, Saylor usually uses auxiliary functions such as zoom or magnification on devices such as Switch. However, if the system lacks this setting, he must rely on the scalable fonts and user interface built into a single game (if the game provides these features). Even so, the overall size brings another problem: physical stress.

“Generally speaking, because I have to sit very close or bring the device close to my face, my neck actually hurts because I have to bend it too hard to see the screen,” he said. So, 2 to 4 hours is usually something I can do without any physical pain, because after that, it may become a problem.”

In addition to straining his neck, Saylor pointed out that awkward posture can also hurt his eyes. He hopes that future devices will provide larger screens, more gamers can implement accessibility features, allow players to customize screen fonts and UI, and the ability to transfer games to different screens (such as TVs or computer monitors). “If the game itself provides this option, it will actually benefit my gaming time on the console or PC.”

Samantha BlackmondThe podcast producer and associate professor at Purdue University echo Thaler’s point of view. People with arthritis or disability of hand muscles or tendons may find it difficult to play games for a long time, and the design of Steam Deck or Switch is no exception. For Blackmon, due to her disability, it is not feasible to play a lot of games on mobile or handheld devices.

“I found that if I play games on these devices for too long—usually more than 45 to 60 minutes—not only will I feel pain in my hands and wrists, but it will also cause muscle cramps in my hands and my left thumb. It’s stuck in its place to use the analog joystick,” Blackmond said. “I also found that using these devices for several days can cause the tendons on the back of my hand to’leak’ and form a small painful lump on the back of my hand.”


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