A blind streamer is helping Twitch with the platform’s accessibility

BlindlyPlayingGames explains why Twitch is so hard to use for blind streamers in its current state

When BlindlyPlayingGames lost his vision completely in 2014, his passion for videogames went with it. But when World of Warcraft’s Battle for Azeroth expansion came out last year, the American decided he wanted to make a return – but this time he wanted to stream it.

The 23-year-old, who is totally blind, has always been passionate about videogames, playing multiplayer games with his friends online before he lost his vision. But when the WoW expansion came out, and he realised he could play it with the help of multiple mods, BlindlyPlayingGames decided to stream his adventures in Azeroth. Since then, the streamer has made his name on Twitch in recent months, but he’s also had to face problems that average users will never encounter. And that’s because Twitch isn’t fully accessible for blind streamers.

Recent updates to the streaming platform’s user interface mean a simple task such as logging in or changing a stream title is near-impossible for blind users. Worried that Twitch’s accessibility was getting worse, BlindlyPlayingGames, who uses a screen reader, took to Reddit to ask for help, where he was introduced to the senior product manager of the new Creator Dashboard.

“There’s a few aspects of Twitch’s website that don’t work well with screen readers,” he tells The Loadout. “Twitch has increased its use of inaccessible modal dialogues. For example, a modal is used to log in and it’s not accessible. To get around this, I log in at help.twitch.tv. Other inaccessible things include editing VODs, and parts of the new creator dashboard.

“There’s also a new modal to edit the stream title, game, tags and more, but it’s not accessible. Therefore if I was forced to use the new dashboard, I would have to use the Nightbot commands to change those things.”

In addition to the above, BlindlyPlayingGames discovered a number of buttons on the site are unnamed, making it harder for blind streamers to navigate the site. But that was never the intention from Twitch, which has now committed to fixing the above issues in the coming weeks.

“I have talked to the product manager of the new dashboard and we had a productive conversation,” BlindlyPlayingGames says. “From what I could tell, he was going to prioritise making the new modals accessible, including the one that was added to change the stream title, game, and tags. Additionally, we talked about other issues Twitch has, and he was able to contact some other departments about addressing accessibility issues. Ultimately, as long as people stick to their word, I think we’re on the right track to making Twitch more accessible.”

The simple changes mean that the affiliate streamer can get back to doing what he does best – entertaining his viewers and sharing information about blindness.

“The reactions to my stream are overwhelmingly positive,” he adds. “A lot of people ask about how I made a game playable, or they’ll ask general questions about blind people. When they hear I don’t have a monitor in front of me, they’re quite surprised. That said, there are some trolls once in a while – but who doesn’t get trolls.”