The word "accessibility" is a mean one. It's confusing and can mean so many different things such as lack of access to technology due to poverty or "usability." But what I mean when I say it (and others in my group, the International Game Developers Association's Game Accessibility SIG) is making games accessible for gamers (or potential gamers) with disabilities.
Sure, words like poverty and usability are not excluded from this -- often assistive technology that works with game consoles is expensive (sometimes equal or more than the cost of the consoles themselves...and I'm even talking about the ultra expensive PS3!) and certainly accessibility solutions have been solutions to usability problems (think of "curb cuts" -- ramps up to a curb that were designed for people with disabilities but are also useful for those on bikes and parents pushing baby strollers). But these words add to the confusion and some think that we mean both of those things and NOT disability accessibility.
Add to that terms like "universal accessibility," which, ideally is about accessibility for everyone no matter what. Now you have more problems on your hands because not only are we talking about games being accessible to all...but we are talking about "games" -- and games are supposed to be *fun.* Can we create something accessible AND fun for all? That's a tall order and one that I know my colleagues in serious games have had to deal with when students are introduced to an educational game and react with "what's this? This isn't a game? It's not fun? The graphics are crap."
But there's a bigger problem with that word, accessibility. It's not sexy. I often find myself talking to people about accessibility and I've found myself surprised by the gambit of reactions, ranging from false interest to absolute horror. A few years ago at Game Developers Conference (GDC) 2005, I walked around the expo floor looking for game peripherals that might be useful as accessible controllers for those who have physical limitations or middleware that could work with a console to help someone with low vision or color blindness have control of the font size and color schemes. When I approached vendors, even I was rather shocked by the reactions of "oh no...we don't want to be known as an accessibility company -- we're all about gaming."
Yes. I know. Wouldn't a group that's "all about gaming" be interested in increasing their market share? These were companies trying to get off the ground and naively I assumed that having MORE reasons that your product can solve a variety of issues for ALL gamers would be golden. Thankfully, things are starting to change...the emphasis on "starting." More companies are taking an interest in accessibility but change is not quick. It can be very disheartening to put everything you have into a presentation to see a low crowd turnout and face being rejected the next year by the conference because "obviously no one is that interested." Because in the end...you can have a million promises and assurances that people will be there but when push comes to shove, knowledge is "guilt." If you learn how to create more accessible games and peripherals, then the fog has been lifted and now you know who you are excluding and you have a choice -- join the fight or keep it to yourself.