MU* Accessibility Week: 6 ways to take part

ko-fi Written by Andruid
A world map in braille dots and the text: "Celebrating MU* Accessibility Week".

It's MU* Accessibility Week! Whether you're a staffer or player, there are ways to get involved and make a difference. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Table of Contents

    Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day! Did you know it’s also MU* Accessibility Week?

    MU* Accessibility Week is an annual event dedicated to promoting accessibility and inclusion within the MU* community. Fans of MUDs, MUSHes, MOOs, and other multi-user online games are encouraged to take part.

    As a week-long event, it’s a chance for both staff and players to come together, learn, share, and implement practices that ensure everyone can enjoy the immersive world of text-based gaming.

    Throughout this post, I’ve included some of my favorite accessibility quotes from interviewees over the past couple of years. I hope they inspire you the same way they inspired me. πŸ™‚

    What is MU* Accessibility Week?

    Created by the community, for the community, MU* Accessibility Week is an event in May that focuses on raising awareness about accessibility issues within text-based games and encourages staff teams to implement more inclusive features.

    The event is held during the third week of the month and is meant to overlap with Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), which is typically held in mid-May.

    Ways to get involved and make a difference

    If you’re passionate about accessibility and inclusion, you might be looking for some ideas on how to get involved. Below are just some of the ways that staff and players can take part.

    If you’re a staffer, the changes you implement be easier and simpler than you expect, so go into it with an open mind. You may well be surprised, just like Khufu was:

    "At first, I imagined VI support would be really difficult. I envisioned a lot of complex features that would be really daunting to write. But I sat down with VI players and bounced ideas back and forth, and what I realized was that I was completely wrong about most of what they needed – and it was a lot easier than I imagined." - Khufu
    From EmpireMUD: A player-driven city-builder (November 3, 2023).

    And don’t limit yourself to these ideas. I encourage you to come up with others and to make MU* Accessibility Week your own.

    Ideas for game staff

    One of the great things about improving accessibility is that the improvements you make will often benefit many players, especially newcomers.

    "Accessibility requests are almost always pretty simple to fulfill. There's no reason not to and a lot of reason to work them in, not the least of which is providing a universal experience for everybody." - Niamh
    From Building a better MUD for screen reader users (April 17, 2022).

    To kick things off, here are some ideas for game staff, including moderators, admins, and coders:

    1. Audit your game for accessibility

    Magnifying glasses of various sizes, laid over a teal background.

    First off, you can use this week as an opportunity to review how accessible your game and website are.

    Tools like screen readers and accessibility checkers can help you identify potential issues and areas for improvement.

    Consider aspects such as default color contrast, command and output complexity, spammy systems (such as combat, in many games), and the clarity of your game’s helpfiles when read aloud from left to right.

    For example, a tool that I like to use is the WAVE Web Accessibility plugin, which can help you make your game’s website more accessible.

    Of course, one of the best ways to conduct your review is to ask your players for feedback.

    By talking to them, you may find that your game could benefit from soundpacks or a descriptive alternative to the ASCII map.

    For more ideas and approaches, I highly recommend reading the interviews with Niamh, Klor, and Khufu.

    2. Host workshops and feedback sessions

    To gather player feedback, you could arrange sessions where you discuss accessibility topics and gather information from players about their needs and experiences.

    For example, you could organize a session to gather feedback from players on some aspect of your game mentioned in #1 above, such as combat spam.

    At the session, ask your playerbase about their experiences with the combat system and what could be done to improve it.

    If your players find it’s too spammy, you could implement a toggle so that combat output is minimized to only the most important messages.

    "Some of it has been us asking, other times it's been non-sighted players telling us what would help them out. I like to think it's a two-way street with open communication from both sides. This has helped us ensure that any new changes do not make their lives more difficult." - Klor
    From 5 Accessibility improvements in LOTJ MUD, (June 4, 2022).

    Another thing you could ask your players for help with is improving your game’s helpfiles and tutorials, which is the topic of #3 below.

    3. Update your game’s documentation

    Visual representation of digital files with a hint of binary in the background.

    Ensure that your game’s helpfiles and guides are clear, concise, and easily navigable.

    A good help system is not only important for players with disabilities but for all new players who may be trying to learn your game for the first time.

    In fact, your game’s helpfiles and tutorial are two of the most important aspects of your game when it comes to early player retention.

    For example, you might host a feedback session to ask players what they wish they’d known when they first started playing or what they most had trouble with when they began learning the game.

    You can then use their feedback to improve aspects of your chargen or starting area.

    For more tips on how to spruce up your helpfiles, check out my article on Helpfile Spring cleaning.

    Ideas for players

    "If you avoid addressing [the needs of non-sighted players], then you're guaranteed to miss out on a lot of cool people who might have had some fun on your game or become a part of its community." - Niamh
    From Building a better MUD for screen reader users (April 17, 2022).

    Next up, here are some ways players can get involved:

    4. Share your experiences

    If you’re a player with a disability, don’t be afraid to share your experiences and suggestions for improvements. Your insights are invaluable in shaping a more inclusive gaming environment.

    Discussion forums, chat channels, and Discord servers can be good places to share your thoughts and get conversations going with other players, but busy volunteer MU* staff may not always have an eye on those channels.

    If you have feedback that you want to be seen by the staff team, it’s often a good idea to use the game’s built-in or documented process for submitting issues, as well.

    Highlight what works well and what could be improved, providing examples to help the admin team understand your perspective.

    5. Participate in events

    Another way to be heard is to engage in scheduled discussions and help test new features. Your active participation helps create momentum for ongoing accessibility efforts.

    If your game’s admins aren’t asking for feedback or don’t seem to have accessibility in mind, it’s possible that they just aren’t aware yet that they have players with disabilities.

    Again, don’t be afraid to speak up. Staffers don’t know what they don’t know.

    If you’re a player without a disability, you can still support the cause. Join in discussions and make sure that accessibility isn’t overlooked by accident.

    For example, you might simply ask, “How will this new system impact players who use a screen reader?” Or, “Has this been tested for accessibility? How can the playerbase help?”

    Sometimes people just goof up and don’t realize it. This can happen when we’re busy and juggling multiple projects and responsibilities.

    For example, a while back, I enabled a plugin setting here on the site but forgot to test it thoroughly.

    Thankfully, my readers let me know that I’d accidentally made the alt text difficult for screen readers to parse. I was able to fix the issue right away, and now I always double-check when I make adjustments to plugin settings.

    6. Spread the word

    Lastly, you can use social media or your own networks to promote MU* Acessibility Week and Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Encourage other players, staff, and games to participate. The more people who are aware, the greater the impact.

    For example, you could use your social media platforms or favorite Discord channels to encourage participation in MU* Accessibility Week. You could even drop a link to this article, if it aligns with your interests.

    You could also post about the accessibility topics and experiences on your mind lately, share resources, and encourage friends and followers to get involved.

    Celebrate and share your achievements

    Lastly, I’d like to encourage everyone – both staff and players – to highlight and celebrate improvements and successes in accessibility from the past year.

    Doing so not only rewards effort but shows what can be achieved and how even seemingly small changes can have a big impact.

    And by sharing what you’ve accomplished, you can help guide others who may come after you.

    "The number of game types included under the label of 'MU*' is vast. There are a lot of modernizations and usability improvements that can be explored to help new players find their way to text-based gaming." - Griatch
    From Evennia: a modern way to create MU*s (April 13, 2024).

    Ultimately, MU* Accessibility Week is a community effort to break down barriers and ensure that everyone can share in the joy of text-based gaming.

    Whether you’re a game developer, a seasoned player, or new to the community, your involvement can make a difference.

    Smiling blonde woman wearing glasses.
    About the author

    Andruid is a writer, roleplayer, storyteller, and nerd who tries to live by Bill and Ted wisdom, i.e. “Be excellent to each other.”