Is Sony legally required to make its games accessible to disabled people?

On his Big Questions blog, Steven Landsburg (author of a new book called The Big Questions) discusses a partially blind gamer's lawsuit against Sony. The gamer wants Sony to makes its games more accessible for partially blind people.

Here's the first part of Landsburg's thoughts on the issue:

This raises the question: Exactly what does Sony owe to Alexander Stern (and others like him)?

A similar issue comes up in Chapter 20 of The Big Questions, where Mary the landlord won’t rent to, say, Albanians. Ought we force her to?

In The Big Questions, I make two separate (but closely related) arguments on Mary’s behalf. I was about to write a blog post offering the same arguments on behalf of Sony when I realized that only one of them applies. So I am forced to conclude that I should be a little less sympathetic to Sony than I am to Mary. My first argument is that Mary never had any moral obligation to rent to anyone in the first place–and if she has no general obligation to rent to anyone, then she can have no specific obligation to rent to Albanians. Likewise, Sony has no moral obligation to provide anyone with video games–and if there is no moral obligation to provide me with a video game then there is no obligation to provide one to Alexander Stern. Fine so far.

But my second argument is that Mary, appearances to the contrary, is actually doing some good for Albanian apartment seekers. By renting rooms to non-Albanians, she takes a little pressure off the housing market, driving down rents and making it easier for Albanians to find apartments elsewhere. Sure, she could be doing even more for them, but she’s already doing more for them than I am, since I don’t rent apartments to anyone at all. How can she be at fault for doing small amounts of good when I’m given a free pass to do no good at all?

Read the rest at his blog.


  1. Landsburg doesn’t seem to have encountered the notion that scale matters.

    The “Mary/apartment” example is all well and good in theory; but the phrase “sundown town” pretty much encapsulates how well it tends to turn out in practice…

  2. I don’t care for that anti-Albanian example since Sony isn’t actively discriminating against anyone, they’re just selling a product that doesn’t meet everyone’s needs. If you’re going to make an apartment-renting analogy then the correct one to make is “should the landlord be required to install wheelchair access ramps for the disabled?”

  3. I’m not sure I follow the author’s arguments, though I do see the logic in them. It just seems that the points they are making are some of the less important ones.

    Legally I can’t see any reason to compel Sony to make an accessible product, unless there is some sort of implied warranty that leads disabled customers to assume it will be accessible.

    Morally, I can see a very good argument for requiring publishers make at least some concessions so that disabled players can fully experience their products within reasonable expectations.

    But, like what the author has written… this is all words, and nothing more. What I say and what they say is probably not going to actually help anyone with a disability. Unfortunately the lawsuit may not either.

    1. Indeed, and I was thinking about an even more drastic reducto ad absurdium argument. To wit: Drinks are on me once I win my lawsuit against the major museums of the world for not making such classic 2D art as Van Gogh’s Starry Night accessible to the blind.

    2. Honestly, I’d settle if they made an iPod that wasn’t actively hostile to BLIND people. Seriously, the iPod is like the perfect audio device to be bordering on useless for someone who is blind (A prime market for portable audio devices).

      1. For that matter, how about a computer operating system -voice only- that you could safely use in the car? And blind people would be able to use it too.

      2. Actually, with the release of the iPod Touch, VoiceOver is included, allowing blind people to use it. Same with the iPhone 3GS. I have a friend who has the new iPod Touch, a friend who has the iPhone, and both of them love them. I’ve thought about getting an iPod Touch myself.

  4. Well, now I know not to read the guy’s book. The notion that there’s no harm involved in refusing to rent to someone on the basis of their ethnicity is farcical. How would you feel if you expressed an interest in an apartment and were denied on that basis? It’s a basic failure of empathy which the author tries to spin into “look at me, I’m so contrarian”.

  5. Brainspore beat me to it: the comparision doesn’t fly, Sony’s product is just not suited to the blind person. The way I couldn’t force them to release a title in English (since I don’t speak Japanese), or, as a prospective tenant (Albanian or not) have my landlord install, say, indoor plumbing so his property suits my needs better, I don’t think Sony can be forced to change their products. (When I say “can” I mean “should” really, of course.)

  6. Is this guy going to sue ABC or FOX next for not providing blind friendly TV?
    He is BLIND, partially. Is he going to sue his parents for the bad genes or the fork that did it to him.
    Why do people feel that they are entitled to everything?
    As For Sony, somehow Making video games for the blind doesn’t seem as sensible or lucrative as making them for those who can see.

  7. The second argument has to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. The first argument has its flaws, but the second one is off in space.

    By making fewer apartments available to group X she’s somehow *reducing* rents? WTF? Macroeconomiwhatsit? That doesn’t make the slightest bit of sense.

    I’m sure with enough tuning you could create a pathological model where that might be the case, but that’s just going to be academic wankery – you’d never wind up with a situation like that in the real world.

  8. The whole situation is ridiculous. Does the person who’s partially blind get a drivers license? No because it’s a matter of safety. But the argument could rightly be made that it’s discriminatory because the car is a necessity to daily life.

    This is simply put, someone using the ADA for his own convenience. Ramps for people to gain access to public transportation and buildings and live their lives? Absolutely yes. Some kid who wants a company to spend millions to satisfy the gaming needs of one person? Hell no.

  9. What is legal is not always what is ethical.

    The question is: how much coercion (back by the state’s capacity for violence), if any, is ethical?

  10. I agree with other posters saying the landlord analogy is a very poor one. The wheelchair ramp comparison is more to the point.

    I gotta say: it sucks that more things aren’t made more accessible to the disabled, but at the same time, making every product manufactured accessible to *everyone* would put a lot of places out of business because of the expense vs. consumption/demand of such modified products.

    The question would be, then, what are reasonable concessions and who would bear the (considerable) expense of making various services/products/etc. accessible?

  11. I’m confused. We’re talking about *video* games, right? Is it “reasonable accommodation” to create alternate versions for what is essentially a sight-specific product? If it were a broadcast video game, like a broadcast television station, you might have a point. But I think theawesomerobot’s point about iPods for the deaf is a good one.

  12. My first argument is that Mary never had any moral obligation to rent to anyone in the first place—and if she has no general obligation to rent to anyone, then she can have no specific obligation to rent to Albanians.

    This does not logically follow. The argument presented is:

    * Mary has no obligation to do A.
    * Mary has no obligation to do B.
    * Therefore, it cannot be the case that if she does do A, she has an obligation to do B.

    Substitute in, for example, A = “drive a car” and B = “refrain from drinking heavily”, or A = “own a gun” and B = “learn how to use a gun safely”.

  13. Are all motion pictures required by law to have handicap accessible features such as subtitles and enhanced audio track for the blind on all released products?

    Are all commercial websites required to conform to the WCAG 2.0 Guidelines?

    As private entities they could score points on the moral front by integrating things like enhanced audio and larger fonts for the visually impaired. But they’re going to figure out if the brownie points and a small additional market share is cost effective before they pour time and money into that area.

    Still, the alternative interfaces that could come out of playing around with this would be fun to think about. A licensed Marvel Daredevil game with no visual feedback? I’d pay for the gimmick.

  14. I’m deeply troubled by the writer as well.

    The Sony issue is about trying to force a company to create new goods that appeal to a specific audience — which would amount to The State or Citizenry forcing entities to act in a certain manner. The Apartment issue is about discriminating on the sale of existing goods — which is both ethically abhorrent as it also goes against the concept of economic free markets and equality.

    I can’t understand how Landsburg sees any relation between these two. I’m also surprised that someone who would suggest something as ridiculous as this was able to get a book deal.

  15. I’m with others here who have pointed out that the authors arguments are off in the weeds, so I’ll stick to SONY. I can’t see that they are under any legal or moral obligation to unwillingly incorporate additional suitability into their product.

    That’s not saying that they shouldn’t, mind you. Besides being the nice thing to do it would generate some good PR. Sadly, both of these concepts are lost on SONY.

  16. In the UK the disabled discrimination act basically sets out that you should provide your services available to all regardless of disability and if you can make this better by making ‘reasonable’ alterations you should do so.

    it’s basically a minefield.. but a well intentioned one. what it boils down to is if you are a hairdresser or a lawyer and your shop isn’t accesable you would agree to make a home visit or hire a space that was.

    Taken to it’s illogical extent then it’s ipods for the deaf etc etc. but it all comes down to what would be reasonable.. I’m also not sure it applies to goods as well as services.

    It certainly applies to buildings and is very tricky to reach a compromise with (how do you fit a lightswitch that will suit someone 3 foot tall and someone 8 foot tall.)

  17. Landsburg is wrong on both counts. Unless Mary the landlord is building her apartments on land carved out of the aether with her own two hands, she’s taking up resources that could be used by non-bigots. Back here in the real world, Mary’s apartments will be owned, and rented by someone, whether it’s her or not. By refusing to rent to Albanians, she’s forcing them to compete for a smaller portion of the apartment market, and thus driving up the price they must pay.

    As for Sony, they would substantially benefit from being forced to support blind gamers. Their multimillion dollar titles could easily absorb the cost of token support, but many indie developers would be driven out of business or wouldn’t be able to start up in the first place.

  18. I was wondering just the other day what Steve Landsberg has been doing since Barney Miller went off the air, he was great as Dietrich.

    I didn’t realize he was such a jerk though– he seems to be saying there’s no real moral obligation for anything, hence no morals (“. . . I’m given a free pass to do no good at all”). Nice.

    If we were allowed to rent or hire based on race, how long before only the star-bellied Sneetches had the money and power?

  19. No matter your take on the Sony issue, I think we’re all in agreement that Steven Landsburg sucks at making analogies. He’s like a mint-flavored hippo trying to regurgitate a Scientologist, amirite?

    1. I think we’re all in agreement that Steven Landsburg sucks at making analogies.

      Honestly, I think using “Albanian” instead of what he clearly means, “black”, muddies rather than clarifies the issue.

      He’s like a mint-flavored hippo trying to regurgitate a Scientologist, amirite?

      My life is considerably the better for having read this sentence and I will attempt to work the phrase into future conversation.

  20. Seems that some people here don’t know the difference between being totally blind and being visually impaired. Plenty of visually impaired people just need a bit of extra help. If the changes required to Sony’s game to make it usable for the visually impaired are small, then Sony should do it, legally required or not. Sometimes these usability improvements offer benefits to normal users, too.

  21. Okay, sorry if someone else already pointed this out, but you can’t compare landlording to the provision of video games (at least not in the US), and here is why:

    Fair Housing Act.

    The Fair Housing Act actually indicates, with fairly strongly worded Federal law, that Mary damn well better be renting to ANYONE who wants to rent from her, providing they meet her screening criteria. Things she cannot use as screening criteria include race, color, creed, and national origin, among others.

    To the best of my knowledge, there is no Fair Gaming Act that requires the makers of video games to do the same.

    Also, final point: The Fair Housing Act does not say that a landlord has to make physical changes to his/her rental to accommodate a person with disabilities; however, it does say that he/she must ALLOW the disabled person to make the changes, at the tenant’s own cost, in order to accommodate the person with disabilities.

    So, if we’re going to use the fair housing example and apply it to gaming, this would mean that Sony does not have to make their games more accessible, but they WOULD have to allow the use of third party applications that could allow the USER to make the game more accessible, at his/her own cost.

    1. So, if we’re going to use the fair housing example and apply it to gaming, this would mean that Sony does not have to make their games more accessible, but they WOULD have to allow the use of third party applications that could allow the USER to make the game more accessible, at his/her own cost.

      Ya know, I could get behind that idea just to make software in general open enough to allow some real 3rd party action.

      Besides, it would benefit them with long shelf-life titles. Good games that allow mods stay in print longer, and spawn sequels that do as well or better than the first.

      In an open source environment, someone would code what a group needs and post it.

      Nah, never happen.

  22. Is it possible to make every video game accessible to a blind person? Or a deaf person? I don’t believe that it is.

    There was talk a while back about forcing all websites to have some sort of code enhancement that would allow web browsers for the blind to read them more easily. This was a horrifying prospect to me as a small-time blogger. What if some deaf person visits my website one day and I’m either forced to re-code my entire site or face a lawsuit? I don’t feel that’s fair.

    Western society, by in large, does make numerous concessions for the disabled: as we should. But creative works are the domain of their creators, not the public.

  23. Excuse me while I try to stretch an analogy in my book into the current conversation to try to drive people to buy my book.

    Also, please ignore my mental gymnastics of how decreasing the supply of a limited resource somehow reduces scarcity and buy my book anyway.

    This man is a professor of economics?

  24. The Albanian example is totally absurd.

    If it is ok for Mary to not rent to Albanians, how about if her next door neighbor Tom did the same thing? If it is ok for Mary to do, it must be ok for everyone else to do too. Mary and Tom both refuse to rent to Albanians. And so does John, Bob, Alice, Yakov, Boris and everyone else in town. If Alice’s refusal to rent to Albanians but renting to someone else is relieving market pressure, the idea must scale well. If more landlords do as she did, then they are taking a lot of pressure off the housing market, and lowering rent by a lot. Right?
    These Albanians are going to get a super sweet deal on an apartment now that every single landlord has discriminated against them! YAY DISCRIMINATION!

  25. Like others have said. The author’s argument is bunk.

    But to the point of SONY. There may be a real argument that they could be required to make their systems accessible to sight impaired, and maybe even allow the options for developers to develop friendly games. They make the rules of the road and maybe some do want to offer those items on the system.

    But clearly there should be no imperative for them to make games that are accessible themselves anymore than camera’s and binoculars need to be made for the blind or stores should all be required to offer clothing for those modest because of religious belief. Similarly wheel chair makers don’t need to make their devices friendly to the able bodied.

  26. I won’t buy this book because the guy strikes me as one of those “Yay, I’m edgy! Pay attention to me!” guys.

    But the good news is that I’m HELPING him by giving my money to authors who don’t have to resort to edgy attention-grabbing!

    I, appearances to the contrary, am actually doing some good for Landsburg. By buying books by non-Landsburg authors, I take a little pressure off the book market, driving down storage costs and reducing shelf load, making it easier for Landsburg to have stores put his book in the free spots. Sure, I could be doing even more for him, but I’m already doing more for him than others, since many people don’t buy books at all. How can I be at fault for doing small amounts of good when they are given a free pass to do no good at all?

    …what? Landsburg is not the only one who can make pseudo-economic arguments…

  27. Here’s the overall problem.

    Stern’s suit has no genuine merit because video games is a visually-oriented form of media by definition. It is not Sony’s fault that Alexander is partially/blind. The product is not marketed for him and people like him; it is marketed for people who have near/full access to the visual spectrum. Should Sony consider creating games for visually-impaired people? Perhaps; Stern represents the possibility for a virgin market. But trying to sue them to do that is only going to make Sony executives do just the opposite of what is desired.

    There is a certain level of fairness that cannot be legislated by means of a lawsuit. Accessibility suits are meant to bring basic human needs to a common level that both fully-able and handicapped people can take advantage of for a common quality of life. Video games do not qualify for that “quality of life” argument. This is a “free market solution,” not a legislative one. All the legislation in the world will not make a game of dodge-ball any more fair for a child in a wheelchair playing against a child with full use of his or her limbs.

    This makes as much sense as requiring drive-up ATMs to have braille characters on their keys. Why would a blind person be in a drive-up lane in the first place; blind people can’t drive. There are going to be some things that handicapped people will not be able to do because of the current limits of their disability. Damn me for saying this, but there is a point where you have to ask whether a suit of this nature is being done for the sake of viability or selfishness.

    A huge part of the allure of video games is the quality of graphic display and visual interaction that is included in the game. In fact, one of the major selling points of a video game is the quality of the graphic presentation. The only way that Stern will be able to appreciate that is if a method is developed to either improve his vision or bypass the damaged part of his visual system. No change to the graphic display of the game will grant him access to the full benefit of owning said game. If anything, if Stern’s suit is successful, all that will happen is that the cost of these games to the consumer will be driven up further to compensate for whatever “forced” changes that will be legislated into the production costs of making video games.

    Again, Stern would be better served by using the attention he gets from this suit to try to find a free market alternative for sight-impaired computer entertainment. But even then, whatever form that this new brand of computer media will take, it still will not take the place of video game and it cannot. While I am sympathetic to Stern’s cause, this is not the way to resolve the issue because no legislation can improve his ability to access the visual spectrum.

    1. Last I checked, most cars weren’t single-person vehicles. Maybe my chauffeur or a taxi driver has driven me to the ATM and I need to access my account from the back seat.

      Also, I nominate to amend the book’s title, so the full version is “The Big Questions and Some Really Stupid Answers.”

    2. “This makes as much sense as requiring drive-up ATMs to have braille characters on their keys. Why would a blind person be in a drive-up lane in the first place; blind people can’t drive.”

      I’m pretty sure that the drive up ATMs have braille because it’s cheaper to only have to manufacture one type of number pads.

      I think it’ll be interesting to see how the tone of ADA arguments change as the baby boom generation starts hitting all the age related impairments.

    3. I assumed drive-up ATMs have braille buttons because ALL ATMs have braille buttons. It’s just a standard part, that braille button.

  28. How to not sell your book on philosophy: Blog about it, and include a logically unsound argument about your book in said blog post.


  29. So you force game makers to conform the ADA. Let’s push the argument further: 3-D. Whether you are making a 3-D book (like the ones where you stare at the pictures), or or movie or game, to what extent are you legally obligated to accommodate those with disabilities? Clearly certain physical disabilities could be accommodated. Does that include all disabilities? Those with single-eye vision? blind people?

    The ADA is a prime example of ‘feel good’ legislation that ends up having terrible and far-reaching consequences beyond its core intentions.

  30. This sounds just like the PGA vs Martin thing back in 2001 or there abouts. (in a nutshell, Martin wanted to use a golf cart because of a disability, which is usually against PGA rules).

    The argument is: If the PGA can make reasonable accommodations without changing the nature of the game, then they should be required to under the ADA.

    The argument only flew, it should be noted, because the PGA is considered a public event, and therefore susceptible to ADA rules. The idea is that Martin had a right to be there, and therefore accommodations should be made.

    Now, the question is, does a visually impaired person have a right to play this video game? What analogy applies to this, anyway? Books in different languages don’t work, I can learn the other language, therefore it’s my failing if I can’t read it. 508 complaint websites might be a good angle to look at this from – at what point is a website mandated to be accessible to the handicapped? Also, what is a “reasonable accommodation” and at what point are you impacting game play?

  31. And if this guy is visually impaired and wants to play video games, here’s how you do it: become a PC gamer, get a big monitor, and play the games in the lowest resolution possible, thus making everything larger on screen. Problem solved. Put the financial burden on him to buy the big monitor, as that’s the price you pay for access.

    I absolutely disagree that Sony, or any game manufacturer for that matter, should be liable to make their games more accessible to minority sects. If it were enforced, those game companies who could afford it (the large companies) would do it, and those who can’t pay the price (the indies) would lose.

    Keep your frackin laws out of my games, please.

  32. @4.

    Yes, Apple does make an iPod for the deaf (mostly)

    But I have trouble with this whole thing. I know I’m going to come off as uncaring since I’m typing this in my perfectly able body…

    But say Sony does make a game for the partially blind, Good for them. Now what about fully blind people? or people with limited control of their hands, or no hands? When will Sony make a game for people in a Persistent Vegetative State, and can I get in on that class action lawsuit?

  33. On renters refusing to rent to particular ethnicities:

    1. It’s their land and they ought to be able to do what they please with it.
    2. Why would you want to rent from someone who explicitly does not want you there? If renters are compelled to basically rent against their will, how amicable of a business relationship is that going to generate?

    On Sony being somehow obligated to make gaming accessible to those with disabilities:

    1. Gaming is a luxury, a nonessential method of entertainment that is engaged with by physical means. Saying they are obligated to make it accessible to the disabled (which, BTW, can mean a thousand different variations of a thousand different things) is like saying Burton should be obligated to make wheelchair adapters for their snowboards.
    2. Disabled literally means, “not able to do (some things)”. If operating a gaming system is one of those things, it’s a measure of ones disability, not indicative of Sony having disregard for the disabled.

    Final thoughts: There are a lot of people who cannot, for whatever reason, operate a gaming console. Some simply don’t have the coordination, but I’d hardly call that a disability in and of itself. On the same note, not everyone can operate a skateboard, or a bicycle, or swim. Should skate parks be required to staff spotters, or the city to stock the beaches with arm floaties?

    My compassion wears thin when people start getting frivlously litigous. Sony offers a nonessential product that many able bodied people cannot operate. Hell, I bet there’s more able bodied people than disabled people who are simply incapable of playing a modern video game properly. You don’t see them all up in arms about the games being too hard, which is precisely what this boils down to. for some people, the games are unplayably hard, for a variety of reasons. If games weren’t challenging to the the dexterous, (and thus impossible for the uncoordinated/disabled) they wouldn’t be fun.

    1. 1. It’s their land and they ought to be able to do what they please with it.

      Well, if I want to open a toxic waste landfill on MY land, should I be allowed to? No: I would end up polluting the groundwater and lowering the neighborhood property values. As they say “my rights end where yours begin”, and the same goes for ethnic/racial profiling– Albanians have a right to housing as much as anyone else, and to refuse them simply because of ethnicity is illogical (good tenants and bad tenants come in all nationalities) and bad for the community (if everyone refused them, then you’d have homeless Albanians living under a bridge or in their cars.)

      2. Why would you want to rent from someone who explicitly does not want you there? If renters are compelled to basically rent against their will, how amicable of a business relationship is that going to generate?

      You haven’t rented in a long time, have you? You get a place based on your more basic needs, like affordability, space, commute, etc.– landlord personality is way down the list. Like a lot of people I have rented from landlords who had “issues” (even if not prejudices) and were difficult– that’s just the nature of urban living.

  34. I don’t think anyone here is angry, or even saying that Sony shouldn’t do this. Merely that the law should not be used to force Sony to make such a game. Also, to point out that The Big Question is why Steven Landsburg manages to be so unaware of the law and unclear on the basics of economics at the same time.

  35. @anonymous #9

    “But the argument could rightly be made that it’s discriminatory because the car is a necessity to daily life.”

    No, it couldn’t. The car is a luxury that 99.9% of all humans who’ve ever lived haven’t been privy to.

    1. “No, it couldn’t. The car is a luxury that 99.9% of all humans who’ve ever lived haven’t been privy to.”

      Um, this is possibly a very US and suburban development pattern centric but, where do you live that a car isn’t a necessity? Certain types of development patterns (that for various reasons have been socially, culturally and regulatory encouraged in the US) are EXTREMELY car depended and essentially render someone without one housebound.

      (Sorry for this tangent, but as an LA student I couldn’t let a spatial assumption go unchallenged.)

  36. The analogy sucks. But anyway, a game is more a work of art, albeit a corporate one, than a public accommodation. Once you start telling people how they must make their art, you hit first amendment issues. It’s one thing to tell a shopkeeper that he or she must install a wheelchair ramp, another to insist that a painter include descriptive material with every painting. Requiring Sony to accommodate the visually impaired person is more like the second of these things, even if Sony is a big evil corporation with no artistic integrity to defend–not saying that it is.


  37. @26: he/she must ALLOW the disabled person to make the changes, at the tenant’s own cost

    how far can they take this? does this mean a 1,000 pound person can knock holes in the side of the house so they can be carted in and out with a forklift? what if i don’t want a giant hole in my house?

    1. It all depends – there is this concept of “reasonable accommodation”. Would it be reasonable for a 1,000 pound person to knock holes in a wall? It might be, if the 1,000 pound person can viably return the rental to the condition it was before the holes were knocked in the wall. One of the conditions is that the renter has to agree to return the unit to its original condition. This is easy to do with most folks who need a ramp to get into their front door – but it would probably NOT be reasonable if someone wanted to install an elevator in a 2-story apartment.

      Nonetheless, my point is that the guy is making an extremely poor analogy. If you’re going to use rental housing in your example, get to know the laws that govern rental housing – because under those laws, his “Mary won’t rent to Albanians” scenario is actually quite illegal.

  38. *headesk* It’s a bloody visual medium! Go buy a bigger screen if you can’t make out the details!

    Seriously folks. Next you’ll see people with hearing damage suing the music industry for not making the music loud enough. Or colour blind folks suing film studies for making use of the colours red and green. Or people with anosmia suing perfume manufacturers for existing.

  39. ADA does not require businesses to bankrupt themselves to make accommodations. Have there been some abuses? Probably. But for the most part, those stories are FUD.

    1. Thank you for pointing that out, Antinous. The ADA explicitly states that if making an EXISTING place of business more accessible creates a hardship on the business owner, and the business has fewer than XX employees, then the business owner is not required to make their building accessible. New construction is a whole other ballgame, however. Similar standards apply to housing, both as regards existing buildings vs. new construction. So, if you own a 4-plex, you’re not required to make it accessible to that 1,000 lb. man.

      1. Yup. What we used to call RESPA properties. A rental property with four or fewer units and owner-occupied is your castle. It’s exempt from various laws. More-than-four, non-owner-occupied is a business and subject to those laws.

  40. I agree that making public services and other necessities accessible to as large an audience as possible is a good thing and should be done. Braille on signs, beeping traffic lights, wheelchair access ramps – these are all good things.

    Computer games are neither a public service nor a necessity. Suing a company for producing an unnecessary entertainment product that does not meet your needs is ridiculous. Unless they advertise it as being a great toy for the visually impaired, then they are in no way required to make it so.

  41. I discussed this with my wife who is a special education teacher and case manager (works with schools to make sure that the IEPs (Individual Education Profiles) for special needs students are up to date. She brought up a very interesting point with this case.

    Her take on this is that this suit is about government control and regulation, rather than just accessibility. The two examples she brought up were ADA and “No Child Left Behind.” Both of these acts came about because of a lawsuit where an individual claimed that a given body was denying access/assets to the plaintiff.

    Think about this; if this lawsuit is successful, who is going to regulate whether the video game companies are in compliance with the mandates of this lawsuit? That’s right; the government will either bring in the ADA commission or create another organization to handle video game regulation.

    The government has been trying to get control of the video game industry for quite some time. The ESRB is just an industry-formed group meant to pay lip service to government watchdogs like Tipper Gore (when she was crusading against games), and Jack Johnson (when he was relevant).

    Just a thought, guys….

  42. Well about half the comments on this post made me really sad, but I expect that…the fact that this was posted here at all on the other hand, caused me to delete BB off my bookmarks and stop surfing through. Extreme? Maybe, but I kept on giving Christopher Hitchens second chance after second chance, and that’s a lot of brain cells I’ll never get back. I do, from time to time, want to know what bigots and hate mongers are thinking, but I need a few minutes to prepare myself for that. The fact that anyone bothers to even argue with this post depresses me, but if you really need to think about it, substitute the word “Black” for the word “Albanian”…

  43. I am a disability writer. I made the case about six months in Media Post that not having accessibility is a costly gamble. Companies are sued just about every day and why put themselves through the rigamarole of a lawsuit when they can just do the right thing in most cases?

    A few points:

    – Time and time again, companies spend heavily on product development and marketing, but fail to consider people with disabilities who might use their products.

    – One way for companies to approach accessibility is to consider the principles of universal design, which requires that a product be built for everyone, including those with disabilities.

    – If universal design isn’t an option, brands should consider partnering with an assistive technology provider (i.e. Amazon + Nuance = Kindle).

    Here is the rest of the article

  44. I have to (loosely) quote Penn from the Penn and Teller Bullshit episode on the ADA; “You cannot use legislation to force people to be compassionate.” If you try to do that, you definitely will do is foster resentment toward the people who such legislation is meant to benefit. Despite the good that has been done in the name of “Affirmative Action,” it has also engendered a vast amount of hostility from White Americans (especially white male Americans) who would not have been exactly racially biased toward minorities and women because of a degree of personal inconvenience that they have suffered in an attempt to legislate fairness.

    References to Albanian people aside, this has nothing to do with “bullying” blind people or being mean; this is about common sense.

    In addition, comparing race and disability as being similar in this argument is nonsense because anyone can become disabled either by virtue of birth or by circumstance. Contrary to the movies “Soul Man,” or “Watermelon Man,” you don’t wake up one day and find yourself “Black.” Uncle Ruckus does not suffer from “re-vitiligo” as he is so fond of saying.

    1. “Despite the good that has been done in the name of “Affirmative Action,” it has also engendered a vast amount of hostility from White Americans (especially white male Americans) who would not have been exactly racially biased toward minorities and women because of a degree of personal inconvenience that they have suffered in an attempt to legislate fairness.”

      Because, clearly, the effects of Affirmative Action and ADA on the able-bodied white man is more important then the persons these acts purported to help, amrite? (Of course, if any of those tragically inconvenienced able-bodied white men would bother to look up these regulations as to how they actually work and not how Rush Limbaugh thinks they work…but hey, far be it from me to kill anyone’s colorblind post-racism illusions.)

      IN THIS CASE, accessibility is perhaps not something that can really be helped, for whatever reason. That hardly means you should throw out the entire endeavor because it sometimes inconveniences some people.

  45. You people remind me of the game (an advertisement, or maybe just a proposal, or a parody of a game) depicted on a British site (shame to say, one of the BBC’s subsidiaries) with the theme “Shoot Crips.” Instead of shooting, say, green-skinned aliens, or Nazis, the first-person shooter took on people in wheelchairs. I admit I don’t know if this was real, but it looked as if some British coder, resenting Universal Design (as it’s called in the US) legislation, put this up.

    Very amusing, neh?

    Libertarian anti-disability discourse on the order of “Harrison Bergeron” is only at a slightly higher level of intelligence; it is also deficient in empathy.

    I have a hearing disability; I wear hearing aids, I don’t sign and I could talk to you just fine one-on-one. I am comforted that whenever I hear (I have that much hearing left) the orchestra of crickets that is audible when someone nearby is listening to an iPod cranked up all the way, that they will be in my shoes someday.

  46. By the logic of that anit-albanian example, doesn’t sony help the partially blind by keeping sighted people indoors. As they’re not riding bikes, driving cars, or casually wandering outside crowding up the streets, public transport and venues where they may bump into or accidentally knock down the partially sighted who cannot see them well enough to avoid them?

    1. Inertia?

      I was going to say laziness, but then I realized that signing in took less time and effort then the catcha.

  47. Can someone say Satire. The arguments are utterly nonsensical.

    Basic needs are in a completely different spectrum(having a roof over ones head)then being able to play a video game created by a huge multinational corporation. This is not in the same league as having a wheel chair ramp up to your home even(basic needs). This is sheer poppycock. There is absolutely no argument here that I could find to make sense other than if there was a market for these games and that Sony was going to reap huge rewards for creating video games that were somehow more accessible to a partially blind or blind person.

    Now maybe if there was a nonprofit started up that got government grants to develop a video game system and after it became profitable made a transition if that were even possible to do.

  48. Sony isn’t legal required to make anything. If Sony execs decide that the 20 million Americans who are blind, are a untapped market, then they can make games, peripherals, TVs, etc.. anything they want to make to tap said market.

    Its not economically viable for sony or any other major game publisher/ manufacturer to develop and produce an interface or game(s) specifically for those who suffer from a specific disability, be it blindness, or being paralyzed, deafness, muteness, etc…

  49. > specifically for those who suffer from a specific disability, be it blindness, or being paralyzed, deafness, muteness, etc…

    I dunno, most games do have an easy setting for lame ppl.

  50. Landsburg’s analogy of an apartment discriminating based on an ethnicity is truly a bad one. Without getting into the legality or morality of this, the landlord is actively denying someone access to a commodity. Sony is not actively refusing to sell a commodity to anyone.

    The root question here is this : Should every commercial product meet every need for every person with any type of disability? Achieving this on a practical level a great many commodities would be impossible, and have a chilling effect on the market.

    After the basic human rights of work, shelter, education, and information have been met for people with additional needs, the rest must be left to the free market. As far as I am concerned, playing video games is not a basic human right.

  51. “The whole situation is ridiculous. Does the person who’s partially blind get a drivers license? No because it’s a matter of safety. ”

    Bad argument: Anyone with less than 20/20 is “partially blind” by definition.

    What matters is where the cut-off is. Many states go on a case by case basis in evaluating legally blind potential drivers.

    Given the track record so-called “normally” sighted drivers have, especially those with five or six drunk driving convictions, those of us who are “hard of seeing” could hardly do any worse.

    I *know* I have major limitations, thus I pay such close attention to what I am doing behind the wheel that a neurosurgeon at work would be regarded as inattentive.

    Most of you, you being normals, drive one-handed, yap on your cell phones, eat and drink, put on make-up, grope your date, fiddle with your radio(often so loud you can’t hear oncoming sirens which most of you will be damned if you will stop for anyway it seems)) and for all I know, play with yourselves when stuck in traffic.

    You don’t see anything that isn’t a direct threat to you which is why pedestrians and bicyclists often hate your guts in a generic fashion.

    But back to the main topic: For very little effort, many if not most games could have options that make it easier for people with bad eyesight to play. A few extra color palettes including some high contrast ones..extra edge enhancement so we can see one object better in front of another..make the sight reticle pulse or something….an option for spoken clues etc.. A way to switch off subtle reliance on minor color shifts etc. extra easy modes for aiming things (I still play Doom 2 because aiming is easy..Doom 3 sucks for me.)

    Clearly not all games can be adjusted without major effort but those that could be, ought to be. You’ll sell a few more..possibly more than you think since a lot of people with marginal problems just won’t play some of these games but don’t know why or don’t make a big stink.
    (Side note..fer crissake make the main character’s gender switchable! Many women might enjoy having a female main character, even if its just a visual switch,,heck make some of different races also…can’t be *that* hard to add some extra graphics and not everyone who plays is a white male or wants to play one. Give Lara Croft a really buff male cousin.

    It’s hard to get some designers to think or care about this: A long time ago, a game..well, let’s call it “Mool” to avoid problems, came out. My wife loved it. I wanted to play it but many clues came in the form of teeny things like a flash of color in a bird’s eye that I simply could not use.

    Happened to be I worked for an online game company that had the game’s designer in as a guest designer. I talked to him about it and the most I got was the online equivalent of a shrug and “tough luck guy”. He didn’t even bother to examine the idea to see if he could be more aware of such things in the future.

    Do I bought x number less of his games.

    Companies that disreagrd a segment of the market, especially in bad times, are simply stupid if there’s a way to lure that segment in and make more money.

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