Visually impaired gamer sues Sony Online

Refusal to implement or facilitate changes to make online games more accessible violates Americans with Disabilities Act, suit claims.

It's not uncommon for blind gamers to feel invisible in addition to visually impaired. For instance, when gamer Brandon Cole wrote THQ a letter suggesting changes to make its Smackdown series of WWE wrestling games more accessible to the blind, he received a form letter back thanking him for his appreciation of the game's graphics.

It doesn't help the visually impaired that some of EverQuest II's characters are actually invisible.

But now, one visually impaired gamer has gone beyond simply requesting accessibility features and is demanding them by way of a lawsuit. Last month, disabled gamer Alexander Stern filed suit against Sony, Sony Online Entertainment, and Sony Computer Entertainment America in the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The suit alleges that Sony is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to implement features to make its games accessible to visually impaired gamers.

The Americans with Disabilities Act states that, "No individual shall be discriminated against on the basis of disability in the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, or accommodations of any place of public accommodation by any person who owns, leases (or leases to), or operates a place of public accommodation."

According to the suit, Sony ignored repeated requests through postal mail and e-mail to come up with reasonable modifications to its games to make them more accessible. The suit, which doesn't mention SOE games by name but appears to focus on massively multiplayer online titles, requests the addition of visual cues to point gamers to their destinations for gamers with "disability impaired visual processing."

The suit also specifies the ways in which other companies have made their games accessible. For instance, Blizzard Entertainment's World of Warcraft allows the use of third-party mods in its game, which has led to the creation of several programs to include accessibility aids in the game. The suit also mentions Pin Interactive's action adventure PC game Terraformers, saying high-contrast 3D graphics modes, an audio compass, and voice-over detailing items collected in the game all serve to make the game more accessible.

Beyond the denial of entertainment, the suit also contends that Sony's actions have caused visually impaired gamers a financial loss. Because Sony runs an official auction site where gamers can sell their in-game items for real money, the suit says Stern's inability to participate in that marketplace is costing him money.

"Sony has constructed the products in a way that is inaccessible to plaintiff; maintains the products in this inaccessible form; and has failed to take any action whatsoever to correct these barriers even after being repeatedly notified of the discrimination that such barriers cause," according to the suit.

Representatives with Sony and Sony Online Entertainment said they don't comment on pending litigation.

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1253 comments
skyydragonn
skyydragonn

So are movie theatres expected to show high contrast movies only now as well? since thats what this suit is asking be done. I think its assanine that an individual that is visual impaired/blind can sue over a primarily visual form of media. You don't see deaf people sueing becuase CD's don't come with text versions all of the time. or someone who's lost his hands sueing becuase he can't hold a Xbox controller....This sort of crap is why the laws defining what constitutes reasonable gorunds for a lawsuit need to be re-written. Whats next we're going to see black and white only musuems depicting high contrast versions of the mona lisa? On a side note, anyone playing a Sony MMO game should file counter suit claiming denial of service due to funds being used to combat this alwsuit instead of maintaning the games hardware/software.

Starwarsnerd9
Starwarsnerd9

How can a blind person play a video game, sure mabye some who haven't been blind forever can but how could that even be fun? If you can't see your most likely going to be running in front of a wall all of the damn time

x2wiSteDx
x2wiSteDx

But Sony is not a public company, and EverQuest is not a public game. The Act doesn't apply anyway.

spongebob53186
spongebob53186

while i sympathise a little bit with the player he has absolutely no legal ground to stand on. if that were the case all other software like antivirus or financial software would have had to comply years ago. i think that the third party adaptations being allowed is an acceptable alternative such as WoW was mentioned but the developer of the game is not responsible for it. car manufacturers are not required to make cars with equipment that can be used by disable people. those have to be bought after market and paid for by either the insurance company or the user themselves.

sk21
sk21

Too bad for him that the ADA doesn't apply to the internet. http://news.cnet.com/2100-1023-962761.html Furthermore any improvements that they need to make have to be 'readily achievable' (Title V of ADA). In this case, the whole video game is premised on the fact that you can see the computer screen and respond accordingly. They'd have to waste millions of dollars to redo a game to accommodate this guy. It doesn't sound readily achievable or remotely reasonable.

12345678ew
12345678ew

what an idiotic law.... so people should have to work extra hard to make their products accessible to the blind.... hell, why don't i fire guns next to my ears then sue LG for not letting deaf people hear on their phones? what an ass....

Marinealver
Marinealver

So this is where all the subscruption money I payed for went. Instead of tech development anti hacking services server maintance and customer support it went to legal fees and lawsuits. So this is why I am forced to deal with crashing servers and rampant and unchecked hackers. Though yeah I feel sorry for the blind person but somone slap that dompkoft, I am certian he won't see it comming. (even though he should.)

Smugz
Smugz

Hey Fery106, just so you know, they DO cater to deaf people. You ever heard of subtitles?

Smugz
Smugz

Alright, I've read some of your comments and you've mae a good point. This is somewhat ridiculous... at the same time though.. some of you guy's comments were a bit rude. I'm legally blind and have friends who are fully blind and we all play video games such as Soul Calibur, Tekken, GTA, and a few others. I know sometimes it's hard to do things like voice overs and I know everything can't be done, but seriously... would it KILL a company to have an option for slightly larger font? And for voice overs, for the audio game, real people rarely do it, it's just a text to speach thing doing it. We don't need the voice to sound super good, we just need it to say stuff... oh and also... you may not know this, but blind people can understand EXTREMELY fast talking.. I'm talking about nearly 300 words per minute. So a phrase "turn left" takes a fraction of a second to say. Maybe we can't play EVERY game, but SOME of them would be nice if they at leat had slightly larger font or something. It's really nice how they have 3D sound and reverb in the games now. There are even some games where you can tell where walls are because of how the sound echos of them (portal is one). So it's not as far fetched as you think... so please, before you come and make your wise cracking joke about how it's a VIDEO game or how physically impared people can get over it, keep in mind that fully ablebodied people are not the only ones taht visit this site.

Reyveign
Reyveign

It sounds like he made an "oopsie" in-game and found something to blame it on. Is his lawyer a family member or some junk? Probably gave him the idea. And really, if there's other games that HAVE accessibility options, he should play THOSE instead. Rather than trying to make people look bad by pointing fingers. Big whoop... get over it, jeeze.

divinelegend
divinelegend

God this country is a lawsuit happy place... i mean i live here too but for the love that is gaming this crap rly needs to stop... heck i should sue a few companies for making crappy games and/or hardware but i dont... no point to it.

hivboy
hivboy

i'm sorry, but i don't understand how the f*ck a blind person can play a video game without seeing it...

Muteki_X
Muteki_X

@Crabs4sale LOL. Awesome point. I completely agree with you on that one! Battletoads rocks!

Jynxy425
Jynxy425

Find a new hobby, try listening to music.

playstation_dad
playstation_dad

what abouts if i have no hands in 2 years, they best start thinking of games that channel into my thoughts and no what i want to do. Im all for equal rights but this is clearly just to make money. Does he want a voice telling him everything in the game, Imagine being online in cod..... "STEP FORWARD, OOPS YOU HAVE BEEN SHOT, YOU HAVE RESPAWNED, OOPS YOU HAVE BEEN SHOT, YOU HAVE RESPAWNED........." Im all for making it fair but sometimes it cant be done...

fozzyfozborne
fozzyfozborne

Waah I can't participate on eBay and it's costing me money!!! WAAH let's sue eBay for my impairment..

necronaux
necronaux

And what about the people that are too stupid to play? Make games that play themselves or they'll sue?

iBuSHiDo
iBuSHiDo

Actually, I'm in the middle of putting together a lawsuit against Tom Savini for his work on the original Dawn of the Dead. I really love movies that involve zombies and shopping malls, but all that gore makes me throw up cuz I don't have a strong stomach. All that acid from the vomit burns my throat and is ruining my chances of starting a singing career which could potentially earn me millions. I think they're discriminating against people with weak stomachs and I'm going to demand that they remake the entire movie, but maybe instead of impaling and dismembering zombies they could just make fun of their bad skin and messy hair and shame them into leaving the mall.

iBuSHiDo
iBuSHiDo

They are called VIDEO games. Without the video part, what exactly are you doing? Would you consider it some kind of interactive audio adventure? Then maybe instead of suing Sony, you could just get a lot of other people in your situation to try to get some type of company to make interactive audio adventures. It's one thing for a blind person to complain that they couldn't find the bathroom at the mall because there was no sign with braille in front of it. I'm pretty sure blind people have bladders. It's another thing for a blind person to demand that something blind people CAN'T do be changed so they can pretend they're doing it too.

bibbo
bibbo

I'm sorry the guy's blind, but you can't be everything to everybody

MajorGamer531
MajorGamer531

His complaints are about wwe smackdown, and he is suing Sony and Sony Online entertainment. PURE GREED case. "Pretend to be upset about this game and instead of talking to the game company, lets attack Sony!" This case is pure greed. It is ludicrous as pointed out by many. The kid and his family should pay damages for wasting the court's, Sony's, and concerned gamers' time.

phillipdudeman
phillipdudeman

maybe he should sue the car companies because they didnt accommodate him

Xaviersx
Xaviersx

There is a business opportunity to tailor games to accommodate an audience that has a level of visual impairment - e.g. larger text, audio cues, high contrast modes depending on the game (but does that mean the same game tweaked-edition sold to that audience with the costs of development solely on them or spread out to the whole consumer base?) A hard sell to those not impaired. As for other industries, were approaching the age where some of the visual tasks of per say driving can be taken over by the car, planes already auto pilot most of the trip and some the take off/landings, so maybe one day a visually impaired/blind person could 'drive' to locations minus a chauffeur and be behind the wheel because of addressing a need/want in the design process - even if not intended for that purpose. Lawsuits can be inane and purely a money grab. There are countries where if you file a suit and lose, you pay the court/defendant costs. It's to discourage frivolous suits, and I'd add on that the lawyers should pay too to discourage ambulance chasers. Of course, we'd have to speak up and do something to get the laws balanced, and since we keep electing businessmen to political offices, the law doesn't change much.

Briareos43
Briareos43

America we are getting Sue crazy.

Chizaqui
Chizaqui

Well, in the case of a "visually impaired" whiner, my suggestion is to get a new pair of glasses. To reiterate, those with "special" needs should only be catered to if it doesn't hinder the product (or company providing the product.) Retailer responsibility only goes so far, sometimes it is up to the consumer to decide how best to use that product given his/her circumstances. I can't keep a beat for the life of me, but that doesn't mean I can or should sue makers of music related games. No, instead I adapt. Pitiful when someone's idea of adaptation is to hire a suit to argue a moot point in a court room.

Epicurus-Reborn
Epicurus-Reborn

"the suit says Stern's inability to participate in that marketplace is costing him money. " are you kidding me?? this is some of the biggest BS ive heard in a while. If sony loses it could mean very bad news for the gaming industry.

Racebannon_
Racebannon_

"Visually Impaired" does not equal "blind." To the person with below par vision: power to you on this suit. To the blind people: it's called a *VIDEO* game.

Exactlamento
Exactlamento

this is like someone without legs sueing because reebok doesn't make shoes specially tailored to their particularly shaped stub. yeah it sucks being disabled, but you can't demand anything if you just are not able to do a certain activity. Can't see, don't play video games which require sight. Jesus ppl, common sense!

Lajeaune
Lajeaune

He didnt say he was blind but vision impaired. you can be legally blind and still see some., A lot of you guys comments were very harsh. I am disabled and that word cripple really grates against my teeth :P. But while I don't whine about it, i also want to kick ass of able bodied ppl parking in my handicap spaces because they are filthy fat. I have notice this past two yrs a lot of under 30 women *cough* parking in handicap with their other family members car..and being so fat their jeans are about to friggin split..i so want to say to them..get a grip on the fat before you are permantly physically disabled as well as mentally...sore spot with me sorry lol. my hands are in pain 24/7 but manage to play hour or so of wow a day. If it hurts, I log off and do something else...I dont expect wow ppl to design a special mouse for me..and that is kind of what I think this person is getting at or just wants free money off the tax payers backs cause that is who sony will get it from raising its products prices

Lajeaune
Lajeaune

Actually I found them pretty accomadating in swg for disabled persons..most of us have disability of our hands that the key movements were very difficult if not impossible so they changed a lot of things at that time to mouse able movements. I would think 3rd party adds should of been implemented since wow is killing their business already you would think they would pick up atleast some parts of their gaming build. On the other hand, this player who is visually impaired, has he tried any other sight devices like those page size magnifier attached to moniter..something i did use during groups combat.I mean i am disabled and do all that I can ..if i can't, I dont play but think sony should make some attempt as there are many ppl who have vision problems..its not just this one poor fellow. We probably will never know the particulars unless sony does the very unexpected and fights it to the end in court. it is usually cheaper to pay and cut their losses

marcob_07
marcob_07

We forgot about movie theatres, television industry and so....

RainbowStalin
RainbowStalin

Next thing you know, the crippled will sue Nike for uncomfortable shoes.

jeffv541
jeffv541

Hes prolly gonna sue Microsoft for making natal too, when he runs into the television because he can't see it. We should all stop being so insensitive about this serious matter.

Stressthesky
Stressthesky

How would this help him enjoy games? I'm picturing this guy playing Ninja Gaiden with voice-overs. "Go left, hit a-butGAME OVER!" "Crouch here, move forwGAME OVER!"

speeddemon_14
speeddemon_14

Next thing you know someone's gonna sue GM for not making vehicles specially modified to be driven by the blind. Sorry buddy, this goes on my list of stupid lawsuits.

sammo1b777
sammo1b777

what the HECK!!!! they already have seeing eye dogs.. next they will sue their dogs for not being able to help them play video games.. this is BS... people try to sue everyone over bullcrap.. no one wants to earn a buck, they just want to take from everyone..

MuddVader
MuddVader

this is utter BS. I'm sorry that this kid cant enjoy games as much as us with good eye sight but its completely ludicrous to expect them to make a seperate modified version of every game released specificaly for the visualy impaired. Gamings not for you if you cant see, dont kill the industry with your selfishness.

Chizaqui
Chizaqui

I wonder if a deaf kid ever sued a record label because he couldn't hear the music. I mean, did anyone even try to explain to this "half a hellen keller" that the key word in the phrase "video game" would be the one that relates to an activity you do the majority of with your eyes? I hope the judge rules in Sony's favor, and decides to throw this kid in a straight jacket for an undisclosed amount of time in Gitmo. If you want a video game to adhere for the blind, give em an audio book and a remote control, it should have the same effect. Idiot.

TrueProphecy22
TrueProphecy22

"...filed suit against Sony, Sony Online Entertainment, and Sony Computer Entertainment America in the United States District Court for the Central District of California." That says it all.

killerwaffles
killerwaffles

Man, Daredevil never sued anyone because he couldn't see. He went out and fought ninjas. So my advice to this guy is, stop being lame and go out and fight some ninjas like a good blind man.

RedMageNeko
RedMageNeko

... And it is because of things like this that the gaming industry is taking such a hit lately. Realistically, what can be done? Not a whole lot. One thing mentioned was "a voice-over detailing items collected in game". Voice overs cost a lot of time and money. Doing them for a game with a LOT of items, such as an MMO, is incredibly cost prohibitive. Frankly, if your blind, no amount of audio cues will help you much in a video game. Sad fact is, you need SOME visual ability to play most any game I know of. And for those NEAR blind, but with some visual ability ... I honestly can't think of much to help you. Sorry folks, but I can't imagine much of anything that could be done to help blind gamers. But SUEING the game companies over it is not only foolish, its insulting.

ZeroXraven
ZeroXraven

Come on guys, the guy is only sueing because he wants lasik surgery done to his eyes and the only way to afford it and play games as well is to make moolah by sueing large companies...if I was Sony I would just give the guy the money to fix his eyes or improve it...then it would all be over

Mike4842003
Mike4842003

LOL what's that like 10 times Sony has been sued in the last few years? That says it all right there about the decline of Sony as a whole in the gaming industry