Neopians with Disabilities
You know, I've been playing on Neopets for over a year now. I've seen worlds
rise and fall, and seen my pets grow stronger and cuter. But, I'm lucky. I only
have partial vision loss. Yes, I have a guide dog that I can't travel without,
and yes I can't see the floor under my feet, but that doesn't stop me from making
some fast Neopoints on Meerca Chase or Deckswabber. The question burns in my
mind, what about the other disabled Neopians? What about the people who have
worse sight impairment than me, or have trouble using the keyboard or mouse?
Can THEY enjoy this wonderful world of Neopia and its adorable inhabitants?
I went rooting around the bulletin boards for some answers, and formulated some
theories of my own.
My first theory is that some people on the chats are just kinda silly. They
questioned my blindness and the legitimacy of my research. Silly, silly people.
I decided to go a different route, after finding out that silly people who use
D00Dsp33k rule the General Chat board. I went to the Windows XP Accessibility
features. I figured, if I could learn how people with disabilities other than
my own could use the computer in general, I might figure out how they could
use Neopets, and whether or not adaptability issues need to be addressed in
First, I'll start with the familiar territory, at least to me, that of what
sight impairment does to Neopets and the enjoyment thereof. I can tell you straight
out that a completely blind person would get NO enjoyment from Neopets, nor
would they be able to play any of the current games. Well except for Lenny Conundrum,
which isn't always regular, and Lenny Trivia, which sadly was taken out.
There are programs that read the words on a screen or on a web page, but they
don't describe the picture on the screen, only give the filename and state if
it is a link or not. So even card games like Pyramids and Scarab 21 would be
unplayable. Of course, the main thing about Neopets is the PET, so unfortunately
someone who can't see how adorable the pets are probably wouldn't play in the
first place, and if they did it'd probably be an exercise in frustration.
Now, as far as I can tell, Neopets would be no obstacle to someone with a
hearing impairment. Now, some games like Deckswabber do have sound cues that
can come in handy, but they're hardly necessary. I admit, most of the time I
play with my speakers off unless my eyesight is really playing games and I need
the extra help. And since there is no such thing as voice-chat on Neopets, the
only other thing I could see sound being useful for, and therefore not being
able to hear a detriment, is in figuring out why some shops take such an annoyingly
long time to load up!
Dexterity impairment can be a different and more complicated matter, since
all of the games require working with either the mouse or the keyboard. For
games like Meerca Chase, that require almost constant movement of the fingers
of one hand, a severe dexterity impairment would basically ruin your chances
of getting a "good" score. But the point of games is to do your best, not necessarily
to beat the rest of the Neopets world. I personally seldom get over 400 in Meerca
Chase or Deckswabber…or any other game for that matter; but I enjoy it anyway!
However, games like Cheat! or Destruct-O-Match where you can take your time
would be absolutely no obstacle to someone with dexterity impairments, as long
as they had the computer modified for their needs, like use of hot keys and
the like. Or one of those fun new voice-recognition programs might work for
some games, but not for others. Either way, a well-adapted computer should do
Now, for those with mental differences, or emotional difficulties, a few problems
might arise. For children with these problems, it might be hard to grasp the
concept of "little critters on the Internet" not being real, or they might get
frustrated when their pets won't eat, or get sick. However, any difficulty in
this area would be entirely individual. With a little help and encouragement,
any child or adult with a mental or emotional difference shouldn't have too
much trouble at all.
Do steps need to be taken to make Neopets more adaptive? Neopets can only
be as adaptive as a computer as a whole. Until screen readers get better, the
totally blind won't be able to enjoy the cute and cuddly Kacheeks, Chias, and
so many others that we all love. This is a shame; I have totally blind friends
I'd love to send a pet. But it's not Neopets' fault. I just wrote this article
to make the point that even if there aren't disabled Neopets, there are disabled
Neopians, and to make all the other disabled Neopians out there know that they're
not alone. *_*