Originally published September 7, 2022.
Today is the first part of the accessibility series! This part covers features that assist the visually impaired.
There are two ways to have the text read aloud in Ren’Py. You can either press V to activate the default narration voice on your computer, or shift+C to send all the self-voicing information to the clipboard so it can be read by a screen reader.
In order to prepare the text so that it’s text-to-speech legible, I had to do a lot of things. For one, any instances of text continuing without waiting for the player had to have an alternate version of the line where it doesn’t do that, because otherwise self-voicing can’t read it. There were also times where my own computer’s narrator voice couldn’t read certain onomatopoeia or even names (“Nyn” was always read out as “N-y-n” and not a single word), so I had to use special tags in Ren’Py to force it to either pronounce things properly or even switch it out with a different, but similar onomatopoeia.
The text also had to be prepared in a way that it was understandable even if the player can’t see the screen. Any dialogue bits where there were just ellipses (“…”) either were given special “invisible” text that said something along the lines of “X said nothing”, or it’s programmed so that Ren’Py just skips to the next line. Sometimes, speakers are clarified by adding hidden text that says “said X/X whispered/etc.”.
I always try and write image descriptions so that they blend in with the rest of the narration, like a novel. I want the experience to be smooth and tonally appropriate for those that need them, and I always try and ensure I’m translating visual information that I know was important into text. For instance, sometimes the appearance of a sprite isn’t for the purpose of seeing what the character’s expression is, but rather to communicate that the character is present at all.
There are three font options in Final Verse: Georgia, Atkinson Hyperlegible, and OpenDyslexic. Georgia, the original font used in Soundless, is the default, but players can switch between the three options on the options menu. The font option will be applied to all text of high importance, such as in-game text, prompts, tooltips, notifications, the backlog, and the quick menu.
The only exception to this is the bit that appears when you first click on the after-info button, which is forced to be in Consolas so that it appears correctly. Players who have difficulty reading it are advised to turn on self-voicing instead.
Next issue is accessibility, part 2, where I talk about audio cues, as well as striking the balance between styling notifications so that they fit in and remain easy to read.