woman with a virtual reality headset with her hand raised and a collage of digital imagery superimposed

Know What to Ask

You should involve your organization’s procurement team before you bring any new XR hardware or software into your workplace. For example, if you want to buy a head-mounted display (HMD) with an embedded operating system, you should work with procurement to make sure this new technology is accessible.

Ensuring the accessibility of XR technologies means understanding that the hardware and software work together. All hardware and software components must be accessible for the new technology to work for your employees. Your procurement team should use the following questions when they talk to vendors about the accessibility of any XR technologies you consider.

Laptop with 3 connected gears over the screenHardware & Input Devices

Use the following questions as a guide before procuring an immersive platform. The answers to these questions will help show if the immersive platform hardware you are considering adequately addresses accessibility. The next part of this section covers questions regarding platform software/operating systems and settings.

Hardware & Input Device Questions

  • What kind of immersive experiences does the technology enable? Examples include immersive video, virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality.
  • Does the technology provide multimodal outputs, such as visual, audio and haptic (touch) that work for people with diverse abilities?
  • What devices will people use to access the immersive applications and content? For example, will people use a wearable device, such as an HMD, or technology integrated into the physical environment?
    • Can the applications or content be accessed in an equivalent alternative way, such as a desktop, laptop or mobile device?
  • Does the core hardware utilize specific, proprietary input hardware devices such as handheld or wearable controllers?
    • Can a third-party input device be used, such as an alternative keyboard, mouse, game controller or adaptive keyboard?
  • Can the hardware controls be identified and operated by people with different sensory, physical or cognitive disabilities? A few examples of hardware controls are buttons, triggers, trackpads and keys.
  • Does the core hardware use virtual input devices that mimic physical hardware input devices? For example, does it use a virtual keyboard placed in a real-world setting using mixed reality?
    • If so, can an alternative input device or method be used?
  • Are body-based input methods supported, such as voice control or commands, gesture recognition, eye tracking or head/body pose tracking?
    • Are alternatives available that do not require that bodily capability? For example, is there an alternative to voice control if the user cannot speak?
  • Is audio output provided, and is there a method to listen to that audio privately?
  • Can users adjust the volume of the audio output as well as mute or unmute it?
  • Are status indicators accessible in multiple ways, such as through visuals, audio or text? Status indicators can show the status of a system process or user-initiated action. For example, status indicators might show the status of a system bootup, or indicate an error condition, on/off states, active audio or video recording, spatial scanning and more.

Laptop with 3 connected gears over the screenPlatform Operating Systems (OS) & Settings

Operating systems are usually preinstalled on platform hardware and input devices. Consider the following questions related to the platform operating system and settings when you procure immersive platform operating systems.

Operating System & Settings Questions

  • Does the immersive operating system offer accessibility options and have documented accessibility features? Examples include settings to adjust audio, visual presentation such as color correction/text size, haptic output and feedback.
    • If it does, what are the built-in accessibility options and features?
  • Can the immersive operating system’s virtual menus, controls and windows be navigated and accessed using different hardware or body-based input methods? Examples include using voice commands or alternative controllers instead of a mainstream motion controller.
  • Does the immersive platform include a web browser that can view immersive web content?
  • Can the immersive operating system recognize physical environments and objects such as people, places and things for use in apps?

Notification & Preference Questions

  • Is system feedback for user interactions or system events provided in both a visual and audible way? Examples include focus, activation, manipulation and deactivation.
  • Are operating system-supported notifications and alerts provided in both visible and audible ways?
  • Can users set preferences for which kinds of hardware or body-based input methods they will use, and have those settings persist across sessions?

Inclusion & Accessibility Questions

  • Is there any assistive technology available that runs on the immersive hardware and operating system combination? Examples include a screen reader or magnifier.
  • Can participants with sensory, physical or cognitive disabilities activate the device and choose settings for the operating system? This should include any web or mobile companion apps used during setup or operation.
  • Does the immersive operating system support the display of synchronized immersive captions for human or recorded speech?
  • Does the immersive operating system support the display of synchronized closed captions in media players? This can be through a native application or in an immersive web browser.
  • Does the immersive operating system support the playback of audio descriptions in media players? This can be through a native application or in an immersive web browser.
  • Does the immersive operating system support change of vantage points? For example, can a user change the virtual view to a standing vantage point while they are physically seated?
  • Does the immersive operating system support the ability to adjust motion sensitivity? For example, can a user change to teleporting in an immersive environment or reduce the speed at which a virtual avatar moves throughout the environment?
  • Does the immersive operating system support different dominant communication modes or languages?

Hand holding a gear Platform Documentation & Support

Use the following accessibility documentation and support questions as a guide before procuring an immersive platform.

Platform Documentation & Support Questions

  • Has the platform manufacturer clearly communicated their privacy policy and taken steps to protect user privacy and keep users safe, including levying privacy and safety requirements on app developers? Such policies usually address the areas listed below.
    • Generally accepted privacy principles such as data minimization, purpose specification, use limitation, data quality and integrity, security, transparency, individual participation, as well as accountability and auditing.
    • Safety practices related to physical harm, age restrictions, as well as acceptable user-generated content, on-device recording, identification of people and devices, sensitive data and online visibility.
  • Can participants with sensory, physical or cognitive disabilities access the app store, app update mechanisms and other app or content acquisition utilities?
  • Are accessibility features documented, and is the documentation in an accessible format?
  • Is an accessible customer support channel provided in coordination with the manufacturer and the organization’s information technology (IT) help desk? If an accessible customer support channel is available, are support staff trained to provide accessibility support?
Continue to Section 5: Learn How Accessible XR Enables Inclusive Immersive Meetings