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Madden 21 Accessibility: Much Work Still Needed, Hopes For 22

1 posts Member
edited March 2021
I am reposting, as I have made changes and improvements to my feedback, adding more detailed solutions, and putting them under each issue for ease of reading. Given that the website buttons for editing or deleting posts is not accessible with a screen reader, my only option is to create a new post.

I am a 42-year-old totally blind individual who has loved technology and games for my entire life. I have owned gaming consoles since the days of the Atari and NES. For decades those of us with disabilities have gone either completely unnoticed or have been shunned by the gaming industry. That is beginning to change, however, with recent trends toward inclusion by developers such as EA, Naughty Dog, and Ubisoft.

I began taking a serious look at EA with the release of the franchise's Madden 19 title. At that time, menu narration was not yet a thing, but we at least were being noticed as a subset of the player base, and we were being included in plans for the release of the next title. I was also pleased that Mr. Andrew Wilson's vision for the company took a "player first" approach. Madden 20 brought menu narration to the table. It felt wonderful to be able to access a game without having to use imperfect and clunky workarounds, or even worse, to have to try to find sighted assistance to do the simplest of things. There were still definite holes in accessibility and things that needed to be fixed within menu narration and huge gaps that needed to be filled in terms of on-field accessibility, but I was overall pleased with the foundation that had been laid, and I eagerly awaited the release of Madden 21.

Madden 21 was released, and I was extremely disappointed to learn that nothing within accessibility had been addressed, except for turning on in-game menu narration on the latest Microsoft and Sony console VERSIONS OF THE GAME so that playbooks and a few other things are now read for those of us who are blind. Previously seen bugs or holes in narration were not addressed. Other gaps in accessibility that are not directly tied to narration were also left untouched.

Therefore, I am writing this to shed light on existing bugs within menu narration and to bring to the forefront other massive gaps within accessibility that continue to render Madden at least 50% (though the case could be made for a higher number given how much time is spent in game) unplayable by those of us without sight. I do this with the hope that these issues will be addressed for the release of Madden 22. I will lay out the issues in an orderly fashion and will provide possible solutions where I can.

Accessibility is nonexistent in an actual game environment, except for extremely limited menu narration (applicable to Microsoft Series S/X and Sony PS5 versions) that allows us to navigate the play call menus. Even with this limited additional information that narration provides, the disparity between the totality of information that we receive both on and off the field and that which our sighted counterparts receive is so massive that it is the main reason that Madden is still at least 50% unplayable for us. Let us begin our examination by first looking at the play call menu, where plays are chosen and other things such as substitutions can be done:


With menu narration, I can navigate to "formation," and I can navigate to my desired formation, e.g., "Gun Trips TE," but I am given no other information, such as how the formation is laid out in terms of spacing, number and type of personnel, etc.
This applies to plays as well. If I select the "Gun Bunch TE" formation, I can then see that I have plays that are named "Double In Sail," "Inside Zone," "PA Shot Post," etc. However, I get no information about the plays themselves. Let us take the "Double In Sail" pass play as our working example.

When a person with vision navigates to this play, they are presented with a picture that shows them the number of receivers, which side of the field each receiver is on, the routes of the receivers, and the button assignments of each receiver. None of that information is conveyed to us through menu narration. We are simply told the name of the play. That is all we get. This leaves us totally in the dark about which routes are available to us, which receivers are running those routes, or how to target the receiver we want (button assignments).

Running plays such as "Inside Zone" are the same. Players with vision can see the flow of their blockers, whether they have a pulling guard, and the direction of the run. We are not given any information other than the name of the play. This leaves us unable to know which way to run and how to follow our blockers correctly.


I believe that the best solution would be to give us the layout of our receivers and other offensive personnel through vibration feedback, as will be discussed later in this post. The vibration feedback would occur when the play is highlighted by moving left and right.


One example of this can be illustrated in the menu to replace players. By pressing Y when navigating the play call menu by formation, a menu is brought up which allows you to substitute players. This menu does not read at all. Pressing up and down on the directional pad merely gives a clicking sound to indicate that you are moving between players, but no information is read. Moving left to right simply causes menu narration to repeat the formation that you have currently highlighted ad nauseum. You would hear something like, "Option is set to 3-3-5 wide," each time the left or right directions are pressed. Not only are the players from which to choose not given, but if you select a player to replace, the available players for replacement are also not given to us.

SOLUTION: Fix menu narration so that all menus that are accessed from the play call menu read properly.

The lack of information provided to us with respect to the formations and the plays we are choosing is a huge issue that leaves us at a massive disadvantage to our sighted counterparts. Now, let us discuss actual on-field accessibility once the plays are chosen and the teams break the huddle, as accessibility on both offense and defense at the line of scrimmage is nonexistent, and the advantage takes another huge leap in favor of the sighted opponent. There are myriad issues to look at in more detail:


Players with vision on offense can see how their opponent has lined up on defense before they snap the ball to begin the play. They can see the formation of the defense. They can diagnose coverages by looking at the formation and the position of the defenders in relation to the offensive personnel. For example, They can see whether their opponent is in man coverage or zone coverage. They can distinguish between the different coverages as well, e.g., cover 1, 2, 3, 4, or 6. Armed with that information, players with sight can adjust their offensive line and their receivers accordingly. Likewise, players with vision on defense can see the offensive formation and setup of their opponent. Players without vision are given none of this information. Absolutely none.


Feedback when the teams break the huddle after plays have been chosen on offense would include information regarding the defensive setup. The easiest way to do this would be to give information about the entire formation through vibration feedback. For example, For each defensive lineman, there would be a single, quick tap. Two quick taps for each linebacker, three quick taps for cornerbacks, and a single short rumble for safeties. If the linebackers, cornerbacks, and safeties are manned up against receivers, then each of the double taps for LBs would be followed by a short rumble, each triple tap for CBs would be followed by a short rumble, and the initial safety rumbles would be followed by a second rumble. If not, then only the taps or rumbles for each position would be given.

This would apply to players without vision on defense as well, where the sighted player can see the offensive formation. Vibration feedback again can be used to show the opponent's setup. For example, one tap to represent the offensive linemen, two taps for tight ends, a tap followed by a rumble for the running back, and a single rumble for wide receivers. To distinguish left from right-sided personnel, follow the appropriate vibration according to their position by a quick tap for personnel on the left, no tap for personnel on the right.

This does not give players without vision any advantage, as their sighted counterparts already get all this information on both sides of the ball through their eyes.


None of the on-field menus for adjusting your offensive line, putting your receivers on hot routes, or interacting with specific offensive personnel are available to players without sight through menu narration. When opening any menu, narration will only read the topmost item. This is especially problematic with hot routes, where different receivers may have different options that are dependent on their position on the field as well as any route-running or other abilities they may have. Therefore, we cannot even rely on sighted assistance to aid us in memorizing them, since the menus are dynamic.


I believe that The best approach to fixing this again centers around vibration feedback, as menu narration reads extremely slowly, and the player without vision would not have enough time to get the information needed. Therefore, pressing Y will bring up a menu that gives icons for your receivers. Upon choosing a receiver, vibrations for the routes available could be given in a specific order. For example, up on left stick followed by down, then left, and finally right. Then up on right stick followed by down, left, and right. For personnel that have additional routes due to abilities, those routes would be given last, in the same order. This would mean that each route would have a specific vibration pattern. For example, a single tap could be used for in routes, double tap for out routes, triple tap for slant, a single rumble for streak, etc. Pressing the stick in each direction to choose a route would give the vibration pattern for that route as confirmation of what was chosen.

This would apply to defensive menus for adjustments as well. The order would be given in the same way: up on the left stick followed by down, left, and right, then right stick up followed by down, left, and right. Each zone assignment would have a specific vibration pattern in the same way that hot routes on offense do. E.g., one tap for hard flat, double tap for curl flat, rumble for blitz, etc. Making a choice would again give the associated pattern, as confirmation of what was chosen.


A prime example of this would be when I want to motion a specific receiver. However, I am unable to know when the correct player is highlighted as I press B/Circle to cycle through my personnel. Using the B/Circle button in conjunction with the stick to quickly move to different personnel likewise provides no feedback to us.


Switching highlighted personnel with the B/Circle button should most likely ideally be read by menu narration, but by position only, not by name of personnel, e.g., "QB. RB. TE. Outside WR. Slot WR." On defense, you would hear things like, "DE." "Left outside LB." "MLB." "Right outside CB." This would also be read if the player were to use B in conjunction with stick movements to quickly highlight personnel.

Alternatively, another solution would be to use vibration feedback, where pressing B would evoke the same vibrations that were given for each position when the formations were being shown as discussed above. This would mean that pressing B on offense would give a single tap for each lineman, a double tap for each tight end, and so on as you cycled through.
On defense, pressing B would also give the same vibrations as discussed above. Each defensive lineman that was highlighted would elicit a single tap, linebackers a double tap, cornerbacks a triple tap, and safeties would elicit a rumble. Likewise, the vibration pattern would be given for the player chosen if the player were to use B in conjunction with the stick to quickly highlight personnel.


When holding the LT/L2 button, players with vision can see their play art, so that they know they have what they want once they have made their adjustments at the line of scrimmage. This is totally unavailable to us in any format. This means that even if players without sight were somehow able to memorize all the hot route menus (impossible), the ability to double check adjustments before snapping the ball is completely unavailable.


When the player without vision presses LT or L2, the vibration feedback discussed above would repeat, giving them the look of their formation. On offense, as it came to receivers, the rumble for the receiver would be followed by the vibration pattern of the route that receiver is currently assigned to run. Likewise, on defense, personnel vibrations would be followed by the vibration patterns indicating their set zone or blitz assignments.


Pressing the X/Square button at the line of scrimmage will bring up a menu of audibles, but menu narration does not give any information at all. Not even the names of the plays are read.


Menu narration most likely would need to read these, as it is possible to adjust formation within the audible menu.

As you can see, players without sight are left at a severe disadvantage before the play even begins as things stand now. We are left in the dark to blindly guess about all aspects of the play we have chosen, the defensive setup of our opponent, and we are unable to make offensive adjustments or to even call audibles reliably. Now, let us discuss the state of things after the ball is put into motion and the play commences.


As discussed above, players without vision have no idea of the routes that their receivers are running, and they have no idea of the button assignments for those receivers. Now, let us take that one step further. Once the play begins, they also are left completely in the dark about who is covered and who is not. As a totally blind player, I generally throw an average of five interceptions per game, simply because I have no idea which routes are being run unless I attempt to manually adjust them, and I have no clue whether the receiver I chose to throw to is covered. Instead, I am forced to try to manually route my receivers, hope that I got the correct route that I wanted because the hot routes change, pick a receiver at random to target, try my best to time things, and hope that the receiver I chose is open. That is not at all how football is supposed to be played, and that setup gives a massive advantage to our sighted counterparts. Throwing 5 or more interceptions a game will inevitably lead to defeat.


Players with vision can tell when any of their receivers have separation from defenders and are open. Here again, vibration feedback could be used after the ball is snapped to alert the player without sight to which receivers has separation from defenders. For example, a single tap would alert a player without sight that the receiver assigned to A has some separation from defenders, a double tap would indicate the X receiver, a triple tap would indicate the Y receiver, a tap followed by a short rumble would indicate the receiver assigned to RB, and a single rumble would indicate the receiver assigned to B.

Once again, this provides no special advantage to the player without vision, as our sighted counterparts are routinely able to tell which of their receivers are separated from defenders and which are not. There are even X factor abilities that highlight open receivers for them. This would merely even the playing field. Players without vision are constantly turning the ball over to their sighted counterparts, not because they are doing anything incorrectly, but simply because they are not being given adequate information when the ball is in their hands.


As discussed above, players with vision are given information on the flow of the running play that they chose, while players who are without sight are not. Speaking from personal experience, I can say that I am quite sure I do not execute run plays correctly most of the time, as I have no way to know where my blockers are or which way I should be running.


When a running play is chosen by a player without sight, vibration feedback could be given to let them know the direction of the play, e.g., one tap for runs toward the left, and a double tap for runs toward the right. After the ball has been snapped, vibration could be given to alert the player without vision that they are not following their blockers correctly.

External Menu Bugs:

Following is a list of other bugs with menu narration or places where it simply will not give any information, not specific to actual game play on the field. The solution in all cases is to fix menu narration so that these elements read properly.
• The draft is not read at all by menu narration in franchise mode.
• Several places within My Owner in franchise mode do not read properly or at all, including experience points, results of contract negotiations, selecting stadia and city, and other staff management.
• The news will not read in franchise mode.
• Scenarios do not read in franchise mode.
• Free agency signing/bidding does not read in franchise mode.
• The challenge goals for solos do not read within Ultimate Team.
• The Auction House does not read within Ultimate Team, making trading, buying, and selling impossible and rendering the mode unusable.
• Face of the Franchise mode is not read at all until your character reaches the NFL. This includes everything: Initial launch of the mode, choosing a school, in-game plays, etc. Even after making it to the NFL, news and scenarios still do not read, just as in franchise mode.

In summary, as it stands now, these current huge gaps in accessibility make it impossible for players without vision to truly compete with their sighted counterparts. The playing field is skewed so firmly in their favor that even if we understand the ins and outs of football down to the smallest detail, they will continue to win against us overwhelmingly. They are not winning because they are playing a better game of football. They are winning because we are not getting the same information that they are, and that information is critical to success.

If EA genuinely wants to be a "player first" company as envisioned by its CEO, then equality of game play for both disabled and non-disabled should be a major consideration. There is no equality here. Whenever I play a sighted opponent in a head-to-head match, I can pretty much know with certainty that I will be intercepted multiple times and run over by the opponent because they have all the information while I am left to flounder in the dark
Even if all the external menus outside of the actual game environment were able to read perfectly, that will not help me when I am in an actual game against an opponent, and I am trying to figure out where I should pass the football. "Fair play" should not just be about keeping those who play your titles from cheating. It should also be about equal information and opportunity to succeed. There is nothing fair about the current state of things. I sincerely hope that this message will be taken seriously and that these major issues will be addressed in Madden 22, and I hope that sighted players will join us in our drive to make this game truly accessible to all.

If you have any questions, comments, or if you would like to discuss solutions in further detail, please do not hesitate to contact me. I am willing to work with EA, 100% free of charge, to help make Madden genuinely accessible to everyone. I look forward to hearing from you.

Moderator's note: Please do not post any of your personal info as this is a public forum where everyone can see it. Thank you for understanding and have a great day.
Post edited by NatureBoy2323 on


  • CatzHyper
    2 posts New member
    This is great! EA needs to do something about this!
  • This is something that definitely needs to addressed by EA. I had a chance to play the creator of this post and the way he plays is incredible for not knowing what his players are doing. If EA were to address this then more people with disabilities would be able to have fun with the game and they would be included more and more in the community. This is something that definitely needs to be addressed and if addressed fully could change the future of gaming to allow more people like the creator of this post to have fun with games and honestly say that they understand everything about the game.
    23 posts Member
    Wow, great writeup and really hope EA/Madden can address these. IndomitableHeart is playing in one of our Xbox Next Gen Franchises and I'd love to see his experience improved.
  • Awesome write up with solid ideas, make it happen EA!
  • i just wanna bump this again. EA you better help this man and all disabled players.
  • Hello to all,
    I am also a blind player, a good friend of this post by the way. I have also been accepted in to one of the leagues and I know just as much football as he does, perhaps a bit more. Anyways, I agree with everything in this post. The fact is, we are at a disadvantage. I do not know what the future holds for Madden, but I truly believe that Accessibility should be at hthe foreground of what EA is doing. I'm looking forward to Madden 22, and I hope to see you all on the gridiron!
    Xbox gamer tag is:
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