I am Tim, the Sightless Cyclists, and I am reliant on screen readers due to blindness. Through development of accessible app interfaces for screen readers like JAWS on Windows and VoiceOver on MacOS/iOS, Trainer Road, Wahoo Fitness, Wahoo SYSTM, and Peloton are the only options for indoor cycling training. This excludes individual’s who rely on screen readers to join virtual races and experience the challenging and thrilling environments and cultures that thrives in Zwift.
As a blind cyclist and advocate for disabilities, I understand the importance of accessible interfaces and the benefits they can bring for media releases and potential consumers. Zwift’s inclusion of hand cycles in-game represents a momentous step towards expanding diversity and inclusion initiatives for cyclists with disabilities. the combination of the visuals and in-game dynamics to mimic outdoor experiences captivated the attention of hand cyclists and the general public, proving us with disabilities matter. However this should be viewed as Zwift’s first efforts for inclusion and not the last.
If Zwift adopted the Web Consortium Accessibility Guidelines for mobile app development or similar video game accessibility guidelines, it would allow riders with disabilities to use assistive technologies such as voice or switch controls to navigate the interface. This would benefit cyclists like myself who rely on screen readers to interact with apps, but also create hands-free operation of Zwift for hand cyclists by allowing switch or voice commands to be used. In the Paracycling Facebook group, we had this exact conversation, with one hand cyclist providing their support since his hands are preoccupied with pedaling.
Games like “The Last of Us 2” proves accessibility and video games may go hand in hand. However this comes down to the priorities and willingness for developers to decide whether including us with disabilities through expansion of accessibility options provides the necessary return on investment. In Zwift, this needs to start with the initial login and main screens that are primarily text or icon based. This would resolve the issue on how can Zwift assist us screen readers make it to the start line. For example, as a screen reader user, I relied on Aira and visual assistance from family to navigate these screens and get me into a session. From here, I relied on the Zwift Companion app to monitor various data points, messages, and other surface level interactions.
I am hooked onto Zwift versus power-based training apps thanks to ability to simply ride the ride. The complete Wahoo Kickr setup coupled with Zwift provides a sense of realistic riding that I feel like I have sight again and grinding up a long climb or trying to edge out another rider. I have many finishes as a blind tandem team in gravel events, like Unbound 200mi, but there is something about being able to ride solo that has its own rewards.
Please Zwift with community support, let us come together to see about making the next diversity and inclusion steps by making accessibility in Zwift a reality.
Tim, Sightless Cyclists