Hearthstone Access is a mod that made Blizzard’s collectible card game accessible to blind, low-vision, and limited-sight players, who can use it to play Hearthstone via screen-reader software and keyboard commands. It’s the work of GuideDev, a modder who has been keeping it updated since August of 2021, but has now announced he’ll be ending Hearthstone Access support with version 24.6.
As Guide Dev wrote, “carrying Hearthstone Access on my back all this time has become increasingly difficult and the time has come for me to take a step back. I really, really hate to be doing this, but the last few months have been extremely busy and I’ve been seriously struggling to keep up with everything.”
Due to Hearthstone’s fortnightly update cadence, Hearthstone Access has also needed an update every two weeks to keep it working. “I simply don’t have as much time as I once had to devote to it”, Guide Dev wrote. “With all the recent (and upcoming) changes, it’s gotten to a point where I think Hearthstone Access is just getting worse with every patch (while Hearthstone itself is getting better). This was never the intention – and I’m really not happy with it.”
Blizzard has since addressed the issue with a post about Hearthstone accessibility on the official forum. A Blizzard community manager explained they’ve previously worked with Guide Dev and “implemented measures to make development of the mod easier” as well as working on improving Hearthstone’s accessibility in ways that complement the mod. The example they give is that, since screen-reading software can struggle with overlapping dialogue, music, sound effects, and ambient sound like Hearthstone’s background voices simulating tavern chatter, they’re planning to implement separate volume controls for each as well as a mono sound option.
While that will be part of a patch following the launch of March of the Lich King, in the future Blizzard will be “exploring what it will take to implement native accessibility features that allow for our blind and low vision community to get back into the game.”
There will unfortunately be a period after Hearthstone Access is broken by an update and before the game’s native accessibility features catch up during which blind, low-vision, and limited-sight players won’t be able to play. As Blizzard explained, “A project of this magnitude and importance will take time to complete. We’re very sorry to our friends and players who won’t have access to Hearthstone during this time.”
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