Neurodiverse analysis of Vortle by Tas Kronby

Author of the report: https://linktr.ee/tasthoughts

Visual

Screenshot of application home page
Screenshot of application home page

The application opened easily and the home screen provided an overview of the settings on the right side of the screen. The sound and volume buttons worked well. The joystick button did not seem to serve a particular purpose. The hint button was useful with the Tetris style game to align the shapes correctly.

Barriers

The section on the left to access the games was difficult to see. The transparency under the buttons made it difficult to discern the white icons. The environments behind the buttons were not clear from the home screen.

The play button, diamond, and block did not automatically explain what the games were. It was trial and error to click on the button and see what game came up on the screen. There were no names associated with the icons as descriptions, so it was unclear what the diamond and block represented.

The first environment accessed was the fireplace with the winter scene in a window. The lack of contrast was visually uncomfortable and eye-straining to distinguish the symbols.

The symbols in the game seemed to have an aura or glow around the corners which caused issues with depth perception.

Screenshot of fireplace/winter scene environment
Screenshot of fireplace/winter scene environment

As an autistic person with a sensory processing disorder, which is where the brain has issues receiving and responding to information, auras on letters and white symbols are uncomfortable to stare at for long periods of time. A person with sensory processing disorder cannot interpret various types of external stimuli the same way as a neurotypical individual. The white on white causes an accessibility issue for autistic people and those that are low vision.

The motion of the fire and book will be useful for some, but it did cause motion sickness. It would be useful to include an option to stop animations on the environments.

Overall Findings

  • Barrier #1 — the white with the transparency made the icons difficult to see on the home screen.
  • Barrier #2 — the white symbols on top of the white store made were not contrasted. It made it difficult and eye-straining to distinguish what the symbols were in order to match them.
  • Barrier #3 — the current color scheme could negatively impact users with a sensory processing disorder and those that are low vision.
  • Barrier #4 — include an option to stop any motion in the background to prevent motion sickness for some users.

The environment that contrasted the best was the rain scene. It provided a dark background which made the white text visible and easier to read.

Screenshot of dark background with window rain scene
Screenshot of dark background with window rain scene

Auditory

First Impressions

The sounds are restful and provide a grounding effect when feeling stressed. Using the sounds while playing created a calming atmosphere for the mind. The volume control of the application is clearly labeled.

Barriers

The sound options were limited at this time. There were no options to have the game functions read aloud. There was no explanation of the symbols in the text, but including auditory options for instructions would enhance the accessibility for users.

The volume is a sliding bar without an indication of sound level. Adding a numbering system to the sliding bar i.e 10,20,30 to indicate the level of noise and allow the user to control sound with increased precision.

Overall Findings

  • Barrier #1 — a limited number of sound options (which it is assumed will be updated in later versions of the application).
  • Barrier #2 — the level of noise is not indicated on the volume control bar

Tactile

The application works similarly to many applications that are available on Android. The tactile functions of the application were in line with the assessor’s expectations.

The swapping function on the “candy crush” style game can be difficult if you have a motor delay. It is noted that the assessor has issues with dexterity and has a fine motor delay. Changing the position of the Tetris style game was difficult due to an inability to swap the shape correctly and fast enough to put the shape in the desired position.

  • Barrier #1 — provide alternative options to the swapping functions of the game to improve the usage for individuals with fine motor delay.

Cognitive

While the application does provide a calming atmosphere the functions of the application were confusing. The “candy crush” style game was slightly chaotic and was difficult to focus on the shapes and identify the patterns. Keeping in mind that as the assessor a cognitive delay is present that impacts the assessor’s ability to comprehend patterns. Text and audio explanations for the functions of the game would improve the user’s experience.

There was no explanation of the goal or purpose of each game. While the games are simple to understand, it can be stressful for individuals with a cognitive processing delay to understand.

From an autistic perspective, the functions of both games are not clearly defined which was off-putting for the user. Also, as you play the games there is a timer that will show how long you have spent playing. It interrupted the focus on the gameplay, so it would be useful to have on/off options for the timer.

The “play button” takes you to a blank environment. There was no clear action to take with this section of the game.

  • Barrier #1 — lack of cognitive processing delay accessibility
  • Barrier #2 — the timer randomly shows on the screen while playing which is distracting. There is no clear option to prevent the timer from working or to leave the timer on continuously.

Summary of Findings

The application has the potential to provide support for neurodivergent, especially autistic individuals. There is a need for improved color contrast during gameplay and to add the user’s ability to choose which color font is preferred. Motion stop on the animations will ensure that the user is not triggered by the moving objects. Improved neurodivergent user accessibility by various gameplay format options like auditory instructions.

Tactile accessibility can be created by adding alternative methods of moving the shapes instead of swapping. For example, having a preview of the shape in the Tetris style game that is at the top of the screen. Then the application user can select from the picture at which angle they desire the shape to land.

The cognitive accessibility of the gameplay needs review with a goal to implement features that accommodated the autistic and other neurodivergent demographics.

  • Creating an environment that has cognitive accessibility.
  • Adding color options on fonts
  • Improve the color contrast with the environments, avoid white, yellow, and red text.
  • Add motion stop to the animations
  • Add text-based and auditory gameplay to accommodate various neurodivergent learning styles
  • Create features that make the app accessible for fine motor delay
  • Adding multiple sound options with volume controls that are numbered for clarity
  • Add more background sound options for users within the various environments

Glossary of Terms

Cognitive Processing Delay — “Cognitive skills allow you to think, learn, and solve problems.”

Cognitive Accessibility — using design to create content that makes sense for those with a cognitive delay.

Dissociative Disorders — “an involuntary escape from reality characterized by a disconnection between thoughts, identity, consciousness, and memory”

Fine Motor Delay — impacts hand-eye coordination and dexterity

Sensory Processing Disorder — “Sensory Processing Disorder is a complex disorder of the brain that affects developing children and adults. It impacts Visual, Auditory, Tactile, Olfactory, Gustatory, Vestibular, Proprioception, Interoception”

Disabled. Software Engineer at Netflix focusing on AI. Co-founder of Vortle https://www.vortle.com