The DOTS Guild is a place where people come together with a common goal: improving #AccessibilityInGaming for disabled gamers wishing to play tabletop roleplaying games. There is much work that goes into this project, some of which we follow traditional standards on and others we break tradition and create something new and improved. Join us on this journey as we take a deep dive into the volunteer positions of the DOTS Guild, and learn what makes them so special.
The Artificer works to create new accessible gaming aids, sometimes creating an entirely new item and other times modifying an existing item to better work for disabled gamers. There is a constant state of work on everything an Artificer touches, always gathering information and looking for ways to improve. A Sculptor works alongside this process, 3D modeling the Artificer's new creations. These concepts and designs are the foundation of our work with tangible goods, and set the tone for what we are able to do as an organization.
An Artificer's work begins with an idea. With a focus on making things that are accessible for gamers with disabilities, an Artificer looks to make things work. Whether pulling inspiration from something that already exists or creating something new entirely, there's always the thought of "how could this be accessible?" Depending on the type of accessibility needed and the disabilities to consider, some items may work in one case but not another. For example, oversized dice may work great for someone with low vision who need the numbers to be in a larger font, but they wouldn't work for someone who is blind and needs to use braille. If the oversized dice are in colors that have little to no contrast, it may only work for some low vision users and not all. If the braille is very small and compact, it may not be readable for blind users with limited sensitivity in their fingertips. It's difficult to design items that are 100% accessible by 100% of users because everyone has their own unique set of circumstances. In some cases, items that are created that work for one group may be easily modified to work for another. The majority of work done by an Artificer is intended to be as broad and general as possible in order to be usable by a larger number of individuals.
DOTS was created when the need for braille dice was discovered and has remained our largest focus over the years. Understanding the importance of dice in roleplaying games led to the adaptation of these traditionally numbered items into something tactile a blind gamer could use on their own. Our braille dice have gone through a few different designs at the hand of Artificers, finding ways to improve on the original concept and optimize them for ease of use. The first version had a design that would allow blind and sighted gamers to use the same set of dice, with both braille and engraved numbers on each face. After some testing, it became obvious that the engraved numbers caused increased difficulty with reading the braille. Since the primary purpose was to create braille dice that could be used by a blind gamer, the numbers were removed. With many items, they may be the first of their kind that are catered to specific disabilities and therefore don't have a standard to follow. The Artificer learns and leads, taking the time to test new items with multiple individuals so they can better understand what works and what doesn't to find the best solution.
If an Artificer does not have the disability they are designing for, they may not always come up with the best solution on the first try. A hit point tracker that utilizes dice in a tray was originally designed to have a broad area below a d10 cutout, providing a label as to what that d10 was tracking (HP in the example shown above, others with spell levels). The d10 was also originally placed in the tracker so the point is up, and the die face read at an angle. After feedback from blind players who use braille in their day-to-day, the trackers were redesigned to hold the d10 in a way that displays a flat face so it's easier to read. The tracker label was also moved to the sides instead of below the die, making the tracker more compact while keeping it easy to read. Even though the design was changed quite a bit, the function of this tracker is still the same and can be used to help blind gamers keep track of various numbers necessary in roleplaying games.
An Artificer's work is never done, their mental gears continuously turning as they work through problems and solutions. Though some ideas may have a quick and easy solution like replacing written numbers with tactile braille, others may require a more detailed level of work like designing a whole new version of braille that transcends language and can be used by people worldwide. Once an Artificer has a solid design in mind, that is brought to a Sculptor who works on the physical prototype, 3D modeling the concept. This process may expose some flaws in the original design and require the Artificer go back to the drawing board, but learning from mistakes is the best way when designing something new! This trial and error process can be disheartening for some, but Artificers see every design as a new challenge and experience. Like pieces of a puzzle waiting to be put together, it may take time for everything to fall into place and complete the big picture.