XR Accessibility Image
XR Accessibility
Accessibility focused design system for emerging technology


Interfaces used in XR are highly inspired from traditional 2D interfaces for introducing this new form factor, but are not ideal for this medium in the long run. The available 3D space is underutilized and users could benefit from a more spatial interface that is also optimized for accessibility.

I believe that the future of all interfaces is in XR. There is a need for the development of an interface that is innovative, easy, and possibly hands-free, while featuring alternative and accessible input methods.

Supporting Documents

🖥️ Presentation: Caption System
🖥️ Presentation: Design System
🧑‍🦽 UX Research Plan - Closed Captioning
🪢 User Interview - Mariella (AudioEye) - Survey
🪢 User Interview - Ren (XR Access) - Survey
🪢 User Interview - Meryl (XR Access) - Survey
🪢 User Interview - XR Immersive Captions Group
💊 UX Research Synthesis
🧑‍🦽 UX Research Plan - Visual
⌨️ XR Audio Transcription Methods

Product Concept

My project involves creating a design system for XR. The goal is to have a more spatial interface than traditional mobile interfaces.

The current interfaces don't accommodate users with disabilities. I believe this would make it easier for everyone to use, even users that are new to this ecosystem.

The focus is on how closed captions should be displayed or potential alternative methods for users with hearing impairments.

User Persona

Report from ILMxLab & Disability Visibility Project Shares Insights on VR Accessibility Design (roadtovr.com)

A young to middle aged individual that is new to VR/AR but uses it on a regular basis. The user faces a motor function disability where they cannot move their head or arms freely, only in a limited range with some difficulty.


I believe that the future is XR. There is an eventual shift from flat screen mobile devices to technology that is easily accessible with hands-free, accessible input methods. I’d like to build a unified design system that is familiar, but also utilizes space in an intuitive manner without leaving users with disabilities behind. This would be a good standard to base OS and app interfaces for AR and VR headsets.

Thoughts on Accessibility Issues with VR - The AbleGamers Charity

Business and User Needs

I interviewed the GM of Foretell Reality, for initial ideas. Foretell Reality is a part of The Glimpse Group, focusing on building a VR experience for improved mental health. Based on the short interview, I was able to find a client requirement involving closed captioning (cc) for VR.

Additionally, I got involved in the
XR Access community where accessible XR interfaces are constantly being designed, discussed and tested, and they’re in need for prototyping and development of these ideas.


There are several methods to position subtitles within a virtual space as demonstrated well in this user test: User Testing Subtitles for 360° Content - BBC R&D

User Testing Subtitles for 360° Content - BBC R&D

The methods involving following the user’s view were found to be ideal. Out of the two options, the one with dampening could be used but with a smaller value, such that there is still a delay before subtitles move to the center of the view, but that delay is very small. This avoids the complexity and distraction with fast head movements, but also makes sure “VR sickness” isn’t induced.

Oculus Guidelines

Oculus has some developer guidelines for VR accessibility design, including captions and subtitles. It gives suggestions for the font, location, speed, visual indicators, and colors.

To summarize:

Advice from a Deaf Person

Meryl Evans

One of the User Survey participants Meryl Evans is a disability advocate and has a lot of suggestions on making Virtual Reality and Closed Captioning better as she has a hearing disability.

To summarize her experience:

A lot more recommendations and a summary is present in her articles

Myles de Bastion

Myles is a deaf visual artist who communicates through American Sign Language, and has built a VR captioning system based on that. He goes in depth about caption design and placement here: Myles de Bastion - Virtual Worlds Beyond Sound

To summarize,

Empathy Map

User Personas


After gathering feedback from experts on accessible captions in traditional and VR interfaces, there’s a set of guidelines to follow:

  • Avoid motion sickness by avoiding a lot of movement
  • Use pop-in captions as opposed to scrolling captions
  • Follow accessibility guidelines for caption design
  • Place captions as to not block important elements in the scene
  • Caption important sounds that add value to the experience
  • How does parallax impact viewing distance of text?
  • A higher contrast is always preferred
  • Off-screen captions can be placed in the center
  • Try audiograms or haptics as alternative methods
  • Caption length based on FOV and distance
  • Text proportion scale based on distance
  • Caption placement based on seating and standing positions

Problem - Line Length

The recommended length is 32 characters per line for captions, but the FOV, distance and parallax can impact this length.

An in-depth case study recommends 20-40 characters per line which is dependent on the font, and needs adjustment for usage with captions.

10 Rules of Using Fonts in Virtual Reality (vovakurbatov.com)


This involves creating prototypes with different line lengths, with each example at a set of distances. Further, this would need a set of example sentences and paragraphs for testing with different fonts.


Line length greatly impacts readability and neck strain as the user moves their view. Another implication could be inaccessibility for users with motor function disability.

Effort-Impact Matrix

Caption Line length lies on the 2nd Quadrant, that is high impact and high effort

Problem - Audio Directionality

It’s difficult to perceive audio directionality through captions, especially ones that are off screen. The suggested method of placing off-screen captions on the center of the screen gives no context on where the audio is coming from, even if they’re colored to denote which character or person said it.


Solving audio directionality involves creating a “floating” caption solution which shows the directionality of audio with caption boxes. Since motion can induce sickness, the transition style, speed, and acceleration need to be optimized. This also needs user testing to make sure people don’t experience sickness.


Audio directionality is one of the most important aspects of immersion in VR, and is usually missed out with static captions. Solving it can let users with hearing impairments experience immersion closer to what a general user would

Effort-Impact Matrix

Audio Directionality lies on the 2nd Quadrant, that is high impact and high effort


sketching ideas for functionality sketching ideas for functionality sketching ideas for functionality sketching ideas for functionality

VR Homescreen

An accessibility optimized homescreen for VR

Initial Concept


The taskbar is optimized to take advantage of depth, it shows sub-menus by hovering on an icon using controllers or gaze.

The design was updated to reduce motion by placing text upwards and at a depth.

Task Switcher

A Task switcher that uses depth to overlay windows within the same app, it can be used for multitasking with an existing computer. A back button is displayed in the center to easily go back using controller or gaze trigger.

Directional Captions

Layered Captions

A Similar concept with captions layered behind one another to reduce cognitive load while reading, since this also includes directional arrows with the caption.

Layered Captions with Reduced Motion

An option to reduce motion since some people may find the experience too distracting.

Foreground Captions / DND Mode

An option to turn off peripheral captions, where captions from audio sources not in the observer's view would not be immediately delivered. A visual indicator would be shown to such an audio source and captions will be collected in a chatbox in the corner of the view.

Description for Sound Effects in Caption Boxes

Important voice effects can show more context with icons and music visualizers.

Spatial Sound Effect Indicators

Off-screen spatial indicators for sound effects showing an icon and direction, split into two categories, natural sounds and alerts.

Reading Speed Calculation

Quick Settings and App Library

The Settings menu was built to provide accessibility and important options at the bottom, to avoid hand strain and increase accessibility for users with motor function disabilities. The tiles were designed based on a redesigned information architecture

Oculus Menu Information Architecture Redesign

Quick Settings

App Library


Design Library

A-Frame Demo

The VR Homescreen demo in A-Frame implements the new taskbar, and includes another accessibility improvement which brings apps and quick settings panels closer to the center, to help with neck strain or motor function disabilities.

The Directional captions demo in A-Frame implements the directional caption system, including a DND Mode for restricting background captions, and an option to reduce motion.

Experience in A-Frame (Try it out!)

The VR homescreen experience built in A-Frame with 3D Icons, drag your mouse within the frame or click the VR button to try!

The caption experience built in A-Frame, drag your mouse within the frame or click the VR button to try!


It is clear that captions are required in almost all environments for hearing impairment. With options for every feature, it can be made more accessible to everyone.

While motion is helpful for conveying directionality for some people, it can induce sickness for others. Some people like colored tags and arrows, while other people like a very simple caption box.

Instead of striking a balance with one system, there is something available for everyone.


Contact me for a conversation

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