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Gamification and accessibility

Keyonda Smith (Center for Teaching and Learning, Maryland University of Integrative Health, Laurel, Maryland, USA)
Sandra Schamroth Abrams (Department of Curriculum and Instruction, St. John’s University, New York, New York, USA)

International Journal of Information and Learning Technology

ISSN: 2056-4880

Article publication date: 13 March 2019

Issue publication date: 20 March 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore the issue of access to digital technology by using the lens of accessibility as set forth by the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the American Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. More specifically, this paper focuses on gamification, considers the needs of all learners, including those who identify as disabled, and raises important inquiries about equity and access to technological instructional materials.


Juxtaposing Kapp’s (2012) nine elements of gamification with aspects of accessibility, this paper conceptualizes the challenges and possibilities associated with gamified instructional approaches.


This paper examines gamification in light of potential barriers that exist as disabled learners navigate online courses that include one or more of the following aspects of gamification – game-based, mechanics, aesthetics, game-thinking, engage, people, motivate action, promote learning, and solve problems. Notably, online courses enhanced with gamification elements present potential access barriers and challenges to learners who identify with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, or visual disabilities.

Research limitations/implications

This paper initiates an important discussion, and as such, it incepts additional investigations into supporting differently abled learners.

Practical implications

By examining gamification through the lens of accessibility, this paper contributes yet another perspective of teaching, learning, and instructional design.


In addition to socio-economic factors that may preclude one from engaging in a digital play, there is a larger question of how, if at all, gamification is accessible to learners with auditory, cognitive, neurological, physical, speech, or visual disabilities or impairments. This paper raises important questions for educators, education researchers, and game and instructional designers alike to ensure ubiquitous access to gamified digital materials in general, and online, gamified materials in particular.



Smith, K. and Abrams, S.S. (2019), "Gamification and accessibility", International Journal of Information and Learning Technology, Vol. 36 No. 2, pp. 104-123.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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