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Making Gaming Accessible

Xbox-Adaptive-Controller Xbox Adaptive Controller

The Discovery

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the assistive technology lab at Craig Hospital, an elite rehabilitation hospital housed in Englewood, Colorado which specializes in the treatment of patients with spinal cord injury and/or traumatic brain injury. I always enjoy visiting the tech lab when I return to Craig for outpatient services, but this year I got to try out something especially fun to learn and experiment with. 

It's called the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a design that Microsoft consulted with the assistive technology specialists at Craig and other organizations to create. This intriguing new piece of assistive technology is intended to make gaming more inclusive for everyone, independent of their physical capabilities – or lack thereof.

Me using Xbox Adaptive Controller

Are You a Gamer?

I've never really considered myself much of a gamer, so when I sustained a spinal cord injury that left me with paralysis from my chest down and very little grip or finger dexterity, finding adaptive gaming equipment that was also affordable wasn't exactly at the top of my priority list. But that is me.

For others, gaming was a big part of their life pre-injury. And it still can be, thanks to Microsoft's Gaming for Everyone initiative, which has led to the development of a more inclusive gaming design for gamers of all walks of life.

Accessible Gaming

The Xbox Adaptive Controller and other adaptive features of Xbox One are making gaming more inclusive for gamers of all capabilities. Microsoft (the creators of Xbox) believes that by making products more inclusive for individuals with disabilities, they are in effect improving the product for all users. And they most certainly are!

This controller is perfect for gamers of all abilities, particularly those who face barriers that may keep them from being able to easily use the standard Xbox controller or mouse-and-keyboard inputs. Microsoft store employees are trained to use and demonstrate use of this adaptive gaming equipment to those interested in learning more about it.

The face of the controller is angled slightly toward the user, and corners are rounded to prevent discomfort while gaming. The controller also has rubber feet to prevent sliding when used on a table or other flat surfaces, and is also mountable to various docking stations. The adaptive controller also features two large pressure sensitive buttons which allows more accessibility and features an audible difference in pitch of the click sound made when these buttons are pressed. This allows the user to know which button they have hit without having to look down at the controller.


Optional Accessories

The Xbox Adaptive Controller can be paired with a variety of optional accessories to further customize your gaming experience to your needs. This includes switches, buttons of various sizes, foot pedals, and joysticks. The possibilities are seemingly endless. Examples can be seen at Ablenet

The design of the controller allows the user to purchase extra accessories and plug them into any of nineteen 3.5 mm inputs, two USB 2.0 ports, and one 3.5 mm headset jack for audio. Each of the nineteen 3.5 mm inputs has a symbol which corresponds to a symbol on a button or switch on the traditional Xbox controller, making it clear to identify the function of each extra switch based on which input it is plugged into on the adaptive controller.

Other Adaptive Xbox Features:

Copilot – this allows the adaptive controller to be paired with another controller so more than one user can control a character at the same time, each using some of the inputs needed to control the character and working as a team. This can be used for individuals who would like to partake in the gaming but are not necessarily able to control all of the inputs at once. Copilot could also be used as a teamwork skill building technique or even as a bonding experience between a parent and child, the possibilities are boundless.

Xbox also features reprogrammable buttons and switches on their controllers. This applies to both the adaptive controller and the standard Xbox controller. This option may be useful for individuals who prefer to use a standard controller, but may have more strength and dexterity on one side than the other. The best part about having the option to reprogram buttons and switches is that multiple user profiles can be created using the Xbox Accessories App on Xbox One or a Windows 10 PC to save the way each user's controller is programmed.

Breaking Barriers

For someone who never considered themselves a gamer, I am in awe of the the efforts Microsoft has put into making gaming accessible to everyone. Gone are the days of the stereotypical gamer being a young, able-bodied male. Gaming for everyone is surpassing all boundaries based on age, gender, and ability. But here's the unexpected part: the Xbox Adaptive Controller can be purchased for approximately $100, making it incredibly affordable.

Discussion 

Do you use any kind of adaptive gaming equipment? Which products have helped you make gaming accessible for yourself?

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Thursday, 20 June 2019

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