A new Xbox and Windows 10 controller that lets people with disabilities plug in the assistive aids they already own to play games has been welcomed by charities in the UK.
The Xbox Adaptive Controller allows those with limited mobility to use their own buttons, joysticks and switches to mimic a standard controller, so they can play any video game. This allows them to choose which assistive aid will make the character jump, run or shoot, for example, without relying on pressing specific buttons on the controller that came with the Xbox.
The device has delighted charities and gamers with disabilities, who say it will help them continue to enjoy something they love as well as connect with other people and be more independent.
There are around a billion people across the world with a disability, including 13.9 million people in the UK. Research from Muscular Dystrophy UK found that one-in-three gamers has been forced to stop playing videogames due to their disability.
Vivek Gohill has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, which causes muscle degeneration and weakness. He uses the Xbox Adaptive Controller and several switches and buttons around his body to play games. While playing Forza Horizon 3, for example, he uses a button next to his head to accelerate the on-screen car, while using a different one on his wheelchair to brake.
“I’ve lost a lot of ability, and definitely couldn’t play as much as when I was younger,” said the 27-year-old, who has given feedback to Microsoft after finding it difficult to hold traditional controllers and press the buttons. “When I had to stop playing the games I wanted to, it was very frustrating and upsetting, because that was one of my favourite pastimes. By using the switches I already have for my computer or phone, the Xbox Adaptive Controller lets me have the freedom to play the games that I want.”
Gohill is one of 700 people who form part of Muscular Dystrophy UK’s Trailblazers, who campaign to remove the social injustices that young people with disabilities face when trying to live independently.
Lauren West, manager of the Trailblazers, hopes Microsoft’s actions will encourage more companies to make accessibility a priority.
“The Xbox Adaptive Controller will give people with disabilities the belief that they can get back into gaming, and that companies are taking accessibility seriously,” the 26-year-old said.
“The problem with general controllers is they are designed for one particular person. People with Muscular Dystrophy will have very fluctuating conditions and what will work for one person won’t work for someone else – someone’s head might be strong but their hands are weak, for example – so having something that can adapt to that is perfect.
“A lot of our Trailblazers have switch controls at home for computers and tablets, and it’s great they can be used in this equipment. It’s easy to assume companies care but it’s nice to know they are working hard to bring accessibility to the forefront. I hope it will encourage other companies to follow suit and realise they need to do more.”
The Xbox Adaptive Controller will be available on the Microsoft Store later this year, priced at £74.99.