When most of us think of mobility aid users, we probably tend to picture older people who require the use of a wheelchair or 8mph mobility scooter because they are living with age-related conditions such as arthritis. However, anyone who was born with or developed mobility issues as a child will know there are many young adults who also depend on these products every day.
For years, playing video games has been one of the most popular pastimes in the UK, especially amongst teenagers and people in their 20s and 30s. Unfortunately, in the past, many with disabilities have found themselves unable to get involved in gaming because of the dexterity required to use most controllers and play certain games. Recently, however, efforts to improve this situation have gained momentum and there is now a wide range of specially-designed custom products available which make gaming easier and more fun for the disabled than ever before. Here, we look at six of the very best!
Xbox Adaptive Controller
Without a doubt the most eagerly anticipated gaming accessibility product to have ever been released, the Xbox Adaptive Controller was launched to great fanfare in September 2018. Three years in the making, it is no exaggeration to say that the controller has already changed the lives of thousands of disabled gamers, allowing people with a range of severe physical conditions to enjoy all the latest and greatest games on their favourite console.
Named by Time magazine as one of the best inventions of the year, the Adaptive Controller has been designed so that all the buttons can be comfortably pressed with one hand, with all the features you would find on a standard controller included. Just as important, however, are the many integrated ports that allow the gamer to connect other assistive input devices they already use, such as switches and mounts. As well as two USB ports, an impressive 19 3.5mm jacks are also built in.
Click here to visit the official Xbox website and see what they have to say about this revolutionary product (you can also watch a video of the controller in action).
One reason why the Xbox Adaptive Controller was so well-received was that it was developed and released by the in-house experts at Microsoft themselves. Unfortunately, this kind of proactive design is rare amongst the world’s big console manufacturers, which means disabled gamers have long relied on the innovation and generosity of amateur enthusiasts.
This is exactly how, in 2017, a Joy-Con controller that could be used by single-handed gamers to operate the popular Nintendo Switch system came to pass. Julio Vasquez, a mechatronics engineer from Mexico, noticed a lot of buzz on the internet about how those who only have the use of one hand were unable to control the Switch with ease and comfort and decided to do something about it; the result is an ingenious adapter that connects the controller’s two parts together and is perfectly simple to master. Anyone who is interested in trying it out for themselves will be pleased to know that the engineer has made his designs publicly available so that they can be 3D printed for free!
Click here to see a discussion with Rami Wehbe, a young gamer with partial paralysis who reached out to Vasquez and asked him to have a go at designing this unique controller.
As well as people who have limited dexterity in their hands and arms, there are also a substantial number of would-be gamers who are held back by having restricted movement throughout their entire bodies. However, the experts at the Canadian company Compusult have now made it possible for even the most severely disabled to enjoy every aspect and detail of gaming.
Compusult’s amazing Jouse3 system is a ‘sip-and-puff’ joystick that allows disabled people with very little movement ability to use just their mouth to play games on their computer, tablet or smartphone. Perhaps the most impressive thing about the Jouse3, considering its engineering complexity, is how simple it is to set up and use, with the straightforward ‘plug-and-play’ design allowing it to be easily connected and disconnected to different devices in seconds.
Click here to read all about the Jouse3’s specifications and watch a video of it in action.
The QuadStick is another sip-and-puff controller that can be used by quadriplegics on all their favourite games and is a step up from the Jouse3 in that, as well as PCs, it is directly compatible with games consoles like the PlayStation 4 (and can be used with an Xbox via an adapter).
Operated via a clever system of mouth and lip sensors, the QuadStick has been demonstrated to work flawlessly with some of the world’s most popular and bestselling games, including Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto.
Click here to read the official QuadStick brochure, which goes into detail about all its capabilities and specifications.
Custom Designs by Evil Controllers
All the off-the-shelf products we have discussed above are fantastic innovations, but it must be acknowledged that, given the widely varying nature of disabilities, standard controllers simply will not work for every gamer out there. It’s for this reason that the highly-regarded engineers at Evil Controllers offer a bespoke, custom-made service.
Evil’s ‘able gaming’ journey began when they entered a competition to design a custom controller for a keen gamer living with muscular dystrophy, and this inspired the team to start making more disability-friendly devices. The minds behind Evil Controller say that they have a ‘firm belief that everyone can game’ and are dedicated to meeting the very different needs of any gamer who comes to them, no matter how specific and detailed their individual requirements.
To read more about Evil Controllers’ venture into the world of accessible gaming, click here to visit their website.
Over the last couple of years, virtual reality has become a major player in the world of gaming, allowing people with limited mobility to ride rollercoasters and travel to faraway lands from the comfort of their rise and recline chairs. Until recently, however, this has been yet another area of innovation in which severely disabled individuals have been left behind. Now, thanks to the WalkinVR software driver, that has all changed.
WalkinVR boasts many intuitive features that allow devoted gamers to imitate movements they are unable to carry out in the real world, including kneeling, standing, turning, reaching and more. Whether the player has limited movement in their arms, legs or throughout their whole body, WalkinVR lets the user become truly immersed in their virtual reality gaming experience; and, as if this wasn’t enough, the creators of the program also claim that it could help people undergoing rehabilitative physiotherapy to reach their goals more quickly.
To see this extraordinary product in action, click here to see a YouTube video that includes gameplay footage and interviews with WalkinVR users.