Gamers with limited upper body mobility have been playing mobile apps with assistive switches and Tecla devices for a while now, and have options to play more advanced PC and gaming console games through third-party controllers. However, Xbox, one of the leading gaming consoles from tech giant Microsoft, has always been a challenge for gamers with upper body impairments to access. With the launch of Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller, disabled gamers will soon experience a seamlessly integrated product that connects them to the mainstream games that dominate the market.
Microsoft is now officially the first major gaming company to design a product specifically for people with disabilities. It’s inexpensive at $99USD, flexible as both a ready to use device out of the box and a customizable interface that allows third-party add-ons, and revolutionary in giving people with physical disabilities access to join over 48 million active Xbox users worldwide.
“The possibilities are endless,” says Dan Betholomey, one of the controller’s testers that lost the use of his right arm in an accident. “There's so much you can do with it. I've been searching for a one-handed controller for years. I'm so grateful to have a product like this. Microsoft is my hero now more than ever.”
The concept began after a Microsoft developer discovered a nonprofit called Warfighter Engaged that created adaptive gaming controllers for wounded veterans in 2014. At the same time, Microsoft began to put a focus on creating a more inclusive and diverse environment in its community of loyal gamers through the "Gaming for Everyone" initiative, the addition of important accessibility features in Xbox, and the creation of Microsoft's Inclusive Tech Lab. Microsoft's Story Labs dives into the history of its Adaptive Controller, from conception to its development through inclusive design principles to the final product.
The Adaptive Controller is not Microsoft’s first step in making its devices more inclusive. In fact, Microsoft has quickly become a leader in digital accessibility with a dedicated Twitter page of over 22K followers and blog exclusive to sharing and writing about accessibility-related topics. In May of 2018, Microsoft announced its 5-year AI for Accessibility initiative that seeks to invest $25 million in startups that are creating products that use artificial intelligence to empower people with disabilities.
The announcement of Microsoft’s Adaptive Controller is a reminder of how important it is to see accessibility in tech showcased on a global platform. Last year, we announced the launch of a new device, tecla-e, that eliminated the barrier of touch-screen and keyboard interfaces to allow people with limited upper body mobility to access smartphones, tablets, computers, and smart home technology hands-free. We at Tecla are proud to see mainstream companies join us in shifting the focus from creating alternative devices that segregate people with disabilities and prevent them from harnessing the power of today’s technological innovations to bridging the gap.