Video game controllers for the disabled: Accessibility is Key
Having been an avid gamer most of my life, here’s a thought that I’ve been having recently: Wouldn’t it be great to have video game controllers for the disabled? Not as a means to get ahead of an average player, but to level the playing field in a way.
With accessibility becoming a frequent term associated with technology, I would think that hardware accessibility for gamers in this manner deserves some spotlight as well. Sounds a bit farfetched? On the contrary!
In the realm of gaming, there are people who do not let their disabilities get in the way of video game entertainment. In fact, some have even gone on to place in tournaments and received the adulation of both fans and pro gamers. Here’s an example:
Disability is not a Hindrance to Fun
In 2011, a video about Mike Begum (aka Brolylegs), appeared on the internet. Begum has arthrogryposis, which in lay man’s terms, is the reduced development and mobility of many joints. As you will see in the video, he does not have full use of his fingers or limbs. He is also bound to a motorized chair to get him around.
What Brolylegs does have, however, is an amazing knack for video games. One of the top Super Smash Bros and Street Fighter players from Texas, he uses combines a personal technique in working his controller (his left cheek on an analog stick, tongue-jabs inside his right cheek + whatever finger control he has for buttons) and deftly controller configuration that exploits certain game mechanics to his advantage.
This setup gives him a definite fighting chance when he plays against others, and his complete familiarity with this setup (which has been fine tuned over the years), has made him one of the more competent professional gamers.
Long ways to go
But not all people with disabilities have a working configuration similar to Brolylegs, let alone can use a similar configuration that works for him. This is further amplified by the fact that 10 percent of the world’s population (roughly 650 million) have disabilities, both known and unknown.
Because of this, it has become increasingly challenging to create a gaming controller to cater each and ever disability out there. So when it comes to looking for controllers that are suited to the disabled gamer, the goal is to harness assistive technology in a way that makes it useful to several disabilities.
Baby Steps for some, Giant leaps for others
Fortunately there have been a couple of products out there that can do the job for some impairments.
QuadStick, for instance, is a mouth-operated controller that is aimed at quadriplegics. It uses a combination of sip & puff sensors as well as lip-position, and converts it into sensory inputs for bluetooth/wireless controllers. The developers behind the product got backing through the popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter.
The people over at OneSwitch also have a variety of custom setups to help gamers with different kinds of disabilities – from larger arcade sticks, foot pads, all the way to head/mouth/eye control, their catalog is by far one of the more complete ones out there.
Another prominent organization known as The AbleGamers Charity advocates hope for disabled gamers by giving visibility to new setups that can be used by people with different handicaps, as well as games that were developed with accessibility in mind.
Natural Point has an awesome product that works extremely well with PC gaming and accessibility – have a look at it!
The struggle may be real, but hope comes one step at a time.
In the end, everyone deserves a chance to have fun, which is why giving accessibility to gamers with impairments is a goal developers and gaming manufacturers should advocate in the years to come.
Did you find an interesting product that gamers with impairments could use? Drop me a line and let’s review it!
Categorised in: Custom Controllers