Sony recently unveiled its latest innovation in the gaming industry, a PlayStation controller with accessibility features designed to accommodate disabled gamers. This breakthrough development aims to address the challenges faced by people with disabilities when it comes to playing video games, particularly due to the limitations of standard controls on popular gaming consoles like PlayStation, Xbox, or Nintendo.
For individuals with mobility impairments, using traditional gaming controllers may be difficult, if not impossible. This not only poses a setback for them but also exacerbates the social isolation experienced by this population, who already face higher rates of isolation compared to the national average.
To tackle these issues, Sony collaborated with accessibility consultants, including individuals like Paul Lane and Cesar Flores, who have personal experiences with disabilities. Lane, who lost the use of his fingers in a vehicle accident 23 years ago, now plays PlayStation games with his toes. Flores, who has been using a wheelchair since a similar accident eight years ago, consulted with Sony on the development of the new control system.
The Access controller, a round and flexible device, can be customized according to the user’s preferences. It can be placed on a tabletop or attached to a rolling cart. The buttons and joysticks can be easily swapped, custom controls can be created, and two separate controls can be merged into a single interface. With this innovative controller, Lane steers his virtual race vehicle in “Gran Turismo” using his elbows, while Flores expresses the comfort he feels being able to use both hands while gaming.
The development of the Access controller is not just limited to creating accessibility for a single disability. Sony aimed to create a controller that could be adjusted to cater to a wide range of users, including those with multiple disabilities. Mark Barlet, the founder and CEO of AbleGamers, a nonprofit organization advocating for disabled gamers, emphasizes the importance of considering the knowledge and skills required to bridge the gap between the game and control scheme. Barlet affirms that his organization has been working towards this goal for over two decades, collaborating with companies like Sony and Microsoft to develop accessible controls.
Microsoft, in particular, received positive reception for its Xbox Adaptive controller when it was released in 2018. The company was pleased to witness other industry participants adopting similar approaches to enhance accessibility for players. This positive momentum has led to the development of Sony’s Access controller, which will be available worldwide starting from December 6th at a price of $90.
Sony’s senior technical program manager, Alvin Daniel, emphasizes that the console was designed with three principles in mind: flexibility, simplicity, and adaptability. The controller can be mounted in various positions without the need for locking it in place, ensuring ease of use for individuals. The buttons are designed to be easier to press compared to standard control panels, with different sizes, shapes, and textures available for customization. Additionally, the controller features levers that can be set up according to the user’s needs, offering versatility in control options.
The Access controller not only benefits individuals with mobility impairments but also provides a lifeline for elderly gamers who may have arthritis or other mobility limitations. As the average age of gamers rises, Sony recognizes the importance of accommodating this expanding demographic and ensuring gaming remains an enjoyable experience for all age groups.
For Paul Lane, who had to take a seven-year break from gaming after his accident, the impact of video games on his life cannot be understated. The social effects of gaming helped improve his disposition, countering the social isolation that often accompanies a loss of physical abilities. Lane highlights the significance of being able to play again, comparing it to reuniting with a long-lost friend after a prolonged separation.
With the release of the Access controller, Sony takes a significant step towards inclusivity in the gaming community. By collaborating with accessibility consultants and addressing the specific needs of disabled gamers, Sony sets an example for the industry as a whole. Gaming is not just a form of entertainment but a means to connect, have fun, and build a sense of belonging. With this new controller, Sony invites disabled gamers to join the gaming world on their own terms, breaking down barriers and promoting inclusivity.