In the modern era, video gaming stands as one of the most popular pastimes in the world and boasts a multi-billion dollar industry. But given that video game consoles and controllers usually only come catered to able-bodied people, how do people with disabilities play video games? Thankfully, developers and innovators across the world now devise all manner of inventive video game controllers, useable by those who live with diseases like muscular dystrophy. In the same way costumes for people with disabilities let people in on the fun of Halloween, video game controllers for disabled people allow everyone in on the fun of the virtual world.
The inventive video game controllers below use unique designs and ideas to make it possible for disabled gamers to use other parts of their bodies to control the in-game action in ways that would ordinarily not be possible. You never might have considered exactly how difficult playing a game with a disability can be, but the clever and thoughtful inventors of these devices did, and they decided to ensure no one misses out on exhilarating experience video games. From apparatuses made for Rock Band to Fallout, cool video game controllers for disabled people come in all shapes, sizes, and designs, just like every gamer.
When his friend lost the ability to use his right hand, mechatronics engineer Julio Vazquez decided to create a custom-built adapter so his friend could enjoy Nintendo’s new Switch console. Ordinarily, the Switch Joy-Con controllers require the player to attach them to a center screen to create one large pad or hold the two pieces individually in either hand. Though clever inventions, both configurations fail to support those with only one useable hand.
So Vazquez prototyped several solutions, eventually coming up with this simple adapter joining the two Joy-Con pieces together. He 3D-printed the design, which works perfectly with the likes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, allowing his friend to use all the buttons with just his left hand. The engineer even uploaded the design online so others with similar disabilities may take advantage of it.
Valve engineer Ben Krasnow revealed in 2013 how he worked on several inventive controller ideas. One of these creations is a device one operates by sitting on it and moving their bum. Designed to give players a more immersive experience in virtual reality worlds, the bum controller allows a gamer to control their movement by shifting their weight in certain directions. Krasnow constructed it using an Xbox 360 pad and a set of bathroom scales. Despite the fact that it wasn’t built with accessible gaming in mind, the engineer acknowledged it could prove useful for disabled gamers who have limited use of their arms or legs.
As part of a contest to design an accessible game pad to make the Xbox 360 accessible for Steve Spohn, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, Evil Controllers created this highly customizable controller. This solution uses a bag of rice, Velcro, and duct tape to create a makeshift device the user may customize as they see fit – something perfect for Spohn. Using this design, anyone can move the buttons around, remove the joysticks, and even assign all of the controls to particular sections. The charity also put together a t-shirt with sensors in the shoulders that acted as buttons when the user shrugged.
The GEAR is a foot-based controller system developed by Johns Hopkins University graduate Gyorgy Levay. After losing both of his hands due to a meningitis infection, Levay became determined to devise a solution allowing disabled gamers to play using just their feet. The device uses three separate sensors to detect movement in a user’s feet. Simply tilting the foot up or down provides enough motion to simulate eight different button combinations and the controller successfully transitioned to use in games such as Fallout 4.