Editor’s Note: For many, gaming is not just entertainment; it’s a means of staying connected and engaged, particularly for people with limited mobility. The release of the Sony PlayStation Access Controller for its PS5 console next month is a promising step forward in making the gaming community more inclusive. Even the packaging is designed to be opened easily.
Playing video games has long been a challenge for people with disabilities, chiefly because the standard controllers for the PlayStation, Xbox or Nintendo can be difficult, or even impossible, to maneuver for people with limited mobility. And losing the ability to play the games doesn’t just mean the loss of a favorite pastime, it can also exacerbate social isolation in a community already experiencing it at a far higher rate than the general population.
Gamers have been working with Sony since 2018 to help design the Access controller. The idea was to create something that could be configured to work for people with a broad range of needs, rather than focusing on any particular disability.
Alvin Daniel, a senior technical program manager at PlayStation, said the device was designed with three principles in mind to make it “broadly applicable” to as many players as possible. First, the player does not have to hold the controller to use it. It can lay flat on a table, wheelchair tray or be mounted on a tripod. It was important for it to fit on a wheelchair tray, since once something falls off the tray, it might be impossible for the player to pick it up without help. It also had to be durable so it would survive being run over by a wheelchair, for example.
Second, it’s much easier to press the buttons than on a standard controller. It comes with button caps in different sizes, shapes and textures so people can experiment with reconfiguring it the way it works best for them. The third is the thumbsticks, which can also be configured depending on what works for the person using it.
Because it can be used with far less agility and strength than the standard PlayStation controller, the Access could also be a gamechanger for an emerging population: aging gamers suffering from arthritis and other limiting ailments.