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This week, Direct Access handed in our accessibility audit of the National Video Game Museum in Sheffield. Although we are extremely passionate when any organisation expresses the desire to become accessible, our audit at NVM felt special, because beyond educating people about the rich history of the video game medium, the museum is a sanctuary of escapism; a place for passionate and casual gamers to have fun. Few things in our world brings people together quite like the arts, so we cannot wait to see the museum act on our recommendations and open its space up to disabled people young and old alike.

Hand with remote control and media icons

Direct Access learned a lot about the world of gaming during the National Video Game Museum audit, including the sheer variety of adaptive game controllers designed specifically for disabled people. In celebration of this, and the completion of our audit, we are proud to present a list of our favourite alternative gaming controllers that are allowing disabled people to enjoy equal access to video games.

Old Vintage Arcade Video Games in an empty dark gaming room

Stickless

The key feature of the Stickless is suggested by it’s name, that is that Stickless make custom controllers for people who struggle using standard controllers. Replacing the joystick are buttons which act as a substitute.

We were inspired by the origin’s of this stick, that the company’s founder developed the Stickless for a friend who was facing issues using his hands. The customisable button layouts, colour,  body artwork, graphics and types of wood is a genius idea, making this easily one of the most accessible and aesthetically pleasing alternative controllers out there.

Available for PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, Nintendo Switch and PCs.

Evil Controllers

Perhaps even more accessible than the Stickless if a buttoned controller isn’t for you, Evil Controllers work with the customer to create a unique controller suited to them. The company does not pre-manufacture controllers; instead, it works with each customer individually to design a controller that suits their needs.

After a consultation beginning with a phone call or email exchange, Evil work with the customer directly to develop their controller. If comfortable doing so, the user can even send them photos and videos so that they better understand the disability of the user. They will then work with them to tweak the controller until it meets the user’s specific needs.

Evil’s dedication to accessibility is incredible and we could not recommend their services more for this reason.

The Quadstick

The Quadstick is a mouth-operated controller designed to enable quadriplegics to play video games at a high level and to participate as equals in social gaming communities. It was developed by Fred Davison, who sought to carry on Ken Yankelevitz’s work on mouth-operated video game controllers, and initially funded via a crowdsourced Kickstarter campaign.

Three versions are available: the FPS, which features a joystick, four sip/puff pressor sensors and a lip position sensor; the Original, which offers the same features as the FPS but with a lower-cost joystick gimbal; and the Singleton, which is a simpler version designed those who wish to operate a computer but not play video games.

Mappable controls make it easy to customize the gaming experience, and users can remap inputs and outputs quickly during gameplay.

This controller works on multiple platforms, and works directly with the PlayStation 4 and PlayStation 3 and Nintendo Switch as well as Windows and Mac computers. Add a converter, and it’s also compatible with the PS5, Xbox One and Xbox 360.

VoiceAttack

VoiceAttack isn’t a physical controller; instead, it’s Windows software designed to enhance gaming with customizable voice commands. That makes it an excellent option for gamers who have mobility issues.

This option is unique for being a software designed for video games as well as other rudimentary uses. For example, someone who is paralyzed might use an eye-tracking mouse to move their character and voice commands to make their character jump or fire a weapon. However, the software has a vast amount of command options which the user can tailor for each game they play.

Although that might sound like a lot of effort, the VoiceAttack community is very active and help is not difficult to come by. The software has even been used to help disabled people answer phone calls, and even open fridges.

VoiceAttack is only $10 (£7.60), so it’s an affordable option. However, the software only works for Windows and Steam games.

Single-Handed Xbox Controllers

Microsoft has been proactive in the release of accessible controllers for their devices, including the popular and well-known Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller which was designed in collaboration with the Cerebral Palsy foundation, The AbleGamers Charity, Warfighter Engaged and SpecialEffect.

Single-handed Xbox controllers are the latest innovation by the company to be more accessible to disabled people. A key difference being a lowered analog stick that also doubles as a handle. The controller also features an ergonomic secondary analog trigger as well as Bluetooth compatibility. The changes allows one-handed individuals to access every button and trigger necessary.

These custom-made controllers cost $350 and are made in both right-handed and left-handed versions. PlayStation versions (not produced by Microsoft) are also available.

Jouse+

The Jouse+ is an alternative controller to use with computers and mobile devices. This mouth-controlled USB joystick features plug-and-play technology with a high-quality articulated arm and desk mount.

This controller is unique for how diverse it can be controlled. Options include with the mouth, cheek, chin, or tongue making it a good option for those with arm and leg impairments. The Jouse+ supports Windows, Mac, Linux and Unix-based computers, as well as Android and Apple devices.

With a variety of mounting options, the Jouse+ can also be equipped with additional equipment such as microphones, switches, and webcams.

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