PlayStation Controller Levels Up

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    Paul Lane uses a Sony Access controller to play a PlayStation 5 video game. (AP/Godofredo A. Vásquez)
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    The Access controller is highly customizable. (AP/Godofredo A. Vásquez)
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    Martin Shane, right, customizes the button layout on a Sony Access controller before playing a game at Sony Interactive Entertainment headquarters in San Mateo, California. (AP/Godofredo A. Vásquez)
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    Martin Shane uses a Sony Access controller, left, paired with a standard controller to play a video game. (AP/Godofredo A. Vásquez)
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    Microsoft released its own accessible controller in 2018. This Xbox Adaptive Controller is on display with a standard Xbox Wireless Controller. (Casey Rodgers/Invision for Microsoft/AP)
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Paul Lane uses his mouth, cheek, and chin to push buttons on a video game controller. He guides his virtual car around a racetrack on the PlayStation 5. That’s how he’s played for the past 23 years since a car accident left him with little use of his fingers.

Putting the traditional controller aside, Lane switches to Sony’s new Access controller. The round, highly customizable gadget rests on a table. Users can switch out its buttons and thumbsticks, program special controls, and pair two controllers to use as one. Lane’s car zooms around the track as he guides it using the back of his hand.

Playing video games has long been a challenge for people with disabilities. Standard controllers can be difficult or impossible for gamers with limited mobility to maneuver. Losing the ability to play can mean the loss of a favorite pastime and social outlet.

Microsoft, startups, and even hobbyists with 3-D printers have contributed to the accessible-controller market. Now Sony has also made an effort to address the problem in developing the Access controller for the PlayStation.

Lane and other gamers worked with Sony to design the Access controller. They wanted to create something that could work for people with a broad range of needs, since there are many types of disability and a person’s needs can change over time.

A player does not have to hold the controller to use it. It can lie flat on a table. It can even be mounted on a tripod. It was important for the device to fit on a wheelchair tray, because if it falls off the tray, it might be impossible for the player to pick it up without help. The controller also had to be durable for the same reason.

And it’s much easier to press the buttons than on a standard controller. The kit comes with button caps in different sizes, shapes, and textures so users can reconfigure it to work better for each individual player.

Sony even made the device’s packaging accessible. The box can be opened with just one hand—right or left.

After his accident, Lane stopped gaming for seven years. Starting again, even with the limitations of a standard game controller, felt like being reunited with a “long lost friend.”

Lane welcomes the Access controller. That the controller “can come out of the box . . . ready to work” is one big win.

Why? Our God-given creativity and innovation can help make products usable for those with unique needs.

Pray that God would help you consider the needs of people who are often overlooked.

For more about people with special needs overcoming obstacles, see Joni: An Unforgettable Story by Joni Eareckson Tada in our Recommended Reading. 

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