In the past, technology was developed under the assumption that all its users were able-bodied, sighted, and able to hear. Now, many tech companies are finding that it pays to be accessible to everyone, regardless of ability. Microsoft got in on the action this year by creating the Xbox Adaptive Controller to bring games to the disabilities community.
Ian Sherr, in an article for CNET, says gamers in the disabilities community used to work independently, hacking their own way to play “by breaking apart the controllers and attaching buttons, switches and other gizmos — changes that allowed them to send signals to the game using their feet or elbows, by bopping their head against a button or even by blowing into a tube. But building specialized controllers is onerous, expensive and time-consuming. Worse, the setup process doesn’t always work.”
According to Xbox.com, the new controller was “designed primarily to meet the needs of gamers with limited mobility…the Xbox Adaptive Controller is a unified hub for devices that helps make gaming more accessible.” The Xbox Adaptive Controller was “built from the ground up through strong partnerships with The AbleGamers Charity, The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, SpecialEffect, Warfighter Engaged, and many community members. Input from these groups has helped shape the design, functionality, and packaging of the Xbox Adaptive Controller.”
Sherr says, “The $100 device…is designed to help gamers of all shapes, sizes and abilities play games however they can, on either an Xbox One or a PC powered by Windows 10. It offers ports into which players can plug switches, buttons, pressure-sensitive tubes and other gear in order to control any function a standard controller can do. Microsoft unveiled it in May, ahead of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, when the design and development communities focus their efforts on learning and sharing ideas around building products with the disabilities community in mind.”
Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft’s Xbox team, says, “We’re coming up on 2 billion people playing video games on this planet…As an industry, when you start to hit that kind of impact in terms of the broad base of people that interact with your art form, I do think we have a social responsibility.” Collaboration with the disabilities community is mutually beneficial for Microsoft. It resulted in a customizable and functional design for the disabilities community and in return, opened up Microsoft games to a larger population of consumers.
As a corporation, behaving ethically is a great way to build positive branding; Apple, Facebook, Google and Adobe are just some of the companies following suit with their own accessibilities program. The accessibilities movement in tech companies should be encouraged and amplified; it points towards changing cultural perspectives on providing accessibility for everyone.
Reality Changing Observations:
Q1. Why is it important that video games be accessible to everyone?
Q2. What are some ways we can encourage corporate or governmental efforts towards accessibility?
Q3. In what other arenas have cultural attitudes towards accessibility recently evolved?