Assistive Video Game Technology

If you’re anything like me, you grew up playing video games. In between stints of playing outside, I have fond memories of having friends over and gathering around my Nintendo to have an afternoon of gaming fun. My younger brother and I also spent countless hours playing games together (as we still occasionally do when we get time!) It is only natural that I am excited to do the same with my kids.  Games and gaming systems have come a long way, and assistive video game technology has put gaming in reach of those who might not be able to control a traditional system.

Putting gaming in reach of people with disabilities

When I was much younger, and the NES or Super NES were the go-to video game platforms (sorry Neo Geo), there weren’t as many customization options to suit various players’ needs. The standard controller was fine as long as you could hold it, and the accessories such as the Power Glove and Power Pad were lots of fun as long as you were able to use them in stock form. Sure, there were a few specialty mods out there, but they were few and far between.

Assistive technology allows children and adults with disabilities to play video games despite their physical limitations. Adaptive equipment provides the opportunity for people with disabilities to participate in situations that may be difficult in the real world, thereby providing social interactions that can help maintain mental health as well as providing an equalization between disabled and non-disabled players. Whether for entertainment or rehabilitation purposes, adaptive video games allow participation in one of the world’s largest pastimes. -Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center @

Many hardware companies have formed, large and small, that deal directly with modifying gaming equipment to be more accessible. Whether that might be making controllers that can be used on a table or in a certain position, allowing control with a person’s feet, or even using eye-tracking technologies, there are a ton of options that people are working hard to develop. Each person has unique needs and the more work and research that is done, the higher the chance is that everyone will find a system that works for them.

Today, even systems makers are developing features with accessibility in mind. More work can always be done, but the progress is promising.

Xbox One Accessibility Update

Microsoft has done a great job of staying on top of assistive technology and their latest console updates are no exception.

Back in March of this year, the Xbox developers released an exciting update that made gaming on the system more accessible to many people. One of the headline features from the update is called Copilot and allows two controllers to act as one in the system. This can be useful for people to strategically position the controllers in a way that allows them to better physically play the game.

The Xbox team also introduced a suite of accessibility APIs to the system. An API allows developers to more easily call functions from the system. In this case, developers now have access to features that could make gaming easier for those with disabilities. A couple of APIs worth mentioning are the voice-to-text and text-to-voice options, which developers can use to either narrate or transcribe words to those who want to enable this feature in games.

Works for kids too!

Though kids might not be the primary target for accessibility features, it can make gaming with them a whole lot of fun. One thing that comes to mind is Mario Kart 8 Deluxe on the Nintendo Switch. The Switch is a ton of fun and my daughter, who is three, quickly caught on to the fact that I was playing. Of course she wanted to play right away!

The game has a couple of really neat features built-in and I hope other developers follow suit. You can turn on auto-accelerate and auto-steer which keeps the cars going in the correct direction at a competitive speed. Designed for those who might not be able to perform all of those functions at once, I find that my daughter has an absolute blast gaming with Dad. I had no idea she’d even like games until we tried this, but now I know that we’ll have a fun future playing games together!

How do we further assistive video game technology? Donate and spread the word…

My wife and I recently donated to The Able Gamers Charity and we’d love it if you did as well. Their goal is simple: to provide a way for people to play video games, regardless of their disability. They modify controllers, use state-of-the-art eye tracking tech, build entire systems, you name it – all to make gaming a reality for those who can’t use traditional systems. They don’t sell anything – they just custom-tailor gaming equipment for individuals in need.

If you’ve been reading this article thinking that this is all great, consider even giving $10 to the Able Gamers Charity. Gaming can unlock unique social interactions that boost mental health as well. Everything helps and it is very possible that their mission aligns closely with yours. Not everyone is in a position to donate money to charities and in that case, simply spreading the word is a wonderful thing to do. In case you are wondering, I don’t earn a single penny if you donate.

Assistive tech isn’t just for games

As I’m sure you’re very aware, assistive tech reaches way beyond video games to cover everyday uses. From bionic appendages to real-time Braille readers, technology goes a long way to allow those with disabilities to have similar experiences to those without. A resource I find incredibly interesting is the Assistive Technology Blog which details many of these technologies and explains how they are improving lives all over the planet.

I’m sure you’re at least somewhat familiar with the Amazon Echo at this point. It is a small tower that sits in your house and listens for your voice commands. Through the magic of Alexa, the virtual “brain” behind the Echo line of products, you can speak to it and it will either answer your questions, play music if you’d like, or even control a lot of things in your house. No longer do you have to flip light switches, adjust your thermometer, set your alarm by hand, or many, many other things that can be automated. Depending on a particular person’s needs, a device like this (or Google Home, even the soon-to-be-released Apple HomePod) could change the way you interact with your environment.


I hope this article made you start thinking about the importance of assistive technologies in our world. Here are a few resources to explore if you’d like even more information.

Assistive Video Game Technology - Putting gaming in reach of people with disabilities

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