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  • Writer's pictureMeridith Bradford

Emerging Adaptive Gaming Controllers

There are statistics on almost anything these days! Approximately 1.3 billion people in the world live with a significant disability and a staggering 92% of them play video games. Disabled gamers are in a group that has gotten more attention in recent years, but the industry still has a lot of work to do in this area. Gaming is a great hobby for many people with disabilities, because just like anyone else, they can hang out with friends, meet new people and even put themselves into another world. Accessibility takes different forms for everyone and that is certainly no different when playing video games. There are many options of controllers specifically designed for disabled gamers. This post aims to give you an outline of a few of them, so you have an idea of what might work best for you.


Microsoft was the first major console manufacturer to launch a first party dedicated controller specifically designed for accessibility. The Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC) was released in 2018 and it completely changed the landscape and set the bar for all accessible controllers to follow.

Image of the XAC, which is a white rectangular controller with two large black buttons and a D-pad

It consists of two large programmable buttons and a D-pad on the front, but the magic of it happens on the side panel, which includes 3.5 mm inputs for every function of a standard Xbox controller. This allows for endless customization and gives players the ability to optimize a setup specifically for them. Many people who operate things with switches may already know what kinds work best for them, such as specific sizes or sensitivities. There is a great likelihood that switches you may already have could work with the XAC, but if you want some other ideas, there are a ton of possibilities.

It is extremely important to note that you do not necessarily need to use every function on the XAC and it is also compatible with the Xbox Copilot feature. Players can take as much or as little control as they would like, and even team up with a friend to play games with more complex control schemes. The XAC can also be used with other systems, such as PC via USB or wireless connection.

Adaptive Gaming Peripherals

Logitech G offers an Adaptive Gaming Kit, which includes several buttons and triggers of varying sizes. This is a great starting point for creating your perfect controller based on the XAC. The kit comes with a total of 12 input options and they can be swapped out to any function on the controller with no programming necessary.

Image of the Logitech G Adaptive Gaming Kit setup, showing multiple button shapes and sizes with labels laid out on a mat

Two of these are variable triggers, which can measure a range of inputs for functions such as how hard you are pushing on a trigger button for gas in a racing game. Once you dial in your ideal configuration, you can also place included labels on each button to remember what function it is mapped to.

If you are looking to get access to every function, it will also be necessary to pair two joysticks with the XAC. Compatible joysticks can either be connected via 3.5 mm jack or USB 2.0 and there are enough ports included to cover both the left and right analog sticks. Much like the buttons, there are numerous options available for joysticks.

Image of an adaptive joystick device with one joystick above eight buttons. The buttons are divided into four colors with a smaller and larger button for each color.

If you are using a USB joystick that includes buttons, such as the adaptive joystick made by X-Keys, the XAC can also detect up to eight buttons on the joystick itself to be used as inputs. This adds even more flexibility and possibility to what this base controller can do.

Nintendo Switch

Even though Nintendo has not made their own adaptive controller for the Switch, there are a few third-party options that are licensed to work with the system. The first and most customizable is the Hori Flex controller. This has a lot of similarities with the aforementioned XAC, in that it has 3.5 mm jacks for each button that can be assigned to adaptive switches and two USB joystick ports for each of the joysticks on the system. The other similarity is that it can also be used on PC.

Image of the Hori Flex controller with large black buttons and ports for external switches

However, there are a few key differences worth pointing out. The Flex has more buttons on the face of the controller itself, including all Joy-Con buttons, and four directional buttons for the D-pad. The buttons are large and have a nice clean layout. This allows the user to play more games and have more functionality out of the box, without adding external switches or joysticks. Another interesting feature is that the programming software for this controller allows you to assign separate functions for a short press and long press of the same button, as well as the availability of multiple profiles that can be easily switched, depending on what game you are playing. Hori certainly gave their controller a very fitting name, since it is truly flexible to meet many different needs!

Another accessible controller option for the Switch is the 8BitDo Lite SE. It takes a very different approach and may serve a separate segment of the disabled gaming community. In keeping with other controllers made by 8BitDo, it has a very small form factor, which not only makes it portable, but also decreases the amount of movement needed to reach all the buttons. The design was created by a father, who wanted to make the perfect controller for his son with a physical disability.

Image of the 8BitDo Lite SE controller, which is a small purple rectangle with six small white buttons on either side and two analog sticks

The result turned out to be a compact device with small buttons for every function on the face of the controller and two joysticks, all of which can be activated with light touch. This makes it easier for people who may not be able to exert a lot of force on a button, or those who cannot typically reach bumpers or triggers. There are dedicated buttons for L3 and R3 functionality, in addition to the ability to still push in the joysticks. Another unique feature is that there is a non-skid pad on the back of the controller, making it ideal to place on the tray of a wheelchair. There’s also a programmable turbo function that does not require any additional software. As of recently, this controller is certified to work with Apple devices, including Mac, iPad, and iPhone, as well as the pre-existing support for Android.

PlayStation 5

Despite being known for its commitment to accessibility on the software side, with a large array of features to make games more approachable for disabled players, Sony has yet to release an adaptive controller of their own. However, there was big news to come out of CES 2023 with the announcement of the Access controller (initially revealed as Project Leonardo), which will be Sony’s upcoming first party adaptive controller for PS5.

Image of the PlayStation Access controller, which is a circular device with multiple buttons around it of various shapes with labels. There is a joystick with a large ball attachment connected to the controller.

Unfortunately, there is no confirmed release date for it yet, but we do know some details. The device will be circular in shape, with several programmable buttons. There will be four 3.5 mm jacks to accommodate external switches. There is also a joystick attached to the controller itself, which can be moved around its compact design and also comes with three stick caps of varying shapes, allowing for easy reach. Interestingly, from what we have seen so far, it seems like there will be swappable plates for the buttons, allowing them to be different sizes and control different input combinations. One of the most anticipated aspects of the Access controller is essentially Sony’s answer to the Xbox Copilot feature. It will be possible to pair two Access controllers to act as one and even mix-and-match these with a standard DualSense or DualSense Edge pro style controller. The modularity of this will allow for ultimate customization and give users as much or as little control of inputs as they would like. In a recent blog post, Sony also gave us our first look at the UI within the PS5 itself that will work specifically with this controller. Users will be able to customize many things on the software side, including joystick sensitivity, button mapping and even profiles to quickly swap to their ideal configuration for different games. Toggle mode was also shown in the recent news update, which will negate the need to hold down an input when activated. New images confirmed that it will be able to be used either on a flat surface, or on a universal mount, such as a tripod, again adding to the possibilities when putting this in the ideal position for the user. There are still so many questions to be answered about the Access controller, but it is exciting to see what Sony will be able to accomplish in terms of accessibility once it has its own hardware and software solutions working together.

It is undoubtedly true that #GamingIsForEveryone! One of the best parts about that is while everybody’s setup may look a little bit different, the end result of enjoying a game is the same. Keep in mind that this post is only meant to give you a snapshot of what is available when it comes to accessible controllers and peripherals. There are countless fully customized options out there and these are just a small sample of devices that work with specific systems. We hope this has provided you with a jumping off point to explore possibilities and the best way to get you into the game!

We would love to hear what adaptive gaming products work for you in your setup! Let us know in the comments below, and let’s keep the conversation going!


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Dean Troup
Dean Troup
Jun 07, 2023

Hey Guys- first of all, thank you for all that you teach all of us viewers! We appreciate your contributions in making our search for products much easier.

I just received some grant funding and I would like to provide my schools with a shared gaming device. I am not a gamer. I only have the money for one device. Help!

Meridith Bradford
Meridith Bradford
Jun 23, 2023
Replying to

Hi Dean,

We truly appreciate your kind words, and are so happy to hear that you are interested in getting a gaming device for your schools! We would suggest an Xbox and the Xbox Adaptive Controller. The reasoning behind this is that it is the most modular and customizable setup. The Logitech Adaptive Gaming Kit described in the blog is definitely a great place to start when customizing the XAC. There are also different options for joysticks that would be compatible with it. Another benefit to this would be that it can also be used on the PC. The buttons and joysticks can be placed anywhere and functions can easily be swapped out to optimize it for each individual user.…

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