Furthering accessibility in gaming and tech is always a wonderful initiative that opens up this wonderful hobby to an even wider range of people (opens in new tab). It’s impossible to expect every person with different capabilities to be able to work the same combination of keyboard and mouse, let alone tasks like actually building a PC (opens in new tab). Finally we are getting more options to make our hobbies and jobs much more accessible.
Microsoft is one company that really seems to be putting accessibility at the forefront of its innovations. It made the wonderfully received Xbox Adaptive controller, and even updated guidelines to help others improve and foster inclusive practices (opens in new tab). Though for a while, it seemed the company wasn’t too sure what to do next (opens in new tab).
As part of the 2022 Microsoft Ability Summit (opens in new tab), (spotted by The Verge (opens in new tab)) the company is introducing a whole new series of modular, adaptable, and inclusive peripherals. These adaptive accessories work together to provide more options to the user, in completely and freely customisable ways via a customisable adaptive hub.
The mouse, for example, can be turned into a joystick or d-pad style large button. It also has customisable tails that can be added to offer different functions like a hand rest or to be attached to a holder. It will even work with custom 3D printed tails for specific needs which sounds like a nice open tool. Plus, other peripherals can also be plugged in via various ports
The accessories add a total of eight new completely customisable buttons or joystick style inputs. These can be programmed to do simple single tasks or complex macros, and can be customised per app or game to do different things. This further allows people to have more control, and helps to level the playing field when it comes to interacting with computers.
In the demonstration video, examples like being able to set up a button or joystick that can be mounted to a chair and used by someone’s cheek show how this opens up more possibilities. The player, who runs the Ability Powered (opens in new tab) accessibility blog explains how this one addition allows them far more control over the game, thanks to having more buttons and actions they can immediately access. I can’t think of many gamers who don’t want a bit more control in their games.
Microsoft’s new range of adaptive accessories really do look like a great step in the direction of inclusive tech. Given not all strides towards accessibility are necessarily helpful ones, it’s always good to see such a sincere effort offer practical implementations.