School Health Product Review - Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller

Gabriel Ryan, School Health Blog Writer and Contributor


Action, adventure, fighting, puzzle, racing, role-playing, simulation, sports, and strategy are some of the most common types of video games. I have enjoyed playing video games for as long as I can remember and I am excited to head to the game store to get the newest release of the latest games, game systems, and accessories. Having Cerebral Palsy, for me, means that my arms and hands are a bit tight and hand-eye coordination takes extra focus and effort. Playing video games, though, was something I could do independently as well as together with family and friends. I found it to be an activity where we were all on an equal playing field and having a great time.

As years went by, I started having difficulty playing some of the newer games. The sequence of buttons that needed to be used on the controller for the characters became more complex, which was too hard for my hands and fingers to maneuver. It became frustrating and no longer fun for me. It was at that point I boxed up my game systems and games, put them away in the closet, and stopped playing all together.

Then, in September of 2018, something interesting happened. Microsoft released the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Not a medical company, not a super special different therapy device, but instead a video game controller with possibilities. Wow! I’d been following the development of the prototype since first learning of it in 2017. This Introduction to the Adapted Controller video showcases the features from a user perspective. Several prototype videos showed gamers with a variety of disabilities able to operate the controller. 

A few basic features Microsoft shares on their website about this Adaptive Controller:

  • For use with Xbox Consoles and Windows 10 PC’s
  • Large buttons with nonskid backing
  • Wireless Bluetooth connectivity and USB-C
  • Nineteen, 3.5 mm ports, two USB ports, and one 3.5mm stereo headset jack
  • Connect with external devices such as switches, buttons, mounts, and joysticks
  • Internal lithium-ion battery that can be charged with the included cable
  • Customize your experience through button remapping

It was so exciting to see the first Adapted Controller commercial about this product, which debuted during the Superbowl. The commercial ends with a statement on the screen “When everybody plays, we all win”. How amazing is that to see, read, and know that there is this huge mainstream company out there working directly with individuals with disabilities and developing products to overcome barriers we often face - in this case, the aspect of gaming.

Little did I know, I was in for an unexpected gift. My family surprised me with a new Xbox and Adapted Controller when they became available! I have now had my Adaptive Controller for two years and continue to learn the best way to use it.


Here are a few things I have discovered about using it:

  • Having a variety of switches and joysticks to try with the controller is helpful. Games are all different and require various movement sequences and I like utilizing the large buttons on the adapted controller. Some of the switches and joysticks I have enjoyed using are the large and small smoothie switches, candy corn proximity switch, quad stick ultra-stick, micro light switch, and one handed joystick.
  • Using a non-skid GRIP board or the GRIP mat on a tray surface is a great way to set up the switches and controller so they don’t slide away from you during game play.
  • I use a tray on my wheelchair which allows for a gap between the tray and my body. During games, controllers tend to move and eventually slide between me and the tray. One quick fix was to cut a small pool or exercise noodle the width of the inside of my tray and make a lengthwise cut along the pool noodle to slide it over the tray creating a bumper guard and the additional benefit of a forearm rest.
  • Connecting with groups such as Able Gamers online through websites and Facebook has been very helpful to learn how others use the Adapted Controller and what games they enjoy.
  • It’s been important to take breaks, with all that excitement, it’s easy to strain muscles you are not used to using! Also to stay hydrated, I keep my Giraffe Bottle within reach.
  • Have patience - finding games you like and learning how you can play them takes time! Many game developers are expanding their design to include accessibility features and several are interested in player feedback. 

The Xbox One game system has a feature I really like called copilot. This feature allows you to link two controllers so they can operate as one. Although any two game controllers can be connected, I enjoy connecting the Adapted Controller and playing some of the more difficult games with this feature for a few reasons. First, I am playing together with family or friends, which is always fun. Second, each player can have an important role in the game. For example, one person playing can move the game character, while the other person playing can complete actions like picking items up or interacting with other players in a game. In one of the games I like to play, there is a feature to drive a car and by using copilot, I will usually operate the gas pedal and a fellow gamer will steer the car.

The Microsoft Xbox Adaptive Controller has enhanced or created opportunities for people with disabilities who are interested in gaming. Several years ago, when I boxed up my gaming systems in frustration, I would never have imagined it would only be a few short years that I would rediscover the enjoyment of gaming once again!


Microsoft offers suggestions for accessories that work with the Adaptive Controller such as switches, mounts, and joysticks. Logitech offers an adaptive gaming kit. School Health also carries a selection of switches that are compatible with the Adaptive Controller. Here are a few resources related to adaptive equipment, gamer organizations and review forums you may find useful if you or someone you know is interested in learning more about gaming.

  • AbleGamers- A 501(c)(3) nonprofit charity organization that wields the power of gaming to break down the barriers of economic and social isolation for children, adults, and veterans with disabilities.
  • ATMakers- org introduces Makers and Assistive Technology (AT) users and give these two communities the tools they need to collaborate.
  • AbleNet- Assistive technology products and curriculum solutions designed specifically for individuals with disabilities.
  • Evil Controllers- Modified and customized controllers for Xbox One, Xbox 360, PS3 and PS4. Some can be used by one hand or are switch-activated. They include features such as auto-aim or rapid-fire.
  • RJ Cooper & Associates- Multiple options for custom controllers which include button location, size, larger joysticks and mounts.
  • DAGER System- Source for accessibility reviews and video games.
  • Disabled Gamers- Reddit message board for posting links and questions about game accessibility.
  • Game Accessibility- Aims to inform disabled gamers about the availability of accessible games, and acts as an academic resource for developers, publishers and researchers to stimulate accessibility in games.
  • International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Game Access SIG- Wants to make video games playable for everyone, especially gamers with disabilities.
  • Warfighter Engaged- Nonprofit organization devoted to improving the lives of wounded veterans through adapted devices related to adaptive gaming.


Posted in SH Special Education Today Newsletter