Microsoft is about to take another major step in improving its commitment towards gaming accessibility. A leaked image shows a new Xbox controller specifically designed to help gamers with disabilities. Sharing a shape similar to the retro controllers one would find on a NES Classic Edition, the rectangular-shaped controller features two large buttons and a directional pad on the front.
This is yet another move by the Xbox team in making gaming more accessible for all. Not only is it the right thing to do morally, it's also smart from a business perspective, as 15% of the population and 20% of casual gamers suffer from a disability. Microsoft has previously added controller remapping functionality to Xbox One on a system level, which is especially helpful for those that need to use a modified controller for gaming.
While full specifications aren't available since the controller still isn't announced by Microsoft, a lot of the controller's functionality has been speculated upon thanks to the available image. The two large buttons appear to be programmable (allowing them to use different actions), and the inclusion of three LED lights could mean that it can store three separate configurations. Different controller functionalities are also listed at the top of the controller. Update: Microsoft has confirmed the Xbox Adaptive Controller. It costs $99.99 and will be available exclusively through the Microsoft Store. HERE is more info.
Accessibility has become an increasingly large issue in gaming. A decade ago it wasn't a given that a title would even feature subtitles, but now most releases come with a variety of accessibility options. These options range from being able to turn off rapid button presses to options that allow blind players to enjoy a game. These improvements help everyone, not just those with disabilities, enjoy games more, such as someone that wants to hear what characters are saying despite being in a noisy room. As the Games Accessibility Guidelines website states, "[Gaming for] profound impairments goes even further, with games meaning therapy, pain relief, escapism and independence."
This won't replace the work that great charities such as Special Effect do in creating controllers for specific disabilities, but there's no doubt that Microsoft selling this controller will help give more gamers the ability to enjoy a full catalog of entertainment. It also shows a real commitment in making gaming more easily available for all. Microsoft has shown much progress in accessibility in recent years from both a software and hardware standpoint.