How Xbox is getting accessibility right

From releasing its adaptive controller to tackling loneliness in older people, Xbox has proved how much creative scope there is for brands that commit to accessibility

London’s Victoria & Albert Museum isn’t the first place you’d look for video game history. But in 2018, the museum’s Rapid Response Collecting programme acquired a surprising new object – the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Designed the same year, the device has 150% larger buttons than standard controllers, and can be connected to foot pedals or joysticks – meaning users can customise it depending on their needs. It’s the first mass-market piece of hardware for disabled people and, according to principal designer Chris Kujawski, it required a lot of research to get the design right.

“We can throw a stone from campus and hit a hundred Xbox gamers, and it’s really easy to have them come in on a Tuesday afternoon and give feedback,” he told CR of the process. “It’s much more difficult to find gamers with disabilities, and it’s more difficult a lot of the time for them to come to campus.”

The controller wasn’t just a one-off project however. Xbox has continued its commitment to a broader audience with a succession of creative campaigns, including a project with sight impaired gamer Steve Saylor – which turned his game-fuelled dreams into a 3D audio story – and its Beyond Generations initiative, which showed how gaming can bring different age groups together.