A new accessibility device turns a wheelchair into an Xbox gamepad

Gaming charity AbleGamers has a new device that lets disabled players control their Xbox games directly through a wheelchair. It’s a breakthrough in gaming accessibility, and for those who qualify through AbleGamers’ grant program, the device is completely free.

Dubbed the “Freedom Wing Adapter,” the device connects players’ power wheelchairs and the Xbox Adaptive Controller so they can play games from their wheelchair’s controls. Speaking to Digital Trends, AbleGamers Chief Operations Officer Steve Spohn said his company partnered with the assistive technology group ATMakers on the device and will publish instructions on how to build one at home.

“It’s really just miraculous that this device can take my own personal wheelchair — the joystick that I use to drive it every day to do my own personal living and my own personal life — and now, through the power of magic and unicorns and whatever else we use to make adapters, is what I can control Rocket League with,” Spohn said in the video.

Spohn previously assisted with the development of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, making it the logical fit for implementation on this project. Rather than a one-size-fits-all solution, the Xbox Adaptive Controller allows players to attach accessories that best fit their unique needs.

In a video outlining the device’s creation and function, Spohn — a Digital Trends guest contributor — controlled Rocket League and is seen moving his vehicle along the wall and taking shots without using a traditional controller. Players only need one joystick and a button, though those with more complex wheelchairs can control more games.

steven spohn able gamers
Courtesy of AbleGamers

The Freedom Wing Adapter’s originated from attempts to emulate a joystick on a wheelchair to assist children with spinal muscular atrophy.

“Any gaming is possible. Platformers and racing games might be the most likely candidates, but there’s no reason you couldn’t get down with your favorite game of Fortnite or World of Warcraft all the same,” Spohn told Digital Trends.

Xbox Adaptive Controller creator Microsoft was also excited about the Freedom Wing Adapter, as the Xbox Adaptive Controller was built to be as customizable as possible.

“We’re always so excited to see what the community creates and how they customize the controller to play in new ways that work best for them,” Xbox senior program manager Gabi Michel told Digital Trends.

ATMakers teamed with Orlando, Florida-based GRA-V Robotics, which is now producing the devices for players in need. Because the total cost of the parts is only about $30, those with basic soldering skills should be able to make one themselves once instructions are posted online.

Updated on 2-3-2020 with quote from Microsoft representative

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