Kentaro Yoshinari, an extremely competitive gamer, has spinal muscular atrophy. He says that people with disabilities can’t always play regular sports, but they can play computer games under the same conditions as everyone else. Kentaro, as well as many other people with disabilities, is a patient at Hokkaido Medical Center in Japan’s far north. There, gaming has become a regular part of the treatment and rehabilitation process.
Just like Kentaro, the occupational therapist, Eiichi Tanaka, who works at the hospital, is a keen gamer. Tanaka commented:
“We currently have about 100 patients in our neuromuscular rehabilitation centre who have been hospitalized for a long time. And 70 to 80% of them play computer games using smartphones, PCs and consoles.”
He has been giving courage to disabled people to play games since 1998. But there was a problem related to the fact that console controllers used to be designed only for players who could use fingers on both hands to move characters, attack enemies, talk and so on.
Tanaka and his colleagues would modify controllers with accessories to meet the needs and abilities of individual patients. But customizing controllers this way wasn’t at all easy or cheap.
That changed in 2018 with the debut of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, which has a large panel designed for easy operation by people with disabilities, as well as multiple ports for connection of additional buttons and other accessories. It exemplifies inclusive design principles like “recognize exclusion” “learn from diversity” and “solve for one, extend to many”.
The staff and patients of Hadikko Medical Center made a video about its impact with the aim to show how Xbox Adaptive Controllers can be used to play games from the perspective of people with disabilities.
Due to COVID-19, people involved in the use of Xbox Adaptive Controllers in Tokyo were unable to visit the centre to help with the video’s production. That’s why Microsoft Teams was used to connect staff in Hokkaido and Tokyo to develop the story and confirm production details. They wanted the video to be useful to people all around the world, so production staff also used Microsoft Translator and other tools in order to create English subtitles.
The video presents some of the characteristics of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, showing how people with limited mobility are able to use them.
Yoshinari shares he wants other people with disabilities to be aware that there are sports in the world they would be able to enjoy. He hopes that everyone who sees this video would understand how disabled people are able to play computer games just like everybody else.
Yoshinari is looking forward to connecting with more and more people from all around the world through games.