Xbox Accessibility

Xbox Announces Accessibility Updates for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Global Accessibility Awareness Day [GAAD] Was yesterday [May 16th]. The annual event is meant to shift the culture of technology and digital product development around disability and to improve accessibility. It started with a Canadian founder and has shifted from web design to all corners of technology.

As part of the day’s events, Xbox published a new article on their Xbox Wire platform highlighting that for them, the goal of the day is “to continue to recognize our community of players with disabilities, whose partnership and advocacy have helped create an inclusive and thriving global gaming community.”

The article highlights some of the recent updates Xbox has made for the 450 million disabled gamers and their allies.

First, a response to concerns created when this year’s unauthorized accessories update caused worries that third-party and homebrew-accessible devices would no longer work in the Xbox console environment. To their credit, Xbox quickly informed people of the news and has committed to continuously working on those fears. This most recent article announces that Xbox is rolling out an update for the Xbox Adaptive Controller to include USB support for peripherals and support on the controllers’ 3.5mm inputs for up to 12 buttons, a second stick, and a hat switch. The update will be rolled out in the next few weeks to Xbox Insiders and as a full controller update in the next few months.

With third-party and homebrew solutions in mind, Xbox is committing to streamlining its Designed for Xbox program with accessibility hardware manufacturers to become partners. Helping to onboard these partners faster and work with them in greater detail will help address the importance of expanding gaming for disabled gamers.

A great example of such a partner is Ireland’s Byowave, who’ve spent the past four years working with the Designed for Xbox team on their Proteus Controller kit. The Rubik’s Cube-like modular controller snaps together easily and offers players in the Xbox and PC ecosystems over 100 million traditional and custom configurations, gyroscopic control, and LED lighting. It’s currently available for preorder at an introductory VIP price.

On the gaming side, My Games and Apps on console now allows players to filter and sort games shown in that console menu based on the accessibility or technical features they support. Disabled gamers can now find games that meet their physical or cognitive disabilities by using key terms like “menu narration” and “difficulty levels.”

Finally, Xbox highlights how some of its studios are improving accessibility in their games, including how the development team at Blizzard worked with Diablo‘s disability community to ensure all gamers are welcome in Hell.

For studios looking to achieve similar inclusion levels, Xbox Research has created a Game Accessibility Workshop Toolkit that is now available for all developers. The toolkit includes instructions and visual assets to help conduct game accessibility workshops and begin being accessibility allies in their game development.

For players, the Xbox Ambassador Accessibility Ally Badge will be able to be earned starting next month. This new badge can be earned by completing quests and knowledge checks to reach a new top level in the Xbox Accessibility Explorer Path.