David’s Adapted Gaming Controller | Case Study

David’s gaming set-up

David used to love playing football games on a games console when he was younger. He has quadriplegic cerebral palsy which meant that as consoles became more complex, a standard controller became too difficult to use. His mum contacted SpecialEffect to find out whether there were options which could help David play again.

Through video calls, SpecialEffect supported David and his mum remotely throughout the COVID-19 restrictions. An initial call took place to discuss his game of choice, FIFA.  An initial set-up was agreed, equipment was loaned and a follow-up call was booked to talk through setting up the equipment.

In this post we will share the techniques and equipment the SpecialEffect team used to create David’s custom set-up specific to his needs and abilities. By sharing David’s gaming solution, we hope to show a wider range of the options available for gaming using a set-up tailored to the individual.

The information in this article is correct to the best of our knowledge at the time of writing (Dec 2021).

Screenshot of Fifa 22 Accessibility menu.
FIFA 22 Accessibility Menu

Accessing the Controls

Challenge: David’s cerebral palsy makes any controlled movement difficult for him.  He demonstrated that he found fine motor movements difficult, so couldn’t achieve accurate control of small controller joysticks.  David needed access to at least the left joystick to play FIFA.   

Solution: Since David reported he felt he had the movement to use a large joystick successfully, we trialled a Pretorian Optima Joystick as its low profile design is sturdy for mounting and the joystick resistance and topper shape appeared compatible with his movements.  It is also compatible with the Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC), which could act as a switch interface for David’s set-up (see below). The joystick was mounted, using a Manfrotto mounting arm above and at an angle to the joystick on his wheelchair.  This position enabled David to achieve accurate control of his players in FIFA. 

Challenge: David was unable to use his hands to access any small buttons.  FIFA requires access to the ‘A’ button, at the least, on an Xbox One console.

Solution: David was able to demonstrate good head movement to the left, which he had previously used to access a head switch.  A Buddy Button switch, acting as the ‘A’ button, was mounted to the headrest of his wheelchair using Velcro. 

He was happy to trial this as a starting point.  If it becomes uncomfortable over time, a softer topped switch or alternative switch position can be explored. 

A photo of a Pretorian Optima joystick.
A Pretorian Optima Joystick with small nub topper.

Making the joystick and switch work on the Xbox One

Challenge: The switch ports that are built into the Optima Joystick would not natively work as the ‘A’ button for the Xbox One. A compatible switch interface is required to facilitate the button and joystick to work with the Xbox One.  

Solution: An XAC was used to get the Optima Joystick and Buddy Button working on the Xbox One.

The XAC is a switch interface which enables you to create a customised controller set-up. For more information, please see this video for a detailed overview of the XAC: An Xbox Adaptive Controller Overview – GameAccess

Image of the Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC).
Photo of the Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC)


Challenge: David wanted to be able to play FIFA independently, if possible.

Solution: David is able to successfully control a large joystick and one switch, as described above.  FIFA has a variety of accessibility features.  The joystick was plugged into the ‘left joystick’ port on the XAC to enable David to control the player’s movements. By changing the settings to ‘One Button Mode’, David can access the game independently using just one joystick and button. (More details on these settings in FIFA 21 here. )

Challenge:  David was also interested in other games that don’t have the same accessibility features as FIFA and cannot be played with a single joystick and switch. 

Solution:  Copilot is an accessibility feature available on Xbox One, Xbox Series consoles and Windows 10 PCs. It allows you to combine inputs from two Xbox One controllers. Xbox Copilot mode would enable a family member or friend to use the standard Xbox One controller to play alongside David as the same player within any game.  Using the XAC, David’s switch could be made to act as one key control within whatever game was being played.  His partner could use the standard controller for the rest of the controls.

This article goes into detail about how Copilot works, and how to turn it on on Xbox console and Windows 10 PC: How to set up Copilot on Xbox One & Windows 10 | How To… Video – GameAccess

Photo of David with his head switch velcroed onto his head rest.
Close-up of David’s head switch

Access to other equipment while gaming

Challenge : David needs access to his Tellus device for communication at all times. He controls this using his SmartNav device, so he wanted access to this whilst gaming.

Solution: The joystick, switch and TV were all carefully positioned so that David could still access his wheelchair controls via the Tellus device whilst gaming.  

Photo of David's set-up being used to access Fifa.
Close-up of David playing FIFA

List of Equipment Used:

Below is a list of the equipment we used to create David’s set-up, with unaffiliated links to the products on the manufacturers’ own websites where possible. Other suppliers are available in most cases:

Xbox Adaptive Controller:

Xbox Adaptive Controller | Xbox

Screenshot of the Xbox Adaptive Contoller as it appears on the Xbox One when initially setting it up.
XAC screenshot from Xbox One settings

Optima Joystick | Pretorian

Image of Pretorian Optima joystick with large foam ball topper.
Pretorian Optima Joystick with large foam ball topper

Buddy Button:

Buddy Button | Inclusive Technology (other resellers also available)

Image of a Buddy button.
Buddy Button switch

Softy Top:

Softytop | Inclusive Technology (other resellers also available)

Image of a Softy top switch.
Softytop switch

We hope that reading about an individuals controller set-up gets with ideas on creating your own customised controller. More examples of custom controller set-ups can be found using the Case Study tag.

If you have any questions about this controller set-up, please visit the Contact Us page.