Josh’s Adapted Gaming Controller | Case Study

Josh with his gaming set up.

Josh has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and wanted to play football and sports video games, so his mum got in contact with SpecialEffect to explore ways to achieve this.

SpecialEffect supported Josh remotely through video calls during the COVID-19 restrictions. An initial call with him took place to discuss the games he wanted to play, the difficulties he was having and to determine what equipment was suitable for him to initially try. This equipment was then posted to him and a second call was organised to help get the equipment set up and positioned.

In this post we share the techniques and equipment the SpecialEffect team used to create Josh’s controller. The solutions we used were combined to create a customised controller setup that was specific to his abilities, but we hope that sharing them will help show some of the range of options that are available to create a setup that is tailored to the needs of the individual.

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

Controller Access

Difficulty: Josh reported that he has good use of his right hand and can play for short periods of time, using just his right hand. However, using just one hand limits how well he can access the controller and causes fatigue.

Solution: If someone has good use of one hand, using this hand to access a standard controller can give them access to a lot of buttons and often at least one of the joysticks. It is often worth using one side of a standard controller and supplementing the controls on the other side with additional equipment. As Josh has good use of his right hand, it was decided that he keep using the right side of the Xbox One controller to access these inputs (which could be improved using mounting – see section below). The inputs on the left side of the controller could be accessed using other equipment.

Close up of an Xbox One controller being used with with right hand.
Right side of an Xbox One controller being used with one hand.

Accessing Left Joystick, Triggers and Buttons

Difficulty: Josh has some good gross movement in his left hand/arm but finds fine motor movement difficult. The left joystick, LT and LB buttons on the left side of the controller are too small for Josh to access with his left hand.

Solution: Josh has good gross movement in his left arm so it was thought a larger joystick could be used for the left joystick function. Due to its size and shape, an Ultra-Stik joystick was tried with Josh.

Photograph of a OneSwitch Ultra-Stik with ball topper being held.
A OneSwitch Ultra-Stik joystick with ball topper.

For the LT and LB buttons, it was thought that Josh could potentially use larger switches for these. Two AbleNet Specs Switches were sent to Josh, which were positioned so that he could access them with his left hand.

A photograph of a Specs Switch being held.
An AbleNet Specs Switch.

Plugging in the Joystick and Switches

Difficulty: The Ultra-Stik joystick and Specs Switches do not plug directly into the Xbox One. A compatible interface is needed to get these working.

Solution: An Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC) was used to get the Ultra-Stik and Specs Switches working on the Xbox One.

The Xbox Adaptive Controller is an interface which enables you to create a customised controller set-up. This video gives a detailed overview of the XAC: An Xbox Adaptive Controller Overview – GameAccess

A photograph of an Xbox Adaptive controller being held.
An Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC)

The Ultra-Stik joystick was plugged into the left USB slot on the XAC.

A photograph of the left USB socket on the XAC.
The left USB socket on the Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC).

The Specs Switches were plugged in along the back of the XAC, where all the 3.5mm jacks are located. The Specs Switches were plugged into the LT and LB ports on the XAC as these are the buttons that Josh cannot access easily on the controller.

A photograph of some of the 3.5mm jacks on the Xbox Adaptive Controller.
Some of the 3.5mm jacks along the back of the Xbox Adaptive Controller (XAC).

Mounting the Equipment

Difficulty:  The equipment that Josh is using needs to be fixed to prevent it from moving around. The Xbox One controller also needs to be mounted to keep it in place so that Josh can access it more easily with a single hand. Josh plays from a variety of different chairs and a standing frame. The equipment needs to be able to move around with Josh.

Solution: A Trabasack Curve Connect was used to fix Josh’s equipment. This is a lap tray which has a flat surface that allows Velcro to be attached to it.

Fixing the equipment to this keeps it in place and using a lap tray means that the equipment can move around with Josh if he sits in different places to play.

The Ultra-Stik joystick was placed on the left side of the tray so that Josh could use it with his left hand.

The Xbox One controller was mounted on the right side of the tray so that Josh could access the right side of this with his right hand. The controller was supported at an angle using a Maxess mount. These are no longer available and so an alternative, such as firm blocks of foam and other materials that provide sufficient support can also be used effectively to support controllers on trays. Having the controller at an angle makes it more comfortable to use and the mount means that the controller is completely supported.

A photograph of a small Maxess mount being held.
A small Maxess mount.

The AbleNet Specs Switches were placed on the tray, just underneath the Xbox One controller. Josh could use his right hand to press these.

Josh’s set-up mounted on a Trabasack tray.

Setting Up Two Controllers to Copilot

Difficulty: Josh’s set-up requires the use of both a standard Xbox One controller and an Xbox Adaptive Controller, at the same time.

Solution: Copilot was turned on on Josh’s Xbox One console. 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. This article goes into detail on how Copilot works, and how to turn it on on an Xbox console and Windows 10 PC: How to set up Copilot on Xbox One & Windows 10 | How To… Video – GameAccess

Josh using his gaming set-up to play a basketball game.

With this set-up Josh can effectively access all the games that he wants to play. Josh has been successfully using this set-up to play sports games, Minecraft and Roblox.

SpecialEffect will keep in contact with Josh and make any changes that he needs to his setup.

List of Equipment Used:

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

Xbox Adaptive Controller:

Xbox Adaptive Controller | Xbox

OneSwitch Ultra-Stik:

Accessible Gaming Shop – Ultra-Stik –

Trabasack Curve Connect:

AbleNet Specs Switch:

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