PlayStation Access Controller Makes Gaming More Seamless for People With Disabilities

The customizable controller features large, swappable buttons and sits flat on a table or wheelchair tray. We got our hands on it.

Abrar Al-Heeti Technology Reporter
Abrar Al-Heeti is a technology reporter for CNET, with an interest in phones, streaming, internet trends, entertainment, pop culture and digital accessibility. She's also worked for CNET's video, culture and news teams. She graduated with bachelor's and master's degrees in journalism from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Though Illinois is home, she now loves San Francisco -- steep inclines and all.
Expertise Abrar has spent her career at CNET analyzing tech trends while also writing news, reviews and commentaries across mobile, streaming and online culture. Credentials
  • Named a Tech Media Trailblazer by the Consumer Technology Association in 2019, a winner of SPJ NorCal's Excellence in Journalism Awards in 2022 and has three times been a finalist in the LA Press Club's National Arts & Entertainment Journalism Awards.
Abrar Al-Heeti
3 min read

Announced earlier this year, Sony has built a customizable controller kit for the PlayStation 5 designed for players with disabilities, and it invited CNET to play around with it. The Access controller features large, swappable buttons and stick caps, and players can configure the button layout to suit their needs. The controller also sits flat on a table or wheelchair tray, making it easier to use and access all commands. It's available for preorder now, and will be released Dec. 6, costing $90.

Alvin Daniel, senior technical program manager at Sony Interactive Entertainment, said having accessible games and consoles isn't enough if the controller isn't also accessible.

"Our PlayStation Studios have done an amazing job with each title and really pushing the boundaries as far as accessible gaming," Daniel said "The critical link in that chain is the controller."

PlayStation Access controller sits next to the DualSense controller

The Access controller is circular with buttons all along the edge, and a joystick on the side. The buttons and commands are customizable.

John Kim/CNET

The Access controller is circular and features buttons all along the edge, as well as a joystick jutting out from the side. It can be played at any 360-degree position, so you can set it to operate however best suits your needs and mobility. It also has four expansion ports so players can attach any additional controllers or accessories. 

The PlayStation team worked with accessibility consultants to ensure the controllers were designed with a variety of needs in mind. Each detail was carefully considered and assessed, from the unboxing process (which can be done one-handed, thanks to a series of loops and a simple layout) to the buttons, which are magnetic to allow for swapping different shapes and sizes without them falling off during play.

"As someone who's disabled, you're given tons of accessible equipment that feels medical; it feels like something that's from the hospital," said Cesar Flores, an accessibility consultant who worked alongside the Access controller team. He says what sets this PlayStation controller apart is, "If you look closely on each of those buttons, there's tiny X's, squares, triangles -- that's so special. That's the difference right there, because that really makes it so I feel like I'm just going to game."

The Access controller sells for $90 -- about $20 more than the DualSense wireless controller, and with a similar battery life. 

Microsoft also released a $100 Xbox Adaptive Controller in 2018 to promote accessibility for gamers. 

PlayStation joins a growing list of brands and companies that have expanded their accessibility offerings in recent years. Apple has released features like People Detection, which lets blind and low-vision iPhone and iPad users know how close someone is to them, and Live Captions on iPhone, iPad and Mac help people follow along with audio and video on FaceTime, video conferencing apps and streaming media. Google, meanwhile, has unveiled features like Live Transcribe, which offers real-time speech-to-text transcriptions for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, and Guided Frame, which helps blind and low-vision Pixel users take selfies. 

This larger shift is indicative of heightened awareness around the importance of accessibility in everything from tech to gaming -- a welcome change for many in the community.

"When you have a disability, you don't want to be reminded that you have a disability," Flores, the accessibility consultant, said. "Especially while gaming."