According to the Amputee Coalition, the number of people living with limb loss in the United States is nearly two million, and 500 Americans lose a limb every day. While the majority of cases involve lower body amputations, the most common type of amputation according to the National Center for Health Statistics relates to the hands, where loss can involve one or more fingers. That’s followed, in statistical terms, by the loss of one arm.
And that’s just amputations. Many grapple with other forms of physical impairment that limit their ability to use interfaces most of us take for granted, say a gamepad or keyboard and mouse. According to a 2004 IGDA white paper, 48 million people in the U.S. alone identify as “disabled.”
Back when Computer Gaming World was still around, I wrote about an inspiring fellow named Robert Merritt. He had a moderately disabling condition known as hemiplegia, which had paralyzed his right side, right hand and right leg to varying degrees — the result of complications from a surgical procedure performed shortly after his birth to correct a rare heart defect. The surgery induced stroke-like attacks that damaged the left side of his brain and rendered the right side of his body partially immobile. Needless to say, this complicated his relationship with gaming.
A gamer from the age of five (his first experiences was with Magnavox’s Odyssey in 1974) he’d managed to work around the problem over the years by configuring various controllers — joysticks, gamepads, keyboards, multi-button mice and so forth — to allow him to play games like Battlefield, Counter-Strike and Team Fortress Classic. And not just play these games, but according to him, play them competitively.
At the time, Merritt told me he was against specially adapted controllers, so I’m not sure what he’d make of all these newfangled contraptions gizmo-maker Ben Heckendorn has crafted in recent years, but I’d like to think he’d find Heckendorn’s latest contributions intriguing — like these one-handed versions of gamepads for both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
In short, Heckendorn took both controllers apart, then put them back together with all the buttons on one side, allowing someone to play one-handed (assuming their ability to master managing twice as many buttons with a single paw).
The video up top promotes an upcoming episode of Heck’s show during which he’ll apparently pore over the creation of the PS4 controller in detail, and you can check out the Xbox One controller clip below.
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