The Power of Play in Assistive Technology: Xbox Adaptive Controller

Have you heard about the best part of the Super Bowl this year? The Microsoft commercial for their new Xbox adaptive controller touched hearts and absolutely stole the show!

When technology empowers each of us, it empowers all of us. This Super Bowl, follow the inspirational story of passionate young gamers rising to the top of their game with a little help from their friends, family and the Xbox Adaptive Controller.

Little TN Valley has an AT Center, which provides assistive technology to kids so that they can communicate and participate in school and in society — that includes not only ways to learn and work, but ways to play too! Just like the tag line in the commercial:

"When Everybody plays, we all win."

Last week, our AT team was at the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA) Conference where they got hands-on experience with this new AT gaming technology. Not only are big companies like Microsoft trying to find ways to make their technology more accessible, but there is an entire network of AT Makers from a variety of backgrounds who are coming up with creative solutions — usually with a whole lot of ingenuity and just a little bit of spare change.

Instead of the classic Xbox handheld controller with all those tiny buttons, there were controllers for any access point that a child might have—whether they can only use head movements, their mouth, or their feet.

In addition to the new Microsoft adaptive Xbox controller, there were some controllers made by Bill Binko and the people at Including:

  • A pump or push/pull powered controller made from PVC pipe and copper wire. This was made for hands, but can be modified for feet.

  • A "straw" controller that looks like an old school Atari joystick where the user simply blows or sucks into the controller in order to power their character in the game.

  • A controller that to detect head movements made from a computer chip mounted on the arm of an old pair of glasses with the glass removed.

  • And a special steering wheel controller made from cardboard, tape, and copper wire with the buttons moved to a more accessible place.

At the Little TN Valley AT Center, we have partnered with local community organizations, such as the Tellico Village Kiwanis Club, and schools, such as the Lenoir City ES Middle School STEM class, to help create adaptive toys for local area kids with disabilities.

While finding ways to help kids with disabilities be able to engage with the curriculum at school is very important, so is finding ways for them to play and just be kids!

Please visit for more information on the AT Center at Little TN Valley or email any questions to

If you are interested in learning more about AT and meeting AT professionals from across the state, the Tennessee Association for Assistive Technology (TAAT) offers an annual conference where anyone can come to learn. For more information about TAAT, click here:

If you are interested in the AT Makers movement, the video below is a great place to start: