One of the most challenging parts of making things accessible is that there is no one magic thing you can do to make something accessible to all people with disabilities. A wheelchair isn’t going to help a deaf person, for example. There are all kinds of overlapping accessibility needs, and something that helps one person will actively hinder another person. That’s what makes reviewing these kinds of accessibility controllers so challenging. What is comfortable and works for me might not work for you.
That’s why I’m glad the PlayStation Access Controller is so different to the Xbox Adaptive Controller. They are completely different devices, with different shapes and different ways of adapting to people’s needs. At first glance, the customisation options of the PlayStation Access Controller are a bit more limited than that of the Xbox Adaptive Controller, but it also doesn’t require the purchase of so many separate accessories, so that will make it more accessible (in the other sense of the word) to some people.
The first thing that surprised me when taking it out of the box was how light it is, and also how many customisable things are included. There are different heads for the joystick and different wings for the buttons to allow for different shapes when pressing. I really liked that there were little plastic nubbins you could use to denote which button was assigned to which action. It was a thoughtful inclusion, making them easy to switch around instead of just including stickers or something else less movable.
I was also surprised that you can’t get all the actions assigned on one controller. If you have a game that needs you to press all the different buttons, or doesn’t allow you to just use one joystick to control it, you’ll need either a second Access Controller, a regular DualSense, or plug-in foot pedals or other accessories using the included 3.5mm jacks to have extra buttons.
I was impressed by how easy the setup process was to assign all the buttons and get started.
PlayStation Access Controller specifications
Approx. 141 x 39 x 191 mm
Approx. 322 grams (0.7 lbs.)
4 X 3.5mm AUX ports for players to connect additional buttons, specialty trigger switches and other compatible accessories
8 Pillow button caps (attached to controller) 4 Flat button caps 4 Curve button caps 2 Overhang button caps 1 Wide flat button caps Standard stick cap Dome stick cap (attached to controller) Ball stick cap 23 Tags
As you can see, it doesn’t have the vibrations or variable resistance triggers (or really any triggers) that eat up the DualSense’s battery (and aren’t necessarily very accessibility friendly). That nine-hour number on the battery life is pretty decent, and matches up with my experience.
The performance of the controller is highly subjective because it depends on how it works with your body and disability. I’m not living with a disability. I do have a tendency to dislocate my thumbs and other joints every week or so, so my experience with this controller will be different to yours.
Before looking at the PlayStation Access Controller, it’s important to look at the Xbox Adaptive Controller. Microsoft’s accessibility device is just a flat pad with two large buttons and a D-pad. It’s designed to be a blank canvas. You bring all the switches, straws, foot pedals, and whatever else you need to it. It’s a foundation for you to set up in any which way, but it thus has a lot of hidden costs and it’s difficult to know how much the full controller setup will cost when you start.
From that perspective, the design of the PlayStation Access Controller means you don’t need to add as many accessories and it has a more affordable barrier to entry. The round design of the controller took some getting used to, and it didn’t really lend itself to any games that required fast reflexes. But is that down to the design of the controller, or me working against decades of muscle memory? It’s tricky to say definitively.
When I first saw the controller, I have to admit to thinking that it looked like an ergonomic nightmare, but I was surprised by how comfortable it was. I have large hands and loose ligaments, so it’s easy for me to reach all the buttons. Being able to set it up so that the buttons I needed most often were clustered helpfully was a huge help.
I would class it as having the same comfort level as using an arcade controller. It’s actually a very similar vibe to an arcade controller because of the flat setup. I can see some fighting game fans perhaps gravitating towards using PlayStation Access Controllers instead of a more expensive arcade controller setup. Which would be cool in the long run. The more people who buy accessible tech, the more accessible tech gets made. Think of it as gluten-free snacks, rather than disabled parking spaces.
I did not expect to find it comfortable. I slightly dreaded having to review it because it didn’t look set up in a way that would work for my hands, but I was surprised by how comfortable it was. It put less stress on my hands. I didn’t have any palm pain after using it like I sometimes do with traditional PlayStation controllers.
How Many Access Controllers Do You Need To Play?
This is my one big gripe about the Access controller. You can’t just buy one controller and be ready to play. I mean, you can, if you get clever with the profile setups and can switch between them quickly in a game that doesn’t often need more than eight buttons. But there is only one stick on there, and not all games can be locked to just use one stick, and that held me back a lot.
It is technically possible to get away with just the one, though it’s not ideal. You can use up to two Access Controllers and a DualSense together, depending on what suits you best.
Playing with two Access Controllers has become my preference over using one Access Controller and a DualSense. But I’ve also really taken advantage of the foot pedal attachment I have. It’s actually just a great way to play Gran Turismo, as well as being a good option for those who need it. There are lots of switches and other accessories that plug in via a 3.5mm jack, and the Access Controller has four expansion ports, far fewer than the Xbox Adaptive Controller, but better than nothing. There are no USB A ports for external devices, which does limit things a bit given how many USB accessories there are for adaptive controllers.
I’m really hoping that game developers will start releasing suggested Access Controller button configurations for their games, showing which buttons are more necessary and which could be shoved off to a secondary profile for you to switch between. As it stands now, you can play with a single controller if you are able to dedicate proper time and patience to trial and error to set it up perfectly. But two controllers do make the process a bit easier if that kind of setup works for you.
Who is the PlayStation Access Controller for?
The PlayStation Access Controller is for anyone who feels they would benefit from a controller in this shape, with this kind of customisation. It’s not perfect, the lack of ports limits customisation, making it a much more specific controller, whereas the Xbox Adaptive Controller is a base to build anything you need from. But the flip side is that it’s a more complete controller out of the box with lower setup costs, and less setup and pack down hassle whenever you want to play.
Adaptable play styles – Swappable button and stick caps Configure the Access controller’s button layout to suit your range of mobility and switch between the included stick caps to find the shape and texture that works best for you. Adjustable stick length – Lengthen or shorten the control stick’s extension arm, then lock it down at your ideal length for comfort and convenience
Built for easy access – Place the controller wherever play is most comfortable for you: from any 360° orientation, on different flat surfaces, a wheelchair tray, or attached to an AMPS pattern mount
Expandable inputs – Join forces with other controllers Use up to two Access controllers together or combine one or two Access controllers with a DualSense or DualSense Edge wireless controller to add features like haptic feedback, adaptive trigger, motion sensor, and touch pad swipe to your setup