It took decades, but the gaming industry finally started to look more closely at people with disabilities. It was only in this generation that accessibility became an issue to be faced and worked on by studios and manufacturers, whether with options that facilitate access to these games or with the launch of controls and peripherals that make life a little easier for this audience. time to play. And the new PlayStation 5 Access controller is one of those welcome additions.
With a fully modular design, the recently launched Sony accessory arrives in stores with the aim of solving one of the main challenges when it comes to accessibility. After all, how can we design a device capable of meeting an almost infinite range of user needs, which can range from motor difficulties to the absence of limbs and the like?
The solution found was to bring a joystick that suits each of these individual realities. This is Access’ greatest asset, as it was designed to be assembled and disassembled in different ways, adjusting to what the user needs and how they want it. And it’s impressive to see how he manages to achieve all of this — even with some small caveats.
There’s no denying that the design is the most eye-catching thing about Access — and also the smartest. In this mission to replace the DualSense and deliver a control that can be used by people with different types of disabilities, Sony opted for a slightly different and unusual design, but which works perfectly well for what it proposes.
The joystick appears as a kind of disc surrounded by small buttons. The format is designed to make it easier for people with reduced mobility, for example, to access the keys easily. At the same time, all nine buttons present (there are eight surrounding the disc and one in the central part) are large and can be pressed with minimal effort or difficulty.
The secret, however, lies in the variety of options this album presents. More than bringing these buttons within anyone’s reach, what sets Access apart is the possibility of customizing this configuration in different ways. Each of the buttons and even the analogue lever can be removed and replaced with other options that come with the control.
This is what makes the joystick so versatile and interesting. It has five button options with different shapes that can be attached to the main structure. Do you need a bigger key to be pressed with little pressure? He has. Need a button with a little more depth to fit your fingers better? Also has. Need an analog with a bigger footprint? You can opt for an arcade-style lever, for example.
And this whole exchange is very simple to make. The keys are magnetically attached, which means that they are securely attached to the central structure, without escaping during gameplay. However, at the same time, they do not create barriers when being replaced, as the exchange does not require force or additional accessories: just a little more pressure in the right way to remove them.
The Access basic kit contains 19 buttons inside the box, in addition to three analogue options — enough to create an almost infinite number of combinations. Because mapping the control is quite simple and there is the possibility of storing different profiles within the same joystick. Furthermore, Sony has released instructions for the community to create other button formats using 3D printers, which should make the control even more interesting.
Despite all this versatility, the Access is quite small. It is just 141mm wide by 191mm deep and just 39mm tall. This size can still vary slightly, as it is possible to adjust the distance between the analog stick and the other buttons by a few centimeters to offer more comfort to the player. In total, the affordable PS5 controller weighs 322 grams.
Connectivity and compatibility
Although it’s more than obvious, it’s a little sad to think that a controller as versatile and interesting as Access is exclusive to the PlayStation 5, not working on PCs or other consoles. It was designed and thought only for the current generation video game, and does not even run on the PS4.
That said, it works very well inside the PS5. Just like the DualShock, it also connects to the console via Bluetooth, eliminating the need for wires and all that work involving peripherals — yes, I’m talking about the PlayStation VR2. Just connect the controller to the video game once via a USB-C cable to pair and that’s it.
It also has four 3.5mm auxiliary inputs — our popular P2 — that can be used to connect other accessibility accessories like extra pedals and buttons. LogiTech announced that it will launch such a kit in partnership with Sony in early 2024.
Anyway, the highlight here is how easy Access is to configure. Upon making the first connection to the system, the PS5 immediately opens a guide that is very detailed and explains not only each of the functions of the new joystick — including how to change the parts — but also shows all the existing adjustment possibilities.
This is where we really see how versatility is not an empty word in the joystick concept. It’s not just about being a control with larger or simplified buttons for people with disabilities. In fact, the player can map and configure Access however they want, including thinking about different types of games.
The control has a Profiles system in which it is possible to store up to three different layouts and switch between them with the press of a button. If you are a fan of fighting games, you can create a definition focused on this genre. But if you want to jump into a racing game or even something more action-oriented, you can just change the profile and that’s it.
It seems trivial, but it’s the kind of thing that makes all the difference in the user’s life. After all, he won’t lose his previous definitions, in the same way that he won’t be stuck with a single style. This is what makes the idea of infinite combinations not a simple exaggeration.
Furthermore, Access can be used in conjunction with other controls, be they another accessibility control or even a DualSense. This is essential to expand the possibilities, whether by creating alternatives for those who need less assistance or for those who have a disability that requires more buttons or more specific adjustments.
Like the DualSense, PlayStation Access also runs on battery power. Apart from the initial connection via USB-C, it is an entirely wireless device and its battery life is impressive.
As it does not have some of the additional features of the DualSense, such as the vibration motor and adaptive triggers, the control autonomy is significantly greater. While the standard PlayStation 5 joystick has the charge to support between 12 and 15 hours of play, the Access lasts more than twice that.
So much so that, in our tests, it was not necessary to recharge the battery at any time, even after days of continuous play.
Although all these technicalities are very interesting, the litmus test for a control focused on accessibility is precisely its use. To achieve this, we had the support of two people with different types of disabilities, who tested Access and what it is capable of offering.
The first test was carried out with Gabriel Borsoi, a player with chronic rheumatism who has reduced mobility in his fingers due to pain. According to him, using the DualShock or DualSense for slightly longer periods is something very complicated and that was precisely what we focused on in the Access tests.
Competitive gamer Street Fighter, we focused the test on the Capcom game and the accessible joystick did very well both in replacing the traditional controller and in resolving the pain issue. The different buttons and analog sticks that come with the basic kit were enough to transform the Access into a “mini arcade controller”, complete with a control handle and buttons that are easy to access and quick to respond.
With the exception of the difficulty of remembering the positioning of the buttons at first, the adaptation was very simple and it didn’t take long for the combos to come out easily and without forcing your fingers too much. So much so that, after hours of testing — enough for the pain to appear on the DualSense, as Borsoi himself described to us —, the game ended without him feeling the common pain of the traditional controller.
In this case, Access was configured so that the player made as little hand movement as possible during matches. As the control is small, the flat hand was enough to reach all the buttons, so the minimum pressure on one or the other finger was enough to perform the desired strike.
The only drawback in this first test was precisely the small size of the control. Because this is a “mini arcade”, ergonomics ended up being compromised. Keeping the Access on your lap is not the best alternative and, even with the possibility of adjusting the distance from the analog stick, the most intense movements caused either the control to move out of place or the lever itself to come loose.
The second test sought to be a little broader. To do this, we counted on the help of another player with a different type of disability. Samuel Martins has a bad right arm, which means he only has his left hand to play with. Still, he got used to using the DualShock 4 normally, whether to dive into action games and …