Microsoft had a chance to launch its adaptive controller. Robin Seiler, Microsoft's corporate vice president of Windows and devices, said that the accessibility-focused Xbox controller was close to not shipping.

The Xbox controller that was designed for accessibility was on the chopping block. Microsoft's budget was about to be unfunded and never released. We said, 'No this is important for the world.' This isn't about revenue or brand positioning; it's important for people to be able to play games

The idea for the adaptive controller came from a Microsoft Hackathon. A group of Microsoft employees decided to improve the company's accessibility efforts regardless of the budget. Microsoft employees in manufacturing in China, design in Redmond, and the XBOX team came together to make it happen.

The packaging for the Xbox Adaptive Controller
The Xbox Adaptive Controller even had accessible packaging.
Image: Microsoft

It was the center of Microsoft's Super Bowl ad in which they told the stories of people with disabilities who had benefited from the adaptive controller. Microsoft employees rebelled against budgets and changed the world for the better.

The success of the adaptive controller has led to the creation of a range of accessories for it. Hori made a third-party accessible controller for the Switch, and Microsoft has helped bring more awareness to hardware accessibility efforts in gaming.

The company's stance on accessibility has changed since the invention of the accessibility controller. accessibility is a priority for Surface and Microsoft as a whole. "If you focus on accessibility, you often make a product that's better for everyone," says the head of Windows and devices research and design. Microsoft has set up an accessibility tech lab to prototype hardware.

It is a big topic for us to be inclusive. Microsoft is a large brand. The better we are the more customers we have. Products that are beautiful but also usable.

Some of the improvements are almost silent, with keyboards made easier to read and packaging made easier to open. An adaptive kit is one of the things that can make Microsoft's laptops more accessible.

A selection of Microsoft Adaptive Accessories being used by two people who are sat at a desk, using a laptop.
Microsoft’s new adaptive Surface accessories.
Image: Microsoft

The latest Surface accessories and the adaptive controller came from Microsoft. The Surface adaptive accessories are designed for people with difficulty using a traditional mouse and keyboard.

It is now a core of the operating system and will follow into the products.

We talked to executives at Microsoft about the past 10 years of Surface and the future of Microsoft's devices. The full interview can be found here.