December 4, 2023

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Xbox controller helps paralyzed patients play video games

One Ontario health-care facility is helping patients with disabilities to play video games with the launch of a new adaptive gaming program.

The initiative, implemented at the West Park Healthcare Centre in Toronto, fits patients with custom gaming technology, allowing those with different medical conditions and injuries to play on video game consoles.

“We kind of pick up where acute care leaves off, so many of our patients … are dealing with complex medical conditions that impact their functional abilities and often leave them hospital-bound,” Tim Park, an occupational therapist at the West Park Healthcare Centre, told CTVs Your Morning on Wednesday. “[Video gaming] can open up a whole new world of recreation as well as social interaction for our patients.”

Most video game controllers must be used with several fingers across two hands. But for those with limited mobility, this can act as a barrier to playing video games at all.

The Xbox adaptive controller used as part of the gaming program can be easily customized to meet the diverse needs of different patients, with several ports to attach a wide range of accessories that make gaming more accessible. The modified controller features large-sized buttons and allows patients to use their hands, feet, mouth or other body parts to engage with the technology. It’s also the first of its kind to be designed and manufactured by a major tech company. Helping to fund the program was a special grant from Scotiabank.

“We can make this completely personalized to whatever the needs of our patients are, regardless of what their [functionality] may be,” said Park, who works on the program.

The Xbox adaptive video game controller. (

The technology is significantly helping patients, Park said, especially those who grew up playing video games prior to developing their condition or injury.

Nic Leocadio is one of the patients at West Park Healthcare Centre. With a combination of complex conditions, Leocadio hadn’t played video games for 14 years until the launch of the adaptive program. He uses his chin and tongue to operate the controls.

“I take it seriously, I don’t like losing,” Leocadio told CTVNews Toronto. “The special switch, it helps a lot to play games, and it helps to use my brain too.”

Marc Barclay is another patient at the health-care centre, and has muscular dystrophy. He said being able to play video games has an emotional benefit, too.

“It kind of gives you some confidence [to] make you feel like you can still do certain things that you used to do,” he told CTVNews Toronto.

By conducting additional research on the positive benefits of the gaming program, the goal is to share results with other health-care providers to encourage them to develop similar programs themselves, Park said.

“By opening up this program, [we’re] showing them that they can still play the game that they love … It’s just broken down a lot of barriers for them,” he said. “[We’re] trying to share the joy of gaming.”

Watch the full video with CTV’s Your Morning at the top of this article to learn more about the gaming program at West Park Healthcare Centre.