Accessibility is one of the core values at Microsoft. Refining our products so they can be enjoyed by everyone — regardless of physical ability — is extremely important to us. A few years ago, the Xbox team introduced the Xbox Adaptive Controller to make thousands of great games on Xbox and PC accessible to an ever-increasing community of players with disabilities. Although we recognize there is always room for improvement and more work to be done, we’re tremendously proud of the progress that has been made in improving accessibility features on the Windows and Xbox platforms within the last few years. When everybody plays, we all win.
In the United States, July is recognized as Disability Pride Month, and the Microsoft Flight Simulator team would like to shine the spotlight on Lillo and Roberto, two aviation fans from Italy. Due to complications during birth, Lillo is afflicted by spastic quadriplegia, a condition that leaves him with very limited control over his arms and legs. As readers can imagine, this makes it all but impossible for Lillo to enjoy video games using conventional controls.
Lillo and Roberto share a mutual love of flying, and it was on the Facebook group page for the Liguarain Air virtual airline that they met each other. Using his own technical skills and the help of others within the community, Roberto built a custom control setup for Lillo that gives him the capability to fly planes in Microsoft Flight Simulator using only head movements.
Lillo’s special controls use an elaborate combination of hardware and software. According to Roberto, the system is built with the following components:
- 1x Woodpecker central USB hub
- 4x Jelly Bean switches
- Keyvit virtual mouse and keyboard software
- JoyToKey macro program for inputting multiple key combinations with a single button press
In total, the retail price of Lillo’s controls is approximately USD $1,000 plus the time and expertise to assemble and configure the system. That’s certainly pricey, but it’s comparable in cost or even cheaper than some of the home cockpit setups we’ve seen from many able-bodied flight sim fans. Roberto is creating detailed documentation on how to build the control system and plans to make the design freely available to other players with disabilities. You can keep up with the latest news on the FlyLillo Project at their website, http://www.flylillo.com/ (currently in Italian only, English version is under construction).
Together, Lillo and Roberto regularly stream Microsoft Flight Simulator on their Twitch channel, and you can also keep up with their flying adventures on YouTube and Twitter. As a closing comment, they shared the following statement with us:
“We are so proud to be here along with you. We would like to share with you our vision and hope that in the future we can give wings to people affected with disabilities.”
The Sky is Calling.