Switch it up with Accessibility

By Milan Patel

My name is Milan Patel and I live with a neuromuscular disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). I am currently a Graphic Design student and an amateur Photographer, as well as a YouTuber.  As an avid gamer, living with DMD has caused me to adapt the way I game multiple times over my 24 years because of weakening muscles. There was even a period about six years ago where I thought I would be done playing. For the most part, I play on the PlayStation 4 with an adapted DualShock 4 controller from Evil Controllers and have been playing more on the Nintendo Switch. Even so, I am always looking for ways to make gaming more accessible.

It has only been a couple weeks since I received my Nintendo Switch on April 1, 2020. I have wanted one since it came on the market, but I finally decided to get it to join the Animal Crossing: New Horizons fandom. There was a bit of hesitation purchasing it, as I was not sure if I could hold the Joy-Cons because of the unique shape of my hands or reach every button. All the years playing PlayStation 4 had molded my hands to the shape of the DualShock 4 controller. Fortunately, I had discovered a simple adapter from a company called 8BitDo that allows other controllers to be used on the Switch, so that was an option.

To my surprise, the Joy-Cons felt decent in my hands when I had them separated with one in each hand. Even though they felt comfortable, I was struggling to reach every button when I started Animal Crossing, so the adapter was the best option because it was cheaper than the Switch Pro Controller. Now even with my adapted DualShock 4 controller, I make use of the Button Assignments on PlayStation to remap buttons in nearly every game because certain buttons are easier to reach than others. Button remapping is an option that allows players to change what function a button does when pressed. The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One have had this implemented for a couple years now.

As I looked through the Switch accessibility settings, it was disappointing to see the option to remap buttons did not exist. That meant it would limit me in which games I could play. I did not think the option would be implemented anytime soon. When I saw that there was an update available this past week, I didn’t really think anything of it. It was a welcome surprise to see the Button Remapping menu appear only two weeks after my Switch arrived. 

A variety of games have button layouts that can be altered in their own Accessibility menus, but often the options are limited. System-wide remapping adds a different element because it does not matter what game is being played. Due to this, I can now press all the important buttons in Animal Crossing without a struggle and can now enjoy Mario Kart as I can change the button layout to what is the most comfortable for myself.

A picture containing a button layout from the Nintendo Switch.

Much like Microsoft with the Xbox One, Nintendo has actually gone one step further with the Switch and added Profiles to the Button Remapping menu. This means that players can save specific button layouts, so they do not need to change them each time a different game is played. Instead, they just need to select the specific profile. Button remapping is something that is honestly a game changer for many gamers. I would struggle quite a bit with many of my favorite games without the remapping option. It has only been a short amount of time since the update came out, but it will be beneficial to many people who could not play the Nintendo Switch comfortably in the past. It is never a negative to have more accessibility in video games.

Milan can be found on Instagram and Twitter as @patelasaur, on YouTube as Patelasaur, and his blog can be found at www.patelasaur.com.

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