PlayStation 5 – Accessibility Impressions

Steve Saylor1 minute read

The next generation PlayStation console is here! We can talk about it! No more secrecy! How many more exclamation marks can I make?! A ton!!!

With the new PS5 and the new Dualsense controller Sony is introducing players to a new set of hardware and software. With that comes a new set of accessibility challenges. Check out the video above where I look at what the PS5 has to offer, what it does well/not well, and the potential future of accessibility on Sony’s next generation console.

Watch PlayStation 5 - Accessibility Impressions on YouTube

Console and accessories were provided by Sony PlayStation


Hi, I’m Steve Saylor, I’m blind and if you’re wondering how I’m able to play video games if I’m blind, if you take a look at the video here, or if it’s not there, click the link in the description down below to see exactly what I see when I’m playing video games. It is here, it is time to talk about the PlayStation 5. It’s been in secrecy for so long, but I finally got a chance to get my hands on it and play with it and then also look at the accessibility settings of the PlayStation 5. Is it next-gen for accessibility? We’ll find out, let’s go.

So first I want to say thank you to Sony for sending over a retail unit for me to be able to review for you today and also as well, I’m kind of wearing my NASA hoodie because the first thing I want to talk about when it comes to the PlayStation 5 before I get into the accessibility, is just kind of how space age it feels, from the look of it down to even the DualSense controller, it just looks like it’s futuristic and it’s set somehow in the future of like Star Trek or something like that. And so I kind of felt that it was appropriate to be able to wear a space-age NASA hoodie because I feel very spacey.


In all seriousness, in regards to the PlayStation 5 and just my general thoughts, this is definitely a next-gen console. It is fast, it loads extremely well, it looks gorgeous and it pretty much does exactly what you would expect a new PlayStation to do. In comparison to my own personal PlayStation 4 Pro, you would think the 4k and the HDR will look very similar to what the PlayStation 5 is able to offer, and I can actually tell a little bit of a difference. There is definitely a lot more graphic fidelity when it comes to the games played that are native or optimized for the PlayStation 5. Even older games, like The Last Of Us 2, God of War and Ghost of Tsushima do see a little bit of an update even without the fully optimized version of those games. This video that I’m showing you even right now does not do it justice of how good of a quality this looks, even on my TV that is not able to do full 120 Hertz. It can do 4k UHD at 60 Hertz, but it definitely looks extremely great on my 4k TV and that is something that I am extremely, extremely excited to be able to see what other games can be able to tap into the graphic fidelity that the PlayStation 5 offers.


Another aspect of the PlayStation 5 is that it is fast. I remember when there were rumours of about like how fast the PlayStation 5 is when it comes to even Spiderman where it goes super, super quick and where loading screens are going to almost become a thing of the past. And I can pretty much agree to that. I’ve been testing it out on Myles Morales and on Astro’s Playroom, and it just is just so, so quick, even on older PlayStation 4 games, everything just loads quicker and much smoother and basically if you ever got used to having to be able to scroll through Twitter on your phone while you’re waiting for a game to load, unfortunately with next-gen, you’re going to have to find another habit to be able to do other than maybe, you know what, you’re gonna have to find something else to do, like maybe actually play games because you’ll have the time to be able to do that.


Another really neat feature of the PlayStation 5 is the activity bar. I was a little bit sceptical when I saw a preview video of it earlier in the past month. And I was like, “Well, is anyone going to really use that?” Especially when it comes to like looking at loading up like tips and help for games and jumping into specific activities that you need to be able to accomplish in the game. And I was actually really impressed. I tested it out on Miles Morales, where there was a side mission that I could be able to do. All I had to do on the main home screen of the PlayStation 5 is going to the activity bar, select that activity, hit the play button and within less than five seconds, not only was I playing the game, but I was at the activity that I needed to be at. There was no preamble of having to be able to go to that specific activity or a waypoint being listed on the map. It literally would take you to that spot and start the side mission right away and I was super impressed with that. If more games will be able to tap into that, it’ll make actually trophy hunting a lot easier for this dude.


Another big feature of the PlayStation 5 is, of course, the DualSense controller. This is definitely different than the DualShock 4 controller by a long shot. The button layout is pretty much the exact same, but the look and feel of the controller itself are definitely the major big differences, minus the few functionalities that are in the controller itself and I’ll talk about the accessibility and what these features can do for accessibility in a sec. But I do want to be able to mention that it does feel heavier in the hand in its comparison to the DualShock 4. The face buttons are flatter, the thumbsticks are actually a tiny bit smaller than the DualShock 4, and the triggers actually have a little bit more resistance naturally than the DualShock 4 controller, at least in my hands. Another kind of neat little aesthetic feature that I do want to point out, and it’d be hard to probably for me to be able to like shoot a video of this to kind of show it off, there is a texture on the back of the controller that gives an extra grip for when you’re holding it, but if you look super duper close, it’s very, very tiny, that texture isn’t just dots or just kind of a little rough texture that they add into the plastic, it’s actually little tiny squares, triangles, circles, and Xs that are like kind of thrown in throughout the entire pattern, so that is the texture that’s on the back of the DualSense, which is actually really kind of cool.

And now also with the DualSense, you have the adaptive triggers and the haptic feedback that is built-in. The haptic feedback, I’ll talk about first. It is really, really, really good. I have to say to the precise vibrations that are in the DualSense make it so immersive, and it can even tell the difference and you can actually feel the difference depending on which surface you’re walking on as well as other things in the environment that you’re in. The real true demo of the DualSense controller is in Astro’s Playroom. You get to feel every single bit of haptic feedback in this controller. You can feel when you’re walking on sand, when you’re walking on metal, to when you are hitting an enemy, when you’re jumping, everything that is in the DualSense for the haptic feedback is really, really amazing. Now, with regards to the adaptive triggers, they do work, you do feel a bit of resistance and even in the Astro’s Playroom, you get to sort of do a controller demo and it kind of does this sort of like Ironman jet pack kind of thing, where if you hold down the triggers, you can actually be able to feel your rocket boosters activating, and then you have to hold down to fire and you can feel the vibrations including with the haptic feedback that is being given on the DualSense, which is really, really cool and I can definitely see that there’s going to be some amazing new ideas being done on the adaptive triggers that I’d be really interested to see. But I do have some thoughts in regards to its accessibility. I do have some fears about that, and I’ll be talking about that in a sec. I know I’m teasing, but you know, bear with me. There’s a lot to go over.


So now let’s talk about the accessibility of the PlayStation 5. Something that we haven’t really seen anything for from coming from Sony, in comparison to Microsoft with Xbox, we haven’t known what accessibility features were going to be in the PlayStation 5. Well, I can tell you, I was actually very surprised of what was available on the system and what can be available within games themselves to be able to make your PlayStation 5 experience a lot more accessible. Let’s start off from the very beginning when you boot up the system for the first time. It doesn’t sort of say anything in regards to the box or their instructions as far as when I was able to find, but if you do boot up the system and it comes to the screen, when it asks you to plug in your DualSense controller to the PlayStation 5, if you wait a few seconds, the screen reader on the PlayStation 5 will automatically turn on.And will prompt you through the rest of the setup process. This is something that is going to be really, really big for players across the world, because up until, actually as of this year, I didn’t even realize that the screen reader or the text-to-speech feature on the PlayStation 4 was not enabled worldwide, it was enabled in North America, but across the pond in Europe, it basically didn’t have any of that functionality built in. Well, I can definitely say that from the information I was able to receive, the screen reader will work worldwide in multiple languages across the entire interface of the PlayStation 5. You’ll also be able to adjust the speech speed, voice type and voice volume in the accessibility menu.


Now, as far as the home screen slash UI of the PlayStation 5, in the previous video, I talked about my thoughts when looking at the home screen for the first time in a video preview that was done about a month ago, and I did have some concerns in regards to the text size and the icon size on the home screen and it’s hit or miss with me. When it comes to the icon size on the home screen, yes, I would love it to be able to be bigger than it actually is, and unfortunately, there is no setting to be able to make those icons bigger. I would have loved to be able to see where you can be able to customize the home screen. However, there is a nice visual touch that actually, I kind of like a lot as sort of the graphic designer in me. I was like, “Oh, okay, I’m impressed”, was whenever you hover over a game on the home screen, it actually loads up the logo in a very large format and a kind of nice box art that fills the entire screen, but it was kind of a nice visual feature that I was like, “Oh, this actually looks pretty good,” instead of just the game icon that used to be on the PlayStation 4. So yes, would I still love to be able to have those icons bigger? Hundred per cent, but the little visual kind of fills the whole screen of the game. I’m okay with that because it just, to me, it just looks cool, I’m sorry.

And if your game is optimized for the PlayStation 5, it actually will play a little bit of the soundtrack for the game itself. I heard it in Last Of Us Part II, Spiderman Miles Morales, Astro’s Playroom and Ghost of Tsushima. Unfortunately, as of this recording, God of War didn’t have that music functionality. Hopefully, that’ll be it in a future patch, which’d be great.


As far as the rest of my impressions of the UI, the text size is actually a pretty decent size. I think it might be a little bit bigger than, or if not the same size as the PlayStation 4, but you can still be able to increase the font size in the accessibility menu and a majority of the font in the system will actually increase in size, even to its larger setting, it does actually look pretty well done. There are some areas of the UI that doesn’t receive that text increase size, so be forewarned that not everything will be increased when you turn on that feature. It does work pretty much across the board throughout the entire system. Now, other accessibility functionality in the PlayStation 5, there is an accessibility menu in the settings and they do have all the settings that were in the PlayStation 4, the high contrast mode, the larger text size, bold text and the screen reader, of course.


Now there’s one key accessibility feature that is actually missing in the accessibility menu compared to the PlayStation 4, and I don’t know and I can’t confirm as of yet whether or not it is officially removed from the system or it is just not in the firmware update in the retail unit that I have. But unfortunately, the zoom feature that was in the accessibility menu is not there anymore. And you may be wondering what the soon feature is, on the PlayStation 4, by hitting a few buttons on the DualShock four controller, it allowed you to be able to zoom into the screen. For low vision and visually impaired players can be able to look at the screen and be able to see exactly what they need to see without having to lean into the screen or to be able to look at it. And unfortunately, the PlayStation 5 just does not have that functionality. And I hope I am wrong and if I am wrong, I will post about it on Twitter, or at least in the description down below. I’m really, really hoping that it is just a missing feature in my former update, but as far as I can tell the zoom functionality is something that I personally used a lot and I was really sad to see it go. And I either hope that it is in the full launch of the system or in a day one patch or it’s updated later on because that is something that I feel is sorely missed and I actually was very shocked and surprised that it is not in the PlayStation 5.


Now another accessibility aspect that I’m really, really, really excited to see where PlayStation actually goes with this, and hopefully there are more studios that will tap into this amazing accessibility feature, and that is in regards to game presets. There is, in the menu system you can be able to turn on several key accessibility features that are almost becoming standard across the board in a lot of games, but you can be able to set defaults for those presets before you even jump into the game. Now, I have been able to confirm it does work with PlayStation 5 games. It doesn’t work with PlayStation 4 games and hopefully when studios actually do update their PlayStation 4 games for the PlayStation 5, that this functionality can be turned on, but for right now, it is just a PlayStation 5 games only feature. But what it can be able to do is you can actually be able to change the default of your difficulty setting, whether to turn subtitles on or off, or you can be able to turn on the controls whether to be inverted or not. Now, those are kind of just the default right now, I really do hope that Sony adds more presets as we get more accessibility features and more standard accessibility features across the board on the Sony platform where we can be able to see more defaults being made. And this is more of like quality of life issue, especially when you’re jumping into a game from the first time because without having to dig through accessibility settings to turn on the same features over and over again, this is a great way to be able to just, you know, set it as a default and you’re ready to go. And there’s like I said, it does work with PlayStation 5 games, I tested out with Miles Morales and it works great.


So now let’s talk about the DualSense controller in regards to its accessibility. There are good things and then there are bad things with this DualSense controller. Let’s start off with the bad things first to kind of get them out of the way, because there are some good things about it I want to talk about. The fact that I mentioned before that the controller is actually bigger and heavier in the hands will definitely be a barrier for some players, especially if you have smaller hands or can’t hold the weight of a DualSense controller. It is heavier than the DualShock 4. This could definitely be an issue later on, especially when it comes to hand fatigue when you’re having to be able to hold the controller for a long period of time. Also as well, the adaptive triggers actually do have a little bit more of a resistance to them than the DualShock 4, even when the adaptive triggers are not enabled, the adaptive triggers’ resistance is not enabled. So even in its resting non-functional state, it does have a little bit more resistance than any of the other controllers I’ve used and it’s definitely going to be again, it’s going to be an added point of fatigue for disabled players when trying to be able to play with the DualSense. The good news is is that you can be able to control the intensity of both the vibration and the trigger from strong, medium, weak, or off, so if you have any issues with that on the DualSense, I can confirm you can turn that setting off, but let’s talk about some of the great accessibility options on the DualSense that I actually really think is going to be beneficial, especially for blind players. The haptic feedback, as I mentioned earlier, is so good. It adds an extra level of immersion that will be so great for disabled players and it actually will work in older PlayStation 4 titles. I was actually able to play The Last Of Us Part II, and when Ellie is sort of sticking a knife into a clicker, you can feel the knife going in into the clicker and when you’re pulling the knife out, you can actually feel the buildup to that action, and then the jolt of the knife being pulled out from the clicker, you can feel that in the DualSense, and that is going to be an amazing feature moving forward that adds to a real immersion aspect for blind players and it’s just going to be really, really great. And the haptic feedback is so precise. Again, like I said, you can be able to tell which surface you’re walking on based on the haptic feedback you’re going to receive. For blind players, this is going to be great.


Jumping off from that, another additional accessibility option for blind players that’s going to be really great is the 3D audio. If you’re able to get your hands on 3D audio headphones from Sony, my God, it sounds amazing. I’ve never played with 3D audio before and I don’t know if this has been like this all along, but damn, does this sound good. I can be able to tell when someone is walking from the side and in behind me. It’s magic, it’s black magic, I don’t know how it does it with just two stereo headphones, but it works and I like it. And again, will add to that immersion for blind players. It sort of compensates a little bit from the lack of visuals that we do get so this is going to be a great, great feature, but not only will the 3D audio headphones work, but if you have just regular stereo headphones, if you go into the settings, you can enable 3D audio and as long as games are supported for it, you can actually be able to use regular stereo headphones and get sort of a 3D audio effect, which is so cool.


So overall, would I recommend the PlayStation 5 for disabled players? Honestly, I was actually very surprised and shocked to see what was actually in the PlayStation 5 when it came to accessibility. I think probably the reason for that is because of the fact we haven’t had really any information from Sony about what was going to be in the PlayStation 5 when it came to accessibility up until, as of this recording, a couple of days ago, when they announced what all accessibility was going to be enabled and available on the PlayStation 5. So I’m keeping my excitement and my surprise and shock at bay. It was just a very nice pleasant surprise to be able to see. So overall, what does the PlayStation 5 do for accessibility? It does have the same functionality as most of the accessibility in the PlayStation 4. It is missing and there are some steps back when it comes to accessibility for on the PlayStation 5 that the PlayStation 4 is better in, but then there’s the potential for future accessibility improvements to be made that will tie in hardware and software that I’m really excited to be able to see and I hope Sony will push its developers to be able to develop for that or encourage developers to be able to develop for that for future accessibility functionality, ’cause there’s a lot of potential there and I would love to be able to see Sony really, really push the industry forward as they did with The Last Of Us Part II, let’s just keep that momentum going for more accessibility. So would I recommend purchasing the PlayStation 5? As of right now, I would say if you have the capability to do so, and you don’t have any of the particular issues that I had mentioned in regards to accessibility for the PlayStation 5, then I would say yes, but if you are a little bit uncertain and you are not able to say afford the cost of the PlayStation 5 right now, I would say stick with the PlayStation 4 and wait until either more improvements can be made or the price comes down for the console so that you can be able to upgrade to next-gen when you can.

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SaylorMedia partnerHe/Him

Steve Saylor is a Toronto-based podcaster, radio host, Blind Gamer, YouTuber, Twitch Streamer, Graphic Designer, Content Creator and College Professor all while being blind! Starting in 2015, his entertaining YouTube series “Blind Gamer” fuses humour with his passion for playing video games. In just a few short years he is considered a thought leader on accessibility in gaming and an advocate for developers to push video game accessibility forward. Steve is the top Blind Gamer in Canada and has worked with prominent clients in the video game industry.

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