New mix-and-match computer accessories make life easier for disabled people

John Helmes, an industrial designer with disabilities at Microsoft, has come out with an adaptable mouse for people who can’t use a traditional mouse. At an annual innovation event for employees, he assembled a large team to build a prototype from a Microsoft Arc mouse they cut and attached to a 3D-printed piece designed for finger support and control. The device reduced unintended clicks and helped them control her computer cursor for the first time. The early prototype has evolved into the new Microsoft Adaptive Accessories, a highly adaptable ecosystem that lets users customize their mouse, keyboard inputs and shortcuts. The accessories include the Adaptive Mouse, Adaptive Hub and Adaptive Buttons and are now generally available.  The wireless accessories can replace or augment a traditional mouse and keyboard for users with limited mobility or anyone who wants to use a PC more easily and efficiently.

Users can customize the Adaptive Mouse with different attachments, including a mouse tail extension and thumb support configurable for the left or right hand. They can create custom inputs without a keyboard through the Adaptive Hub and Adaptive Button, which is available as a D-pad, joystick and dual button. The mouse and button can be further customized with 3D-printed attachments. The Microsoft Adaptive Accessories are intended to remove the barriers that traditional mice and keyboards may present to people with limited mobility,” says Gabi Michel, director of Accessible Accessories at Microsoft. “No two people are alike, and empowering people to configure the system that works for them was the goal.” People with disabilities already have creativity and resourcefulness. Having technology that adapts to us is just going to take productivity up to the next level. Microsoft’s product team also integrated input from gamers using the Xbox Adaptive Controller, a device that connects to assistive buttons and switches with jacks and ports. Released in 2018, it enables more accessible gaming, but gamers have found the wires cumbersome and the big controller not very portable — feedback that Microsoft heard and incorporated into the Adaptive Accessories. Equipped with the latest Bluetooth technology, the slim Adaptive Hub can connect wirelessly to three devices and four Adaptive Buttons as well as to assistive tech switches via 3.5-millimetre ports. Each button has eight digital inputs, packing many customization options into a small device. The wireless, pocket-sized accessories enable a portable system that’s easy to set up and use on the go. For Microsoft, the Adaptive Accessories are part of a long-term focus to make more inclusive technology, from the Xbox Adaptive Controller to the Surface Adaptive Kit to accessibility features in Windows 11. The company also partnered to make 3D-printed adaptive grips available for users to customize their Microsoft Business Pen and Classroom Pen 2.

Read more: Microsoft