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PlayStation May Soon Transform Gaming For People With Disabilities

03/11/2015 10:41 am ET | Updated Mar 11, 2015
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The PlayStation 4 may be poised to make gaming more accessible for people with disabilities.

An upcoming firmware update could add new features catering to people with visual, auditory or other impairments. Twitter user Ahsan Rasheed (@IsAParrot) posted photos of a friend's beta version of the 2.50 firmware patch, including one that shows a list of new PS4 settings like text-to-speech, color inversion, text enlargement, closed captions and button reassignment, among others.

Here's the photo of the accessibility feature list:

A spokesperson for Sony Computer Entertainment America told The Huffington Post that the next PS4 update "will be released soon," but would not confirm whether these accessibility features will be included.

Rasheed, who told HuffPost he's a former medical student active on game industry forums like NeoGAF, has been wrong about a gaming rumors before, which he admitted to. But he's also been right.

An additional source who was familiar with the update but unauthorized to reveal details told HuffPost that the added features are the real deal.

Accessibility features in PS4 would be huge for the gaming community according to Steven Spohn, chief operations officer at TheAbleGamers Foundation, a nonprofit that works to eliminate barriers and help individuals with disabilities to enjoy gaming.

"We're talking millions of people who are suddenly going to have an easier time playing games," said Spohn.

Button assignments in particular, he said, would be a major addition to PS4. This feature would allow individuals to customize which controller buttons do what before jumping into a game. People with muscular diseases or disorders who have trouble pressing the "trigger" button, for example, could map it instead to the more accessible "triangle" button on the front of the controller, according to Spohn.

A big part of AbleGamers' work, Spohn said, is creating custom controllers or configurations for gamers who can't use the default device that comes with a system. Spohn tends to recommend the Xbox One for gamers with disabilities because it allows customized third-party controllers. These controllers, however, can cost hundreds of dollars.

What's more, the Xbox One doesn't offer built-in accessibility options like the ones that might be coming to PS4.

"This is a game-changer," Spohn said of the potential PS4 update. "Unless Xbox catches up now and does the same thing, we're going to have to change what we recommend to people."

Representatives for Xbox did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Of course, this potential PS4 update isn't a cure-all. Certain games present challenges regardless of how the controls are set up -- multiple buttons might need to be pressed in a specific way while moving a joystick, for example -- and players who can't move their fingers far enough to reach each button would still benefit from the ability to use a custom third-party controller, which Sony does not allow on the PlayStation 4.

Still, it's a start.

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