Hold on tight. This is going to be a long post. I kept my temper in the video, but here I can just come out and let you know that I’m livid. each time I start thinking about this, I feel so angry and helpless that my face gets hot and my hands get shaky.  I’m getting ahead of myself though, so lets just back up a little bit and talk about a pretty amazing kid named [Thomas].

[Thomas] has muscular dystrophy. This implies he’s going to gradually lose strength and control in his muscles over time. He has already lost his ability to stand, and even holding buttons on a game-pad for extended times can be difficult. Gaming, as you can imagine, is very essential to [Thomas] and people like him. It provides a release of frustration, like it does for all of us, but also a level playing ground. When he’s in the game, he’s like everyone else.

I did some quick research into what hardware is available. This is where I started to get angry. Something easy like this low pressure switch is incredibly overpriced.  Take these two for example. Both are a single brief switch with a cable television and a case.

market price $79
market price $69

$70 dollars? $70 F*$&ING DOLLARS? This isn’t the computer interface, this is just the switch. we all know that we can purchase those switches at retail prices for under a dollar.   At this point, I thought “man, these companies sure are inflating the price for insurance companies.”

I discussed the insurance thought to [Thomas’] Mother. She said something that made me want to just sit down and cry best there. She replied “Oh no, the insurance companies don’t typically pay for this stuff. They don’t see it as a necessity.”  maybe it is because I’m a parent, but this was devastating. I had a hard time even thinking strait after this check out for a while. I was so angry, so frustrated, and feeling so helpless, and I was only tangentially involved.

I made up my mind to do something much more than just make a easy controller for [Thomas], I needed to help as numerous people as possible. much more on that later.

[Thomas’] controller.

As you saw in the video, [Thomas] loves to play minecraft. I met with him and talked about what he needed in terms of a controller. At this point in time, [Thomas] doesn’t really need much. He can use an Xbox gamepad, a sixaxis controller, and keyboard and mouse. He has a little bit of trouble holding the triggers for much more than a couple seconds, but he gets by.

This implied that I really didn’t have a particular problem to resolve so I just tried to build something that would help the most people possible. I jumped from idea to idea, but ultimately fell onto the idea of modular buttons that could be reconfigured as needed.

lap board configuration
all the bits

I used a Teensy with incredibly easy keyboard/mouse emulation code. This allows me to give the imputs to the games without the use of additional software.  I ought to point out here, that this isn’t a new or fantastic idea. The very expensive buttons that I discussed early plug best into something called a “switch box” that emulates mouse and keyboard. typically the switchboxes even have a ton of features that mine does not have.

all the bits
lap board configuration

All mine does is emulates W,A,S,D, space, escape, E, Q, mouse movement, and best and left mouse clicks. Det er det. That is all that was needed for minecraft. I initially started making a system that used headphone jacks, like what I saw on the other systems but then had a better thought. By leaving the headers available, people could literally plug two wires into it and emulate a keyboard press. need a button that takes very little pressure to activate(very common)? how about no pressure.

Since Thomas can still use a keyboard and mouse, my controller doesn’t help him much. He was a good sport about it, and we’re keeping communication open for the future, because unfortunately, he won’t be able to use the keyboard and mouse forever.

The files

I’m not an engineer. I just looked at what was out there and started doing very quick 3d printed cases. They’re not incredibly well thought out, but they work.  fortunately Lulzbot gave me a 3d printer for this project so I was able to prototype and test very quickly. Please download these and improve them.

Here are the parts.

1. low pressure lever activated brief switch.

Using a dirt low-cost 6mm brief switch, this case uses a lever for activation decreasing the amount of pressure required to roughly 15 grams. It works like the one imagined above, and I think even if I include labor in the equation it would be less than $30.  There are several variations primarily because I didn’t have a good hinge idea.

Download the low pressure switch here.

2. The D-pad and quad button

This is simply a case for 4 6mm brief switches. These have no lever, and require roughly 60 grams pressure to push, which is about the same as an Xbox controller.  They aren’t perfect, but they work.

Some people discussed that they thought the D-pad needed much more buttons to be like the Xbox one. If you disassemble an Xbox controller you’ll see there are only 4 buttons in there. It is NOT an 8 way system.

You can also see the controller shaped block I printed to hold these.

Download the D-Pad file here.

Download the quad button file here.

On a side note, use flexible stranded wire. I have no idea what I was thinking using solid core ribbons here. They won’t last long.

There are a few much more files that you can download that came from this project:

The psp thumbstick case

The single button enclosure (unused in the final version)

The blank controller shape for sticking things to.

How can you help?

Som jeg sagde. I couldn’t just walk away. I went from thinking I would make [Thomas] a thing, to thinking I’d make a thing that would be ideal for EVERYONE! I even considered doing some kind of kickstarter or something to make a good little company for myself. None of those ideas felt best though.

I realized that I don’t need to be the one to help everyone by making a controller. While I did make a thing for [Thomas], my skill isn’t necessarily making stuff. My skill is sharing information, connecting people, and building community.

I have created This is a forum where people can offer their services to build customized interfaces. You don’t need to volunteer your time for free. even with labor, some of these easy interfaces can be made less expensive at home than the commercial versions.  numerous people need customizations that aren’t even available commercially.

Many of you are thinking “oh, the engineers will take care of this stuff”. stop det. YOU CAN help TOO.

I will personally put up easy to follow directions on how you can make some easy devices for people even if you’ve never soldered or touched a microcontroller. If you want to help, you can. Vær sød at gøre. Jeg bønfalder.

What if you don’t want to work, you just want to donate?

Fine, that’s good, but don’t donate to me. go to and donate to the Able gamers Foundation. They are striving for the same goals as me and have their act together.  They are already helping people all over the place and could use your contribution better than I could.  check out this video below about the Able gamers Foundation.

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