Adaptive Game Controllers for Youth with Disabilities

D1: Development of Adaptive Game Controllers and Energy Expenditure Tables for Active Video Games for Youths with Disabilities




Limitations in balance, strength, coordination, power and aerobic fitness can make it difficult for youths with physical disabilities to keep up with their peers during games or sports.  This can diminish their enthusiasm for physical activity and result in increased sedentary behavior. As a result, children and adolescents with Developmental Disabilities (DD) have lower levels of physical activity and fitness and higher levels of obesity compared to their nondisabled peers.

Active video games (AVGs), a category of video games that require whole body movements, hold promise for promoting higher levels of physical activity, weight management, and fitness among youths. However, many current AVGs are inaccessible or offer limited play options for youths who are unable to stand, have balance issues, poor motor control, or cannot use their lower body to perform game required movements. While there exists a variety of creative adaptations to AVGs that allow people with disabilities to play video games, there are currently no research and development efforts focused on successful play as well as achieving energy expenditure comparable to that in able-bodied versions.

Active Video Games



  1. Develop adaptive game controllers that will allow youths with disabilities at functionally diverse levels to play the AVGs with satisfactory game play
  2. Determine the dose-response relationship involved in playing AVGs in non- ambulatory youths with a disability with the resultant outcome of a listing of energy expenditure values in METs (metabolic equivalents) for each AVG




During Phase 1 we identified barriers that kids and youths with disabilities encounter by having the children play with currently available controllers and measuring ability to use the controller as well as get their opinion on how well they liked the controller. At the end of phase 1 we created adaptive game controllers to allow youths with disabilities to play active video games at a level that motivates, engages, and improves cardiorespiratory function regardless of individual’s functional level.  Check out the products page by clicking here!


During phase 2 we will measure dose response relationship when using the adaptive controllers to create a table of MET values, using VO2 max as our measurement, for each AVG. METs represents a simple, practical, and easily understood method to quantify the energy cost of physical activities and provide the users with specific recommendation as to the desired intensity of participation. Currently, there are no guidelines for energy expenditure of various types of AVGs for youths with disabilities.

D1 outdoor challenge

Final Outcomes


Our long-term goal is to make AVGs accessible and develop an evidence base for the use of AVGs as an exercise modality for improving cardiorespiratory fitness and strength in youths with disability.