At the time of this video’s release, we’re just a few days away from the US launch of the PlayStation 5. Sony have been a lot more secretive about their next generation console than Microsoft have with the Xbox Series X and Series S, keeping a lot of information close to their chest until very close to launch. But, embargo’s have finally lifted, and I can answer all your accessibility related questions about the PS5.
So, today on Access-Ability, we’re going to discuss how accessible the PS5 is on launch day for disabled players. We’re going to talk about unboxing and managing the hardware, the new controller, and Sony’s System level accessibility settings going into this new generation.
Firstly, let’s talk about unboxing the console. The main box that the PS5 arrives in features a handle at the top designed to make it easier to carry, but the box itself is very heavy, and held shut with a single small tape sticker. The box is likely to need to be carried from underneath, not just by the handle alone.
Where the Xbox Series X was held shut with several strong stickers which each feature easy to peel up sides, the PS5 box is held shut with a single fairly lightweight sticker.
Players will need to lift the PS5 box out of its outer sleeve, which can be quite tricky considering how heavy the interior console box is. The console then needs lifting vertically out of the interior box, which can be equally tricky due to its weight and size.
Inside the box, players will find cables held in place by cable ties, which can be tricky for some disabled players to open unassisted. Bags for components such as the controller are left deliberately open, and are not taped shut, making their contents easier to access.
Now, let’s move onto the new Dualsense Controller that ships with the PS5. The new controller follows the same general form factor as the PS4’s Dualshock 4 controller, but is slightly larger, wider, and heavier. The PS5 supports PS4 controllers, but only when playing backwards compatible games, meaning that unfortunately any custom disability focused controllers you’ve got for the PS4 will not be able to be used for PS5 specific games. This is a real shame, because functionally, the new controller’s major two new features, which we will get to in a moment, can both be switched off at a system level. There’s no functional reason you can’t use a custom PS4 controller to play PS5 games, other than Sony wanting to sell you expensive new peripherals.
So, what are the new features on the PS5’s new controller? Well, the two major features added are haptic feedback, and adaptive triggers. Put simply, haptic feedback is a fancy form of controller rumble, and the resistive triggers can increase their level of resistance, physically resisting being pushed by players in certain games.
Now, if you are able to make use of them, both of these new controller features are quite fun immersion tools. However, both are very much potential barriers to accessibility. Haptic Feedback can produce a range of sensations via precision rumble intensity, and the resistive triggers can mimic a wide variety of interactions, but strong rumble can cause issues for some disabled players, and players with hand or finger weakness or pain may struggle to push triggers which are actively fighting being pushed.
So, what has Sony done to try and keep their new controller accessible? Well, players can on a system level set the strength setting of vibrations, and trigger resistance, from the standard setting of strong, down to medium, weak, or being turned off entirely.
So, with the console unboxed and its controller discussed, let’s dig into the PS5’s system menus and have a look at some system level accessibility settings. As a general overview, while the PS5’s accessibility settings are certainly a step up from those available on the PS4, there are a couple of notable omissions I really hope we see the company add in upcoming system updates for disabled players.
Opening up the PS5’s dedicated accessibility menu, there’s quite a few options available for players to select from. Players can invert screen colours, apply colour filters to help assist with various different types of colour blindness, adjust on screen text size, set all text to bold, adjust the speed of automatically scrolling text, and reduce motion effects and screen movement within system menus. The PS5 also offers the ability to increase contrast in its system menus to make them easier to read, but it should be noted the PS5 does not offer as many high contrast options as the Xbox Series X does.
The PS5 also offers players screen reader support, which when switched on features an electronic male or female voice reading aloud on screen text. The speed of the voice, as well as its volume, can be customised.
While the PS5 doesn’t support your customised PS4 controllers out of the box, it does feature system level button remapping, toggles for vibration and trigger intensity, and the option to alter how long a button is pressed, before it is registered as a hold rather than a press.
The PS5 does not feature a setting similar to Xbox’s Co-Pilot mode, where two controllers can be registered as one by the system.
The PS5 has a system level toggle for closed captions, which can either default to the settings of the content, or be customised to specific fonts, text sizes, colours, levels of opacity, and more. This level of closed caption customisation is great, and something I would love to see Microsoft follow suit with.
Lastly, the PS5 features a chat transcription mode, where online multiplayer voice chat can be transcribed automatically into on screen text. For players who find it easier to type than to speak out loud, this setting also allows your typed text to be read out in a male or female voice to other players in voice chat.
Leaving behind the dedicated accessibility settings menu, the PS5 does feature a few other settings in its menus which may be helpful for disabled players.
The PS5 does support Keyboard and Mouse input for system level operation, which may help some players input text and navigate menus.
Buried in Saved Data and Game / App Settings, players have a couple of options for gaming presets that, while not explicitly accessibility features, do serve that purpose for some players. In that menu, players can set default difficulty modes they want to play their games at, default inversion settings for third and first person perspective games, as well as whether subtitles appear in games as a default setting. These are all things which could be adjusted on a game by game basis, but being able to set them at a system level is a nice touch, which should prevent players jumping into a game and being unable to play it properly until first reaching a settings menu.
In terms of other Xbox accessibility features which are notably missing from the PS5 at launch, the system seems to lack a screen magnifier, as well as a setting to change all audio to mono for single side hearing headphone users.
Lastly, there’s one feature on the PS5 which could potentially act as an accessibility feature, but is unfortunately locked behind a paywall. If you are a PS+ subscriber, some PS5 games will offer dedicated help cards, which can show you video clips of how to complete certain challenges in games. These built in hint videos are the kind of thing you could likely find a few days post launch by doing a search on YouTube, but the immediate ease with which the PS5 allows players to pull up very specific help for the issue they are having is really great from an accessibility perspective. I wish this wasn’t hidden behind a PS+ subscription, because the ease with which it allows help tips to be accessed is great as an accessibility tool.
Additionally, and this was a concern ahead of launch, the PS5 features no way to resize its very small home screen icons. The size of these icons makes them tough for many partially sighted players to make out in detail, and I really hope we see that able to be altered post launch.
Looking at the launch day PS5, it’s clear Sony has made an effort to step up their system level Accessibility tools. The console software is more accessible than the PS4, but that comes with some caveats. There are some clear areas where Microsoft is still ahead of Sony in terms of out of the box Accessibility, most obviously the existence of the Adaptive Controller, Co-Pilot mode, and support for past generation controllers on the new system. It’s a real shame that Sony won’t allow PS5 games to be played with a Dualshock 4, as this is going to result in a lot of custom controllers not being able to make the jump to next gen.
Sony still has some catching up to do if it wants to go toe to toe with Microsoft in the Accessibility race, but it’s clearly making an effort to improve. The day one offering on PS5 could certainly be worse, and for now we just have to hope that, over time, Sony introduces more accessibility features to the PS5 to help ensure it’s as accessible a console as possible.