The Disabled-Friendly NES Controller From The 1980's

Illustration for article titled The Disabled-Friendly NES Controller From The 1980's

While it's easy to think that - through the wonders of subtitles and the Wii Remote - making games accessible to the disabled is a recent trend, it's not. It's as old as the hills.


This is the Hands Free, a controller setup manufactured by Nintendo for the original Nintendo Entertainment System. It consists of a bulky controller that is literally strapped to the player's chest. The pro: quadriplegics (or others suffering from debilitating physical conditions) could play NES games! The con: while doing so, they'd look like a Dr. Who villain.

D-pad control is replicated by a long "stick" that's moved by the player's mouth/tongue, while the A & B buttons were ingeniously controlled by "sipping" and "blowing" through a small pipe.

The Hands Free was released in 1989, and even back then cost a ton, retailing for $179 (with a NES) or $120 (for just the Hands Free). These days, you'll find them going for as much as $600.


When I saw this I thought it was something Ben "the Hack" Heckendorn released in amongst his releases of disabled controllers for more recent games. The fact Nintendo came up with it makes me scratch my head in wonder.

Wonder of why Nintendo stopped being so disabled-friendly. Seriously, try using a N64 controller with one hand!