Written by Søren Jensen, also known as SLJ.
welcome to the Xbox guide for blind and visual impaired people. This guide is made for blind and visual impaired gamers, by blind and visual impaired gamers themself. This guide is generally made for all people, sight or no sight, who for whatever reason might have any interest in reading about how blind gamers are able to use the Xbox console. Therefore, this guide is also for you, if you are a game developer, work with accessibility in any ways, know someone who need any of the visually accessible features on the console or if you just generally are interested in reading about the accessibility which Microsoft have put in for blind and visually impaired people on the console. So, a huge welcome to this guide, and thanks for reading…
How to contact me.
What this guide will include and not include.
This guide will include the following:
- Explain the basics about the Xbox console
- Explain the controller in details
- Explain the build-in screenreader Narrator and how it works
- Explain a blind person can set up the console without sighted help at all
- explain all the basics about the features which are accessible on the console
- How to use some of the features from smartphones or the Xbox website
- Include a list of playable games including sources on where to find more info
What this guide will not include:
- A full walkthrough of every feature on the console. The basics should be enough.
- Walkthroughs of games. There will be links to external sources instead
Design of the console.
The Xbox One.
The Xbox One console is in a plastic cabinet, and the size is like an old video tape player, or a business office desktop computer, where the screen can be placed on the cabinet. On the top of the cabinet is a large grill for the fan to breathe, so it is not a good idea to place something on the top of the console, which might block the fan from breathing normally.
On the front we have the following from left to right:
- A slot for the disks.
- A touch button for ejection, right next to the slot.
- An on/off touch button for the console itself.
On the left side we have the following:
- One USB connector.
- A controller or accessory connect button above the USB port.
On the right side we have nothing at all.
On the back side we have the following from left to right:
- An ethernet port
- A special connector which I think is used for the camera
- two USB ports above each other
- HDMI in, used for a tv box to be controlled.
- Optical sound output
- HDMI out, used for your tv.
- Power connector.
Turning the console on and off
The touch button is not tactile at all, so you won’t be able to feel it. The touch button is placed directly up in the right corner, so it is very easy to find. As soon as the touch button is being activated, the console is playing a sound, directly from the console itself.
- Three quick ascending tones means the console has been turned on
- Three quick descending tones means the console turns off.
- You can hear the console making noise like a desktop computer
If you turn on the console by accident, you can press the touch button again to turn it off. Please note that it shuts down automatically, which means it might not turn off as soon as you press the button the second time.
Ejecting a disk from the slot.
Ejecting a disk from the slot is very easy. The touch ejection button is right next to the disk slot. It gives an interesting sound if you press the eject button when there is no disk inside. The ejection button is even tactile, but that doesn’t help much, since it is being activated as soon as you touch the button.
Xbox One S
The Xbox One S is pretty much the same design like the first generation of the Xbox One consoles. However, there are a lot of great differences which I wanna mention:
- Much smaller. This console can fit in a backpack.
- The big ugly power supply is now gone. The power supply is build into the console.
- The touch buttons has been replaced by normal buttons.
- The connect button have been moved from the left side to the front, below the power button.
- The ports are the same. The USB port on the left side has been moved to the front.
- The small speaker which plays the sounds is louder and more crispy.
- Better hardware including 4K.
I will highly recommend the Xbox One S instead of the first series. Is it worth upgrading if you have the first generation? Well, that’s a good question. If you can sell the first generation, then I’ll say yes.
The controller have the following buttons and features:
- d-pad or arrow keys: used for the left hand
- Left and right analog sticks: used for the left and right hands
- A: round button towards you, used by your right hand
- X: round button to the left, used by your right hand
- Y: round button away from you, used by your right hand
- B: round button to the right, used by your right hand
- Menu button: small round button to the left for the Y button
- View button: small round button to the right for the left analog stick
- Left bumper: top left button, placed on the back of the controller
- Right bumper: top right button, placed on the back of the controller
- Left tricker: bottom left button, placed on the back of the controller
- Right tricker: right bottom button, placed on the back of the controller
- Xbox button: Round button placed nearby the middle top part
- Connect button: Very small round button, placed next to the left bumper
- Micro USB connector: Placed at the middle of the back of the controller
- battery door: Placed at the bottom of the controller.
- Xbox accessory connector: Special connector placed at the front points towards you.
- 3.5 headphone jack new gen only: left for the accessory connector.
The Xbox controllers buttons from the Playstation controllers point of view.
Here are the buttons persissions from the Playstation controllers point of view. First comes the name of the button on the Playstation controller, and then the the Xbox controller.
- X = A
- circle = B
- Triangle = Y
- Square = X.
The difference between the first gen and the second gen controllers
The biggest differences are the following:
- The new gen controllers have a 3.5 mm headphone jack
- The new gen have much better and more responsive buttons
- Better quality in the plastic cabinet
In my opinion, the first gen Xbox One controllers feels cheep and made of surprisingly bad quality. The plastic feels cheep, and the construction feels like the plastic parts aren’t very well put together. The buttons works okay, but especially the left and right bumpers clicks very loud, making them annoying to use for longer time.
However, the new generation feels much better. It feels much stronger, the buttons are very responsive and the bumpers do not click like the older generation. The build-in headphone jack makes a huge difference for me, so I can plug in my headphones without needing a special Xbox adapter.
The new generation can upgrade wirelessly, where you need to plug the older generation into the console by using the USB cable to upgrade it.
How to upgrade your controller.
Don’t forget to upgrade your Xbox controller. THis is not being upgraded when updating the operating system on your console.
Batteries, charging and how to check the battery level.
The batteries have to be inserted in the following ways when holding the controller with the battery door pointing towards the floor:
- The battery pointing away from you needs to be inserted with the plus end pointing to the left.
- The battery pointing towards you needs to be inserted with the plus end pointing to the right.
Please note: The batteries which comes with the controller is not rechargeable.
You can charge the batteries in the controller simply by plugging the controller into the USB cable, and connect it to the console.
Check the battery level on the controller.
You can check the battery level on the controller in the following way:
- Go into the settings.
- Go to Kinect and devices.
- Choose Devices and accessories
- Choose More options.
- Switch to Narrator mode by pressing the Xbox button twice.
- Go down to the bottom, and you will find the battery status of your controller.
- Remember to switch back to controller mode again when you are done reading.
The bild-in accessibility features.
Here is a description of the relevant build-in accessible features on the console, which makes it able to use the console as a visually impaired or a totally blind gamer.
Narrator is Microsofts build-in screenreader, made for blind people. Narrator is both in Windows 10 and also on the Xbox console. It reads all menus and screens in the Xbox interface. It do not read the menus in the games.
Turning Narrator on and off.
Turning Narrator on and off is very easy. You do the following:
- Hold down the Xbox button until you feel a vibration, and then release the button.
- Press the menu button, and Narrator will turn either on or off.
The Narrator mode is the screenreaders virtual cursor, just like other screenreaders are having a virtual cursor to read what’s on the screen. Narrator reads almost everything on the screen as default when using the arrow keys. But on some screens, it doesn’t read all the text because you can’t reach it by using the normal Xbox commands. In those situations, you can switch to the Narrator mode, and use the virtual cursor to read the text on the screen.
You can also use the Narrator mode to read line by line, word by word and you can even spell out the words if you wish.
You can switch between the Narrator mode and the standard controller mode by quickly pressing the Xbox button twice.
The Narrator settings.
You can reach the Narrator settings by going into the system tab, settings, ease of access and Narrator. Here you can choose the voice, adjust the speed, practice the controller and get a list of all the narrator commands, both for the controller and keyboard commands as wel.
Narrator Controller commands.
Please note: Those commands does only work in Narrator mode.
*Double tab the Xbox button: Switch between Narrator mode and Controller mode. * A: Activate the current item. * B: Go back. * X: Repeat last item or stop narration. * D pad up or down: Move to previous or next item or text. * D pad left or right: Jumps to the previous or next focusable item. Same as tab and shift tab. * X + D pad up or down: Previous or next landmark. * X + D pad left or right: Previous or next heading. Used for web navigation. * Left or right bumper: Previous or next character. * X + left or right bumper: Previous or next word.
Starting up the console for the first time, with no sighted help
The build-in accessibility features on the Xbox are so great, that you as a blind person can unbox the console, connect it, turn it on for the very first time and begin to set it up. Here is how to do it.
- Make sure you have plugged in the HDMI and the power cable.
- Do not worry if you aren’t sure you have chosen the right HDMI on your tv.
- Turn the console on by pressing or touching the power button, depending on what console you have.
- Wait two minutes and you should hear a sound. if not, then don’t worry.
- Press the connect button on the console, and do the same on the controller
- Press and hold the Xbox button until you feel a vibration
- Press the menu button, and Narrator is activated.
- If you feel a vibration and hear no sound, the tv is on the wrong HDMI channel
- As soon as you hear Narrator talking, you can set up the Xbox which is accessible.
Overview of the Xbox interfase.
The Xbox interfase can seem confusing at the beginning, also even when using a screenreader. Therefore, I’ll go over the basics, and mention what the different things are used for.
You navigate by using the arrow keys, A to confirm and B to go back. You can also press LT and RT to switch between the tabs if you wish.
Pressing the Xbox button switches between the home screen and the Xbox guide.
The home screen.
The home screen is like the Desktop in Windows. Here you can put the icons you want for easier finding.
The Xbox Guide.
The Xbox guide is like the start menu in Windows. This is where you can access all features of the Xbox operating system. This area is split up into lots of tabs, sub sections etc. This might seem confusing at the beginning, and I’m not sure on how to explain that screen, without causing a lot of confusing. Narrator is quite good at announcing what section you are in as well as giving hints on how to navigate the screen.
You land on the Guide when pressing the Xbox button. Guide is one out of the 8 tabs. You can then navigate between the tabs by pressing the left or right arrows. When you have chosen the tab you wanna navigate, you can access the rest of this tab by pressing the down arrow.
Sign in tab.
The sign in tab is where you can sign in if you haven’t done already. You can add more users, switch user or even sign in a guest.
The achievements tab is in my opinion a very interesting tab to navigate. Here you can browse all the achievements you have earned, view achievements you have not earned yet, browse all the achievements from the game you are currently playing and more. I find this totally amazing that this whole area is accessible with Narrator as well.
Here you can start a party with your friends, view your invitations, look for groups and tournaments.
Here you can see who of your friends are online and what they are playing, clubs, find new friends and more.
Here you can go to My apps, which also includes the games, start the reasoned played game and more.
Please note: Here you can also quit the current running game by pressing the menu button, and go down to quit.
Here you can send private messages to your friends, view your messages and see the messages from Xbox Live.
Broadcast and captcha tab.
Here you can set up your broadcast, start broadcasting, take and view screenshots, record videos and view your recordings and directly interact with Mixer which is a build in streaming service.
Here you can check the system notifications, access the settings, open up Xbox assist which is the build in help system, turn off the console and restart the console.
You can also turn off the console by holding down the Xbox button and press up on the D pad.
The Xbox can also be used for other stuff than gaming. All those features has been developed in apps. I will mention all those apps which I find accessible with Narrator.
The dvd and Blueray player.
The dvd and Blueray player is fully accessible with Narrator. It does not read the dvd menus, but all the controls are read out loud.
Movies and tv app.
The movies and tv app is fully accessible with Narrator.
Watching live tv by using Narrator.
This section is also accessible by using Narrator. This can end up making watching tv more accessible, depending on what equipment you have connected to your console.
Use Groove with Narrator.
The Groove app is accessible with Narrator.
List of playable games.
Here is a list of playable games on the console. Please note:
- I can not be responsible for if you don’t find the games playable.
- Those games are not made accessible for blind people. Therefore they are only playable. Not accessible.
- Please contact the source if you have any questions regarding the games.
- Source of more information is required for games to be listed here.
Here are some great menu guides and other great stuff for the Mortal Kombat games.
Mortal Kombat 9.
Mortal Kombat 10.
Black Ops 4.
Thanks to you who have taken the time to read this guide. I hope you find it interesting, and that you’ll check this guide from time to time for more updates.
A huge thanks goes to all of you who have taken the time to write game guides, menus and other great external sources to better understand how the playable games works and are played.
Here is a list of people and which part of the guide they have helped by writing. A huge thanks goes to all of you:
List is being updated.
- Made some correction in the controllers section, where I accidentally swapped two buttons.
- Wrote the buttons from the Playstation controllers point of view.
- Added a description of the Xbox One S console.
- Added the Narrator Controller commands.
- Added a section explaining the Xbox interfase.
- Added a section under the controller section describing how to insert the batteries, how to charge and how to check the battery level on the controller.
- Added a section for none gaming stuff.
- Added a section for the dvd and blueray player.
- Added a section about the Movie and tv app.
- Added a section about watching live tv with Narrator.
- Added some more content to the playable games section.
Added Wulverblade to the playable games section. Wrote the basics of the guide, adding lots of content and published the guide to the world.