30 Years of Helping Disabled Gamers
Retired engineer Ken Yankelevitz has been making custom video game controllers for quadriplegics for 30 years. He designs joysticks and other devices that can be controlled by a tongue, a puff of air, or whatever method is most useful to each client, giving them the ability to play, to compete, and to engage in online communities.
But with the retired Bozeman engineer’s 70th birthday approaching, disabled gamers say they fear there will be no one to replace Yankelevitz, who has sustained quadriplegic game controllers for 30 years almost entirely by himself. The retired aerospace engineer hand makes the controllers with custom parts in his Montana workshop, offering them at a price just enough to cover parts.
Gamers and gaming advocates say the Yankelevitz controller’s functionality and price is unrivaled for quadriplegics.
Yankelevitz began his work on mouth-operated video game controllers in 1981 for the Atari game console to give quadriplegic people a chance to engage with one of the few activities open to them. The design was simple on the early models; users only needed to be able to push a few buttons and move a joystick through their controllers.
Over time Yankelevitz adapted the designs to more complex consoles including the XBox and PlayStation platforms. He has no formal relationship with any of the companies, saying they aren’t interested because there isn’t a sufficient market..