Adapting the wii fit balance board to enable active video game play by wheelchair users: User-centered design and usability evaluation

Academic Article


  • Background: Active video game (AVG) playing, also known as “exergaming,” is increasingly employed to promote physical activity across all age groups. The Wii Fit Balance Board is a popular gaming controller for AVGs and is used in a variety of settings. However, the commercial off-the-shelf (OTS) design poses several limitations. It is inaccessible to wheelchair users, does not support the use of stabilization assistive devices, and requires the ability to shift the center of balance (COB) in all directions to fully engage in game play. Objective: The aim of this study was to design an adapted version of the Wii Fit Balance Board to overcome the identified limitations and to evaluate the usability of the newly designed adapted Wii Fit Balance Board in persons with mobility impairments. Methods: In a previous study, 16 participants tried the OTS version of the Wii Fit Balance Board. On the basis of observed limitations, a team of engineers developed and adapted the design of the Wii Fit Balance Board, which was then subjected to multiple iterations of user feedback and design tweaks. On design completion, we recruited a new pool of participants with mobility impairments for a larger study. During their first visit, we assessed lower-extremity function using selected mobility tasks from the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health. During a subsequent session, participants played 2 sets of games on both the OTS and adapted versions of the Wii Fit Balance Board. Order of controller version played first was randomized. After participants played each version, we administered the System Usability Scale (SUS) to examine the participants’ perceived usability. Results: The adapted version of the Wii Fit Balance Board resulting from the user-centered design approach met the needs of a variety of users. The adapted controller (1) allowed manual wheelchair users to engage in game play, which was previously not possible; (2) included Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant handrails as part of the controller, enabling stable and safe game play; and (3) included a sensitivity control feature, allowing users to fine-tune the controller to match the users’ range of COB motion. More than half the sample could not use the OTS version of the Wii Fit Balance Board, while all participants were able to use the adapted version. All participants rated the adapted Wii Fit Balance Board at a minimum as “good,” while those who could not use the OTS Wii Fit Balance Board rated the adapted Wii Fit Balance Board as “excellent.” We found a significant negative correlation between lower-extremity function and differences between OTS and adapted SUS scores, indicating that as lower-extremity function decreased, participants perceived the adapted Wii Fit Balance Board as more usable. Conclusions: This study demonstrated a successful adaptation of a widely used AVG controller. The adapted controller’s potential to increase physical activity levels among people with mobility impairments will be evaluated in a subsequent trial. Trial Registration: NCT02994199; (Archived by WebCite at
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Thirumalai M; Kirkland WB; Misko SR; Padalabalanarayanan S; Malone LA
  • Volume

  • 20
  • Issue

  • 3