Future Reflections                                                                                         Summer/Fall 2005

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Adapting Games for Blind Children

by Katrilla Martin

Playing games has been proven to enhance the intellectual, interpersonal, and physical abilities of children. How then does a blind child, who may tend to shy away from playing games, develop those same abilities and what can parents do to help foster that development? The answer: Be resourceful. The world of card and board games, interactive computer games, or outdoor games does not need to be closed to blind children. Finding fun, inexpensive ways to adapt games for blind children may seem unrealistic, but truthfully most games can be adapted and made accessible at little or no cost to parents. The following article offers some guidelines to follow for making the experience of playing games an enjoyable one for blind children.

Adapted checker games are inexpensive and available from a variety of sources. Here, Louisiana youngster, Michael Taboada, gets some tips on the game from his opponent and blind mentor, Mary Brunoli, at a Federation function.
Adapted checker games are inexpensive and available from a variety of sources. Here, Louisiana youngster, Michael Taboada, gets some tips on the game from his opponent and blind mentor, Mary Brunoli, at a Federation function.

BOARD AND CARD GAMES: Making adaptations to card and board games involves simple, inexpensive modifications to cards, playing pieces, and game boards. Since the materials needed to adapt games in Braille--Dymo tape, a slate and stylus, and/or a Braille writer--may be already on hand, many parents and children opt to do the adaptations themselves. (I pause to mention that Braille dice are available at any of the specialty resources included in this article, but that most blind children have no difficulty in using regular playing dice). Players and persons making the modifications must have a working knowledge of Braille and be aware of how much space can be used without obscuring the pieces and board space of others. In other words, these adaptations should not make playing the game difficult. When adapting playing cards, the convention is to use an abbreviated two-digit system and to emboss the Braille numbers and/or suits in opposite corners. For example, “7g” indicates a green seven card in UNO and “xh” is a ten of hearts in a standard deck. (Note: In Braille usage, “x” can be used to connote the Roman numeral ten. Also, it is not necessary to use the number sign if you teach your child that numbers come first, followed by the letter.) Doing this not only allows a young child to practice and master learning the Braille alphabet and numbers, but can also be fun and informative to sighted family and friends.

However, adaptable card and board games can also be purchased by catalog or online from locations that specialize in adaptive appliances and equipment. Sites such as Beyond Sight at <http://www.beyondsight.com/catalog.asp> or Independent Living Aids, Inc at <http://www.independentliving .com/contact.asp> have games in stock and will mail them to your front door for an additional fee. Prices will vary depending on the game and modifications. Sample prices of common games include: $8 (Tactile Tic Tac Toe), $13 (Braille UNO Cards), and $70 (Braille Monopoly).

INTERACTIVE COMPUTER AND VIDEO GAMES: Computer and video games, the most popular type of game these days, are filled with visual graphics and commands that are inaccessible to the blind child. Some Web sites that do offer computer games to the blind, fail to make their games compatible or interesting. Despite these discouragements, there are some resources for exciting and accessible computer games for blind children.

The creators of the AllinPlay, a fun and friendly game site that encourages players of all abilities, but discourages inappropriate language and attitudes is one such fun resource for blind children. Games like Crazy Eights and Poker can be accessed for a small annual fee and a small amount of hard drive. This site is available at <http://allinplay.com/ indexNoFlash.html>. Growing tired of being left out of the gaming industry, Eddie Timanus, a blind sportswriter and former Jeopardy champion, learned to adapt, create, and modify computer games. He, along with some close friends, has adapted such games as Tank Commander, Solitaire, and interactive Wheel of Fortune. For more information, email Eddie Timanus at <editor@thegames journal.com>.

OUTDOOR GAMES AND SPORTS: Most children love to go outdoors to play, including, contrary to popular belief, blind children. Nevertheless, an outdoor experience, without proper planning, direction, and guidance can make even the most confident blind child decline a game of hide-and-seek, monkey-in-the-middle, or golf. Friends and siblings need to be aware of and respect the necessary adaptations; yet, parents need to allow fairness and freedom. There has to be a balance for all to enjoy the activity. Adaptations to outdoor games and sports are simple and inexpensive. Examples of modifications that accommodate blindness include balls that have bells or beepers inside them and bases that are audible and otherwise distinctive. Web sites mentioned earlier make the purchasing of adapted equipment easily accessible. For more information regarding team sports for blind children, visit <http://dmoz.org/Sports/Disabled/Blind/> or <http://www.discoveryblindsports.org/>.

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