The gaming industry is enormous, but despite modern technology and the advancements in video games, board games are still ever popular. According to a survey conducted in 2017, more than 57% of Americans own between 1 and 25 board & card games, with just over 10% owning more than 100. In 2019, the board game sector was valued at a staggering 13.1 billion dollars. Since then, the industry has only grown in size, the crowdfunding of independent board games is now becoming even more popular than those commercially branded classics we are all used to.
With such a strong position in the gaming industry, board game manufacturers have become increasingly aware of the accessibility of their products. Whether it be the progression in the online space or the adjustments made to physical equipment, accessibility is improving. In this article, we will focus on those with visual impairments, low vision, and blindness.
Visual impairment comes in many forms, and those who are officially considered blind, can often still distinguish colors, shapes, and depths in the world around them. As gaming continues to grow in popularity, manufacturers and private startups are working to adapt some classic games that those without visual impairments have enjoyed for years.
Before we get into our list of games adjusted for the visually impaired, we want to talk about preparation. Before starting your gaming session, you're going to want to get your game area set up, and this starts with correct, and sufficient lighting. Those who are visually impaired often find it hard to differentiate between objects, so making sure your overhead lights are on, and that those lights don't cast misleading shadows is extremely important. Contrasting colors can also really help when telling objects apart, so having a different colored game board compared to your table, or bright colored dice and pieces can help a lot.
After setting your lighting, you will want to retrieve your game pieces, which we recommend are clearly labeled with large printed fonts and potentially braille tape. Depending on your needs or the needs of those you are helping, clearly labeled equipment avoids frustration and allows the setup process to be achieved by anyone, regardless of disability. Following these steps will really help to establish a comfortable, fun environment for the visually impaired and make the experience all that more accessible.
Chess is an ancient game, said to have been invented in the 6th century, with Checkers following a few hundred years in the 12th century. These games are still immensely popular today, with major tournaments being hosted every year in multiple countries worldwide. However, given their design, they don't seem necessarily low vision-friendly, but with a few simple improvements, they can be. A few manufacturers have added ridges between the square spaces on the board; that way, the game becomes more tactile, and changing piece positions becomes easier. On most Chess/Checkerboards for the visually impaired, you will also find small notches beneath the pieces and small holes at the center of every space; these notches provide stability and allow the player to firmly and correctly move their pieces.
With a little creativity, the wide array of card games available can still very much be enjoyed by everyone. A mixture of bump dots, braille labelers, backgrounds, and touch-to-see labels can be utilized on standardized sets to ensure fun can still be had. If people aren't feeling too crafty, however, huge brands like Mattel Games offer braille editions of classics like UNO. Alternatively, large-format editions of regular playing cards are available from numerous outlets at low prices.
Created in 1903 but released in its beloved form in 1935, scrabble has been entertaining and frustrating friends and families for nine decades. While at first, it may seem daunting, Monopoly is easy enough to grasp for those aged around eight and older and is also available in braille and large print editions for the visually impaired.
A molded overlay enables the player to identify all the spaces and locations of the properties, and all the money, cards, and locations are labeled with braille. Now anyone can unleash their capitalist spirit and build an empire!
Word games come in all kinds of weird and wonderful forms and can be enjoyed on the move and at home. Classics like Scrabble and Bananagrams come in editions with the visually impaired in mind and can be enjoyed by people of all spelling levels - in fact, they'll improve your spelling with a little luck!
The Braille Scrabble board has been designed to keep the tiles firmly in place, so no accidents happen, a feature that would be appreciated by anyone who's knocked a board over when heading to the toilet, we're sure. This brilliant guide by VisionAware's Lynda Jones has some great tips on how to set up a playing area.
Another perfect travel companion, dominoes have been entertaining mankind since the 10th century. Fun for all ages, a simple set of dominoes can be used to play classic games such as One-Armed Joe, Twelve Domino Solitaire, Bergen and many more. The small dots on the pieces can be a struggle for anyone with eyesight issues, but luckily a few outlets offer extra-large dominoes where said dots are nearly twice the size.
RPGs have skyrocketed in popularity in recent years, thanks in part to hit series like Netflix's 'Stranger Things' and a host of fun Youtube channels. A visual impairment is no reason to not get involved with a truly EPIC quest, this brilliant 3D printing company making unique DOTS RPG braille dice for all fans of adventure and tactical thinking.
When it comes to RPG's, your imagination should be your only barrier and thanks to the DOTS RPG project, it should be. It’s time to gather your fellowship and start adventuring.