The trick is to be pragmatic and get creative!
Start with considering what the barrier is in the specific game to be played. Is it access to text? Understanding imagery? Spatial orientation? Color identification?
After thinking about these factors, you can develop custom solutions for how game information is presented or how the game pieces are manipulated so that everyone can enjoy the game. Take creative license to make it your own so that everyone can play.
Color Differentiation and Equipment Access
A lot of the time, board games incorporate color so the players can tell where to go, whose turn it is, which game pieces are which, etc. For example, checkers differentiates players game pieces with the colors red and black. However, people who have low vision sometimes cannot differentiate colors as easily as people without low vision. Consider how to make color differences obvious by providing sharp contrast or tactile indicators. You can do this by using puff paint, bold sharpie markers, Velcro, or tactile stickers.
During one of our Children & Family events, our Vision Rehabilitation Therapists (VRTs) modified the game of Gobblet Gobblers to make it more low-vision friendly. They did this by adding a tactile element to the pieces: the orange feather on top. This way, if someone could not differentiate by color, they could feel which pieces are theirs.
Directions are often in small print that may be not be accessible to someone with low-vision. Recreate the directions and associated stories, cards etc. in large print or braille. You can simplify the process by rewriting the text to make it more concise.
Another option to consider is incorporating audio, like using a scanning app like Microsoft lens, SeeingAI or Lookout to read aloud text, or designating a player to be an objective reader who reads cards, describes actions, and summarizes game state.
Playing with cards
In order to make identifying playing cards easier, you can make or purchase large print, braille, talking label reader cards, or high contrast playing cards. When it comes to game cards (like those in Candy Land or Monopoly), you can have them brailled, recreate them in large print, or simplify them with a key/color system.
Viewing the cards can also be made easier with devices like a CCTV, magnifier, or magnifying app.
Another solution is to add audio description. Cards can be read by a designated reader or app, such as Seeing AI or Lookout. In addition, audio label devices can be added.
Additionally, locating draw card piles, playing or disposing of cards, or set building may be more difficult for those with low-vision. Some solutions to this are:
- Creating play mats or trays that have predictable, tactile outlines that provide assigned locations for each card pile as appropriate
- Using storage compartments, small boxes or trays
- Orienting cards horizontally or vertically
Consider that it can take time when tactile exploration and alternate access to text is needed. It is best to keep it simple and go around the table clockwise even if the game suggests something different.
If another player is getting antsy, you can coordinate an extended game arrangement that allows a player time to evaluate their options and strategically make their move while their opponent is doing something quiet nearby- reading a book, coloring, building a puzzle, or making a craft. You may also consider having the board game being left out for a week and allow for hourly turn taking until the winner is determined.
Another fun way to include everybody is to team up so everyone has a partner, or allow the player who needs assistance to have a coach or a minion depending on how independent they want to be (a coach could give advice while a minion would simply relay board and text information).
Keeping score/Keeping time
Make sure that the scoreboard is easy for everyone to read and understand. You can:
- Use a large dry erase board, bold writer pen on large paper with or without lines
- Customize and print a large print score sheet, use a clip board or slant board to view the score sheet at the right angle and distance
- Use an abacus (or three), use beads on a string as an abacus
- Ask Alexa for help keeping score.
- Use a score keeping or note taking app; share a Note or Google Doc to all players so everyone has access and can edit simultaneously
When it comes to keeping time, consider having audio cues for the countdown and when time is up.
- Use a kitchen timer, a digital timer with a large display or a talking timer that speaks the countdown.
- Use a cell phone app, or Alexa to keep time.
Set the Scene
When setting up for game night, consider how support a person’s visual needs when it comes to lighting. You may add task lighting – a desk/floor lamp with a flexible neck, craft neck light, or book light. You may also consider reducing lighting or wearing filters.
Another thing to consider is the table set-up. Think about how you can increase contrast and texture. Use a solid color, high contrast tablecloth, poster board, or placemat that is in contrast to the game board being used, or have the surface be a texture where a card directly on the table can be easily picked up.
Remember: In almost all instances Alexa, Siri, Cortana and Google can do the same tasks!
Some options to explore:
- 64oz Games makes accessibility kits for popular games https://64ozgames.com/.
- Maxi Aids is an online resource for adaptive products
For table-top games https://www.maxiaids.com/braille-games-and-toys
- Learning, Sight and Sound Made Easier (LS&S) has a wide variety of adaptive products to offer.
For games/toys: https://lssproducts.com/games-crafts/games-toys/
For adaptive playing cards options, too, https://lssproducts.com/games-crafts/playing-cards/
- Hearmore, is your one source for aids and appliances for assistive living
- Meeple Like Us is an online resource full of information about the accessibility of table-top board games, guidance for game makers, reviews of games, and recommendations. https://www.meeplelikeus.co.uk/