Games are not just for children—thank goodness. They have an appeal that doesn't fade with age, and in virtually every culture they're considered a normal recreational activity for adults as well as kids.
You can spend a fortune for an antique alabaster chess set, or nothing at all for the same basic components homemade from odds and ends of cardboard and crayons. The two sets won't look the same but you can get the same fiercely competitive feelings, fun, intellectual challenge, and sense of triumph when you win. Most important, visual impairment is no barrier to participating in just about every one of the games discussed below.
Braille and large-print playing cards are available commercially. If you've learned braille since becoming visually impaired, you can recycle your regular playing cards. Use a braillewriter or a slate and stylus to braille the symbols for card values and suits on any ordinary deck of cards.
- The value is indicated by the number on the card—for example, a lower case e for the number 5, or the letters j for jack, q for queen, k for king, and a for ace.
- The letters s for spades, h for hearts, d for diamonds, and c for clubs indicate the suits. Other card games can be similarly adapted for those who read braille.
You may not be able to see the hand you've been dealt but the other players can, unless you are consistently careful about how you hold them. The easiest way to deal with that is to use a card holder (two round pieces of plastic between which the cards are inserted and that can be held easily in one hand). Card holders are available from vendors of specialized equipment.
Tactile and large-print bingo cards enable anyone who is visually impaired to enjoy the game. And there are several ways to keep score. The most common method is to use a pegboard, similar to a cribbage board, which can be purchased or made with simple woodworking tools. You place two pegs at the starting point. After the first round, you count the appropriate number of points and insert one peg. This peg keeps the place of the current score, and the second peg is used to mark the score of the next round. Using this method you can also keep score for your opponent.
You can buy braille or tactile versions of many popular board games, including Monopoly, Scrabble, checkers, chess, and cribbage. The modified Scrabble board, for example, has raised boundaries between the squares for the letters to fit into, braille captions to indicate double- and triple-word or letter squares, braille letter tiles with point values (without the number signs), and a peg board and large-print score sheets for score keeping. For the serious Scrabble player, The Official Scrabble Player's Dictionary is available in braille.
Checkers and other board games can be adapted easily using various materials. For example, standard checkers pieces can be distinguished by a textured surface glued to or a hole through the center of either the red or black set of checkers.
Tactile dice are available commercially, although some standard dice already have dots that can be identified by touch.
If you are with a group of friends who want to play a board game and no adapted version is readily available, you can still participate by partnering with a sighted friend. That person acts as the reader, describing what is happening on the playing board and what the other players are doing. Both partners participate equally in strategic decision-making.
A variety of accessible computer games are available. Some games can be purchased and installed on your computer. Other games are played over the web.
Some games require a screen reader and speech synthesizer to read the screen. Other games come with speech built-in.
For a small sample of computer games, visit AFB's Product Database.