Board games and card games are loved by people of all ages and social backgrounds and there is a good reason for that — they are great tools for learning, socializing, and enjoying leisure time. Fortunately, there are many games that are adapted and made inclusive for people who are blind or have low vision. However, if your favorite games are not available to purchase in an already adapted version, you can easily adapt them yourself, with the help of a sighted friend or teacher. Here are some board games and card games for blind children, adults, and seniors, as well as those with vision impairments due to accident, disease, and/or aging.
In this article you will learn:
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Why are board games useful for people with impaired vision?
It is well-known that board games are of great help when learning mathematical concepts and abstract and strategic thinking. They can be used to boost motivation for studying, enhance social and communication skills, and introduce and discuss almost any topic. Environment, finances, history, art, culture, social issues, health — there are games for blind and sighted players to enjoy together that focus on various themes and subjects. They help develop arithmetic skills and logical thinking and improve cognitive skills such as memory, focus, and attention.
Numerous studies, such as this and this one have demonstrated the positive effect of teaching board games to children with disabilities and have proven that these games provide a great opportunity for them to learn complex social skills and interactions. Playing board games in a team improves self-control and regulation skills and teaches children patience and tolerance.
All of this applies with no exception to people with total blindness and low vision. There are, however, some skills that are specifically important to them — and board games can help them immensely with learning these skills. These include:
For children with congenital blindness, learning the concepts of space, directions, and distances, as well as concepts of size, shape, texture, and hierarchy, is essential. This is the basis of their future Orientation and Mobility training. Any board game that includes spatially related instructions (forward, right/left, move through, take a turn, go back, etc.) is appropriate.
Body awareness concepts
Concepts of one’s own body, and the human body in general, have to be taught to congenitally blind children in a similar way as spatial concepts. Without the possibility for visual observation and imitation, people who are born with blindness have no other way of learning about human anatomy and biomechanics, but by verbal descriptions, real-life experiences, and lots of practice. Games focusing on learning about anatomy, body movements, and health can be useful.
Tactile perception skills and hand and finger dexterity
Tactile perception and dexterity with hands and fingers is another essential skill for people with visual disabilities, especially those with total blindness. The sense of touch, together with the sense of hearing, plays the most important role in sensory compensation for the lack of vision. A good level of tactile perception and recognition is also the basis of future Braille literacy training.
Almost any board game can help blind children and adults with improving these skills as long as the components are large enough and have good tactile markings or surfaces. It is advised to start with larger and simpler shapes and gradually progress to smaller and more difficultly recognizable ones.
Verbal and expressive skills
Children who are born with blindness usually don’t have any specific problems with vocabulary learning. They often enjoy learning new words and expressions and are curious about what words mean. However, without the option of visually observing the surrounding world, they sometimes memorize words and definitions without being able to recognize the objects that these words represent. Verbal learning without appropriate formation and concrete experience, known as verbalism, is a common learning issue for those with congenital blindness, even though it does not occur exclusively to them.
Games that focus on vocabulary and language are suitable for detecting verbalism and for discussing the meaning of words and the real objects they represent.
Low vision training
People with low vision can also benefit greatly from playing board and card games by training their skills to focus on stationary and moving objects and improve balance, motor skills, and eye-hand coordination.
What are some very simple games, suitable for blind or low-visioned young children, beginners, or people with additional difficulties?
Here are some games for blind people and those with impaired vision who are beginners or have additional problems, such as tremors of the hands, poor sensitivity of the hands and fingers due to injury or illness, or cognitive impairments, as well as young children. These games are suitable for these groups of people because they have large and simple components that can be easily recognized. The rules are not too complicated, and the design of the games makes them attractive and pleasant to touch.
Games for blind and low vision players:
Games for low vision players only:
Which blindness-friendly games develop logical thinking and cognitive skills?
Games like chess, checkers, dominoes, puzzles, and most card games have been around for thousands of years and are played all around the world. They are famous for being compared to sports and exercise for the brain for their enhancing effect on cognitive skills and their impact on preserving and improving mental health.
The benefits of these games, however, are not limited only to stimulating abstract and critical thinking and boosting memory and attention. They also teach us how to accept defeat and how to treat other players fairly and with respect. They improve our abilities to focus and concentrate, be patient, and stay calm in stressful situations. Games bring people together and provide opportunities to play as a team, listen to others and understand their reasoning, and be creative and resourceful about finding solutions and making decisions. Games like Twister can also help develop balance and motor skills.
Here are some games that are suitable for people with total blindness or low vision:
Which games enrich vocabulary and communication skills?
Games such as Scrabble, Boggle, and UpWords are useful for enhancing social and communication skills and for enriching one’s vocabulary. They teach not just spelling and vocabulary but also arithmetic, creativity, and strategic thinking. UNO Braille is a simple card game that can help children with Braille learning, and the good thing about the game is that it can be played by participants with or without visual impairments. Boggle and UpWords are not adapted for people with impaired vision yet, but some individuals with low vision may be able to play them if the tiles are large and contrasted enough.
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How can I easily adapt almost any board game for people with blindness or vision loss?
There are many board games that are suitable for people with partial or total vision loss, even though not created with that purpose in mind. As long as the components are large and contrasted enough for those with low vision, or have tactile markings for those with total blindness, any board game can be played by people with vision impairments.
There are also many easy and inexpensive ways to adapt almost any game yourself, with the help of a friend or a teacher. Some very simple materials attached to the components of the game can make a big difference.
Game adaptions for those with total blindness
Use Braille labels, dotted stickers, various fabrics, and tactile paper that can be glued to the board or to the tiles of the game where necessary. If a game has lines on the board that have to be followed, you can make them tactile by gluing threads or toothpicks to them, or using a wax pen and drawing whatever markings are needed.
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Game adaptions for those with low vision
Use regular stickers and vinyl or duct tape in bright colors. The size and brightness will depend on the individual abilities and preferences. The good thing about self-adapted games is that you will be sure the game is suited exactly to your needs!
There is a limitless choice of how to use and match magnifiers, lamps, and combined devices for low vision such as Vision Aid with magnifying glasses and LED light. However, remember that no two people with low vision have the same level of functional sight. Each eye condition is specific and affects people in a very different way, so I strongly advise you to talk to a vision rehabilitation specialist before purchasing these devices. They will assess your level of functional vision, and ask you about your eye condition, lifestyle, and preferences. Usually, these specialists also give you the option to try out various devices and show you how they work, so that you can be sure the ones you choose are right and useful for you.
Note that for people with low vision, good lighting and contrast are essential. Use a table cover that is matte, not glossy, and has a solid color, contrasting to the game you want to play. Avoid table covers with multiple colors and patterns. Usually, it is advised that the light doesn’t come directly from the front, but each eye condition is different, the person with low vision should be invited to choose their most comfortable seat at the table.
Of course, when choosing games for blind people and those with low vision, age, physical and cognitive abilities, and personal interests should always be considered. Whenever you are in doubt about what to choose, or just need a creative idea, you can ask your Everyday & Living Skills teacher (also called Functional Skills, Independent Living Skills, Organizational & Living Skills, or Daily Living Skills) or your vision rehabilitation specialist.
The games you choose should be enjoyable and creative, and if possible, provide opportunities to play with others and communicate.
Are there any virtual games suitable for people with visual disabilities?
Virtual games are known for being very visual, but technologies are advancing and now there are lots of games that are suitable for people with visual impairments too. Most of them are based on sound, including 3D audio which helps you not just hear the sound but differentiate where it’s coming from. Many games can be played by people with visual impairments, as long as they use screenreading software. There are also some games developed specifically for players who have blindness or low vision.
A Blind Legend is an adventure game set in Medieval times. It is a completely audio-based game with no video. You maneuver through the game by using the touchscreen of your phone.
Entombed is another adventure game that is specially created and fully accessible for people with vision loss. It is developed by Driftwood Audio Entertainment, which specializes in creating games for people with vision impairments.
Sryth is also an adventure and fantasy game that is text-based, so it’s fully accessible to people with visual impairments who use screen readers.
Blindfold Racer is a game where you “play with your ears, not with your eyes”, and therefore completely accessible to people with visual impairments.
Blindfold Sudoku contains puzzles of various difficulties and is made for quick audio play. It’s accessible and liked by people with and without visual impairments.
What are your favorite board games for blind people and those with low vision?
Let us know in the comments!