Games for the Visually Impaired: The Importance of Play

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I cried a little this morning; they were happy tears. I was reading Kill Screen’s recent article about Smash-A-Ball, a handheld game for visually impaired children. It’s similar to the Simon games in theory. The player must press the buttons in the correct imitated series to win.

Smash-a-Ball is a company created by Nadia Guevara and Pedro Bori, which has created this lovely piece of technology and has now turned to Kickstarter to fund the production of the first 800 units of the game.

This is so incredibly important. Can you imagine having grown up without games? And I’m not even talking just video games here. I know that there are children who developed perfectly fine having never touched a video game. I mean ANY game. It is so important to development. Playing Barbies with my childhood best friend is how I learned to compromise (and that I’m a tyrant). Games like the Simon franchise helped me develop coordination; which I would later use to play even more games, but also tactile activities like knitting. Playing chess started developing the formal logic I would eventually study in college.

http://www.braillebookstore.com/Checkers-Set,-Classic.2

Tactile Checkers

But all of these things aided in the growth of my self-confidence. I did victory dances when I finished a level in Mario. I felt proud of myself when I beat my cousin in checkers. Children with visual impairment deserve the chances to feel this way too.

There are modified chess and checkers board for the visually impaired. I once played Poker with Braille cards. There are video games for visually impaired adults. There are magazines for visually impaired adult gamers, like AudysseyBut there are not enough, and many are difficult to find. Companies like Bavisoft and BSC Games that used to make games for the visually impaired have virtually disappeared, their games now abandonware. Children, and adults, need a diversity of learning tools, an array of games.

Smash-A-Ball is a great step in the right direction for visually impaired children. There should be a multitude of options for them. “Every minute a child somewhere in the world goes blind” (World Health Organization, 2009). That’s a lot of children, a lot of individuals who now need alternative ways of play to get the same kind of development children without visual impairments are able to access.

I have seen what all work and no play does to children. It’s awful. I then worked at a daycare that modeled its curriculum around play, and those children learned so fast, so readily, because it was fun. From the American Academy of Pediatrics “Play is essential to development because it contributes to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children and youth.” I’ve never stopped playing. It’s so vitally essential to my emotional well-being.

Smash-A-Ball is important, and I hope the Kickstarter reaches its funding. But I also hope it is the catalyst for other game companies to join in and create accessible games for all.

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About Author

Editor of Games Section. Expert on chronic/terminal illness. Collector of Illness Comics. Chicagoan. Jewish. Gay.

1 Comment

  1. Hello Al Rosenberg!

    First, let me thank you in behalf of our team for this awesome article!

    We were really touched with your opening sentence, we didn’t expect to have these reactions, however, is really nice to find more people with this mindset, and that also supports this kind of projects!

    Unfortunately our Kickstarter didn’t get the success we expected, but now is our job to keep doing the best we can to make this dream a reality, because as you said and quoted, Play is essential, and we know, VI&B children and teenagers, don’t have too many options. In the meantime we make this project true, we’re developing apps for smartphones, as another attempt to approach videogames to them.

    We still need all the help we can get and we’re looking for it.

    Please receive a huge hug and our biggest gratitude for your words from all the team!

    Smash-a-Ball Team