Good Neighbors: Sightless Fun

Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rodgers

Ertay and Jed share two things in common – a love of board games and visual impairment. From either side of the globe (Macedonia and Australia!) they’ve connected to created Sightless Fun, a blog and podcast that helps open up the hobby to blind and visually impaired gamers by talking about accessibility and solutions that modify games. Ertay answers our questions this week:

What was the catalyst that brought about Sightless fun?

I was toying with the idea of starting a blog where I would talk about my new hobbies after I became legally blind for about a year. Until the beginning of 2018 the only modern game I played was a social deduction game and my vision deteriorated to the point that made the game unplayable for me. So I created an app that makes the game fully accessible and that’s when I discovered Michael Heron’s work on accessibility in board games at Meeple Like Us. Shortly after that I purchased a couple of gateway games and realized how amazing this hobby actually is for the blind and visually impaired. Inspired by Michael’s work and the lack of content in the field of visual accessibility of board games, I started Sightless Fun in June of 2018. At this point, the idea was still to talk about multiple hobbies of mine, but after seeing the positive reception of my board gaming articles and meeting other blind and low vision board gamers, I decided to focus on writing about board games.

How do you help the gaming community?

I believe we help the community in multiple ways. The first one is by providing ideas and solutions to make board games more accessible for the blind and visually impaired. Next, our visual accessibility analysis articles help people easily understand whether they can or cannot play a game with the amount of vision they have left. I personally spend much longer than sighted people researching games before I purchase them, because I have to make sure I can actually play them. For instance, some games can have perfect reviews and be simply amazing, but that does not mean they can be played by blind players.

By sharing the way we play board games ad visually impaired or blind individuals, we also help game designers and publishers make some decisions during the development of their games that would improve their accessibility. For example, if a game has different denominations of money tokens, making each denomination a different size won’t add much too the actual cost of manufacturing a game, but it will make those components fully accessible for the blind as they  can discern the tokens simply by touch.

What do you hope folks get out of the site?

For the blind  and visually impaired who have never tried board games I hope they give this hobby a shot, especially if some of  them are like me who really enjoyed playing video games until my vision loss took that from me. For the blind already in this hobby, I hope they find our solutions to make games more accessible useful. Finally, for those that are sighted, I hope Sightless Fun makes them introduce their blind friends or family to board gaming, since it is an activity that can be enjoyed by all. Blind people are usually excluded from many activities that have some kind of social interaction – board gaming is not one of those.

What basic suggestions do you have for folks hoping to expand accessibility in their game group or game?

Making games more accessible for the blind usually require some kind of modification to the components. The most basic modification is putting some tape or stickers on cards to make them distinguishable by touch. If you do not want to apply directly to your cards, you can buy sleeves to protect them, and apply the stickers on the sleeves.

Another basic suggestion would be to use different shapes for different types of resources if the only way to discern them is color. For instance if you have a game that has wood, stone and iron resources, but their components are exactly the same size and shape, you can pick up some plastic triangles, squares, and circles to replace them. This way the blind player will be able to tell the difference by touch.

Do you feel like the community is getting better about accessibility for folks with vision impairments?

Absolutely! The more we talk about this the higher the awareness that we’re not a tiny minority gets. I’ve noticed game designers have started making extra efforts to make their games as inclusive as possible. 

With Sightless Fun, we’re not only analyzing games and providing ideas on how to make games more accessible, but also show the sighted board gamers that board games can be fully enjoyed by their blind friends. So, we try to encourage them to invite them to their board game nights.

Why do you think games are important to share with communities/groups of friends?

This question reminded me of a quote by Christopher McCandless ‘Happiness only real when shared’. Personally, I do not enjoy playing games solo because I really like to interact with others. Many blind people suffer from some degree of social isolation as there are plenty of mainstream group activities they can’t partake in. Luckily, board gaming is an activity that can be fully enjoyed by everyone while also enabling social interaction with others.

You can keep up with Sightless Fun’s latest episodes and articles on Twitter