[2009-01-02] Tactile chess set

Top-down view of tactile chess set showing various affordances for the blind.

This is a chess set which can be played by feel alone. It was designed for the visually impaired, but my sighted friends and I have enjoyed playing against each other blindfolded. Of course, it can also be used by sighted persons in the normal way. Only small changes are required to make a chess set blind-friendly, and I'm surprised that more chess gear does not include them. The dark squares of the chessboard are raised above the light by about 3/16", which makes the board itself haptically navigable. The pieces are readily distinguishable by the feel of their shapes, and white is distinguished from black by the addition of a 1/8" "nipple" on top of each of the white pieces. The pieces are peg-based, fitting into corresponding holes on the board and the two "bullpens" on either side. Thus the pieces are not scattered by the constant fumbling with the board which is necessary to play by touch. Moreover, the board can be set aside mid-game with confidence that the pieces will remain in place until the game can be continued. Four rubber feet, secured to the frame with screws, elevate the board about 1/4" off the table and provide clearance for the peg-bases, which extend slightly beyond the thickness of the board itself.

last modified 2009-01-02