Contributed by Lynda Jones, CVRT, Peer Advisor.

Enjoying Board Games Like Scrabble

Perhaps, like me, you grew up in a family that spent many hours playing board games, especially on cold winter evenings. A birthday or Christmas often brought the newest popular game, but dominoes, cribbage, and Scrabble remained the all time favorites at my house. Playing Dominoes and Scrabble presented some definite problems for me when I was young – problems you may experience as well.

My field of vision was limited to a space about the size of the hole in a drinking straw. I could see very few letters on the Scrabble board without turning my head, and I could see only three tiles at a time on the small tray. To compete with family and friends required some visual strategies as the board filled with words.

Setting Up the Playing Area

If you enjoyed playing Scrabble before you began losing vision, there’s no need to quit. Although there are adapted versions of the game, try the following suggestions before you purchase one of them:

  • Cover the playing area with a dark cloth. Black, dark blue, or green felt is good. Felt does not cause glare and it keeps the board from sliding around if you accidentally bump it. The dark color creates a contrast between the background and the edges of the board. This makes it easier to stay focused on the board itself.
  • Use task lighting that you can adjust to direct light on to the Scrabble board, rather than ambient ceiling lights that diffuse and spread the light.

Know the Board

Next, take some time to study the Scrabble board. When you could see well, you may never have noticed the arrangement of the board:

  • How many vertical and horizontal rows of squares are there?
  • How many squares in each vertical and horizontal row?
  • The eight bright red “triple word score” squares on the outside rows of the board and the star in the center of the board create four equal quadrants. Carefully scan one quadrant.
  • Pay attention to the color and location of the “double letter” and “triple letter” and “double word” squares. Your vision may not be good enough to read the words but, if you still have color vision, the colors can help you identify these bonus squares.
  • Each quadrant is arranged the same. This knowledge can help you isolate your search for a place to play.
  • You may find that a handheld magnifier is helpful also, especially if the letters on the tiles aren’t large enough to read on the Scrabble board.

Adapted Versions of Scrabble

I eventually lost all of my vision and needed an adapted version of Scrabble. You may be able to use a large print version or use large print stick-on letters that enlarge the print on the board:

braille Scrabble Board

A braille Scrabble board

  • I now use an adapted board that is arranged exactly the same, but it looks like a giant waffle. Each square has raised edges into which the tiles snap. The bonus squares are written in print and braille.
  • It’s not necessary, however, to read braille to use the adapted version of the game. The tiles have raised print as well as braille letters. You may not be able to read the braille but you can feel the braille inside the eight “triple word score” squares.
  • As you review the location of the other bonus squares, it will get easier to find them on the board.
  • Scrabble is also a fun way to learn the braille alphabet. As you play, compare a few of the raised print letters to the braille letters.
  • Instead of an adapted board, you can also purchase tactile Scrabble overlays with braille labels.

Purchasing the Board and Adaptations

You can purchase these options from specialty companies that sell products for people with visual impairments. Scrabble will provide hours of competitive fun!