Designing inclusive games for the visually impaired

The below work is a result of my undergraduate thesis where I spent months researching the evolution of language, the influence visual communications has on cultural behavior, and design accessibility in game play experiences today.

Timeline: September '14 - May '15
Undergraduate Thesis - Bachelor of Fine Arts; Visual Communications


Historical research

My undergraduate thesis began with researching historical examples of how visual communications made an impact on culture and, by extension, design's capacity to change human behavior.

In researching the evolution of language and communication, I recognized a pattern: namely, that advancements in language led to solutions to many of the problems associated with growth in civilization.

Contemporary research

Environmental design, which included examples of wayfinding, Nudge Design, and exterior signage, was a category of design I researched in a contemporary context. This led me to an area of interest: human emotions and empathic actions. I began to study the works of Matthew Hoffman, Jessica Walsh, Stephan Sagmeister, Timothy Goodman, focusing on how visual communications in experimental forms can provoke empathic emotions in one another.

Pursuing a thesis around the concept of empathy was a hard proposal to make. It was my experience as an intern at IBM Design where I learned and practiced methodologies in Human Centered Design. By combining my research with my experiences at IBM Design, I shifted my thesis to focus on design accessibility for the visually impaired.

Problem area

700,000 Americans live with a visual impairment.

Only 10% of those visually impaired can read braille.

Source: National Federation of the Blind; 2014

Accessible game play experiences today

Institutions such as Perkins School for the Blind, Phillips, and the America Print House for the Blind custom make games to incorporate social skills using various types of tactile communication such as texture contrast or object shapes.

Unlike the institutions, toy companies like Hasbro and Mattel only used braille making the assumption that braille is the primary form of communication for the majority of those with visual impairments.

The opportunity in Scrabble

150 million sets sold since the 1930's.

1/3 American homes own a Srabble board.

Sold in 121 countries in 29 languages and accessible in braille.


10% cannot read braille.








To-be Story

Design goals

Goal One | Inclusive

Both visually impaired individuals and sighted persons can identify letters and build words using their sense of touch to understand every component of the board game.

Goal Two | Universal

A sighted person can play the board game blindfolded and be able to tactically understand individual letters and words without needing additional assistance or asking explicit questions.

Goal Three | Accessible

Any visually impaired person can identify packaging, game pieces, and assemble the board with no assistance from a sighted person.

Product design & brand