Chinese Chess Is Finally Accessible To Blind And Visually Impaired Persons
Chinese chess (Xiangqi) is centuries old; some historians date the game back to 400 BC. All this time, blind and other visually disabled persons have been unable to participate in one of China's most popular games.
But last year, design professor Michael Siu, of Hong Kong Polytechnical University (PolyU), created a Chinese chess set for blind persons and others with varying levels of visual impairments. The set, which can now be played with sighted persons as well as other visually impaired persons, has won international invention awards. But most importantly, Siu's invention has opened up a national sport to millions of vision impaired persons that allows them to be included in a very popular national game.
Last month the new chess set won the Grand Award and Gold Medal at the 36th International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques and Products in Geneva. It has also won other international awards in the UK and Malaysia. Here is why:
According to Professor Siu, "the chess set can help visually impaired people distinguish different chess pieces, including the different colours of pieces; search, read, locate, move and pick up pieces; read pieces from different directions without any confusion; realize the whole setting of the chess game; and learn and become familiar with the game easily. More importantly, the newly invented international tactile information overcomes the perplexing variations of existing Braille systems based on the pronunciation of dialects."
Late last week, the manufacturer of the Chinese chess set for visually impaired persons, Bunhoi Group, donated 1,000 sets to the China Administration of Sports for Persons with Disabilities and the China Association of the Blind. The donation is to promote interplay between sighted persons and low-visioned and blind persons. This year, it is hopeful that visually disabled persons will participate in provincial chess competitions for the blind and, by next year, that they will join in the national chess competition.