Stephanie Valencia, Deisy Viviana Vasco, Carlos Andrés Alvarez
“CreARTE” is a multiplayer board game designed as an assistive technology that seeks to promote social inclusion of both kids and adults with visual impairment while they learn about colors. Crearte is both a game and an educational system since it teaches a color coding method that like braille, has established a symbol for each color based on the primary colors, their association with everyday objects, and their combination. Introducing colors by touch will help the player become more adept in the ability to interpret touchable patterns; a very important skill for new braille learners. The game has been in use for the past three years at the local Public Library “José Felix de Restrepo”.
The original idea of the project was to make a game that individuals with a visual disability and individuals without it could play together to promote the participation of the first group during leisure activities. Nevertheless, the users at the visually impaired room at Jose Felix library expressed how everything in the room had been adapted for their use, domino pieces, the chess set and the computer’s software and when Pedro, who lost his vision by accident at the age of 22, expressed he missed colors, we realized we could adapt a game and adapt colors for the users in the room.
According to the 2005 census done by Colombia’s administrative department of statistics (DANE) out of 100 Colombians, 43 have permanent visual limitations. Therefore there is a significative population who can really take advantage of special educational environments such as the room at the library where there are different games and didactic assitive technologies that stimulate communication, motor and sensory skills.
The idea was rough until we met Constanza Bonilla’s color system. This Spanish artist has registered a color code where the primary colors are represented with simple geometrical figures that relate their shape with objects that logically correspond to each color and are depicted in high relief to be felt. For example, yellow can be thought to represent the sun’s rays and therefore is represented with straight lines.
Exploring the visually impaired room, we discovered that a very important recreational activity such as painting was not practiced at the room. There was no game that enabled a space to share art, and users, like Pedro brought up they missed colors. Therefore, it was necessary to first introduce the concept of colors and their combinations in a way players can feel them through touch and that can be fun and practical to learn. Games have a lot of potential, since it is by having fun that we learn the most. The project will need to serve as a bridge to include people who have a visual limitation in social activities like playing a board game that can teach them about colors.
DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT
The Constanz System
This system is a registered code created by Constanza Bonilla. It is a language with a simple structure that through high relief symbols, like braille, has a representative pattern for each color. The system has a wide range of application, on education it can be a guide and reference of color in the social sphere to promote inclusion of adults and children with visual impairment and it is also a way to spread and share art. Used as an assistive technology, as it was in this present project, the system can help stimulate the motor- sensory system as well as the mental abilities of the players.
Blue: is represented as the blue ocean which movement is in the form of waves and thus its code corresponds to wavy lines.
Red: like fire, red is represented with flames that go up and down depicted in a zig-zag line
Yellow: associated with the sun’s rays, yellow is represented with straight lines.
The secondary colors derive from the combination of the primary colors. This helps the players make associations about how colors relate.
Contanza also explains the shades of colors and how there is black and there is white. To make a color dark, black is added and to make it light, white is added.We can then obtain coded colors has seen in the next figure.
The game has 5 boards; each board has 12 circles that hold a different color pattern. Some colors can appear more than one time on the boards. The game methodology is similar to Bingo in that a moderator is required. The moderator’s job is to announce the colors he draws out from a bag that contains 20 labeled chips in braille and written text. There is one chip for each color in the game. When the moderator announces a color, the players must feel their boards and if they find the pattern that corresponds to the announced color they cover it to mark it. The first player to cover all the circles must say “CreARTE” out loud to immediately win. If the moderator takes out all of the chips and no player has finished covering all the circles, he can return the chips to the bag and start drawing them out again.
The individuals who aren’t visually challenged and join the game must be blindfolded or with their eyes closed. As the visual sense is not being used during the game, all the concentration will be directed to the moderators voice, who can only repeat the color name twice, and to the fingertips. Players must coordinate their movements enhancing also their minds to remember the pattern that must be recognized.
Creating the Relief
In order to create the raised two dimensional surface that would be recognized by touch, thick wood glue was used. It provides the flexibility needed to make the curves and lines to represent each color, and when dried it has great resistance to compression, at the same time it binds perfectly with the wood surface increasing durability.
About the Boards and Circles
The circular depressions found on the boards where first originally designed as squares. We thought they could look better on the rectangular board, take up less space and therefore allow more colors to fit in the board to make the playing session longer. As we designed the game we noticed it was easier to explore a new surface that had no rigid sides like a square but one that was more curve like a circle. The purpose of the depressions in the board is to separate the colors and to fix the covers in their position as the players place them through the game.
The size of the circles is appropriate so that two fingers can scan the circle comfortably. The circle’s size also encourages the use of fine motor skills by reducing the area making the user focus on the pattern. The edges of the boards were polished so that they could be round and secure. Since many people who visit the library’s room only have visual weakness, we decided to paint the board with the colors that corresponded to each circle. As this project’s objective is to seek social integration, colors will make the board look much more attractive and can help as a visual stimulation for individuals that have a low vision.
User Friendly Considerations
The game includes two printed manuals, both in Spanish: one is printed text and the other one is printed braille. The manuals explain the Constanz system and the game instructions, they also include a checklist of the objects that the game set contains so that the user can keep track of all the elements of the game, number of boards, covers, and the labeled chips with the name of the colors.
The final product was designed so that anyone whohas a permanent visual disability can use it without requiring any help; the box that contains the whole game is wooden and labeled in braille. The lid of the box has a lock so that it slides to be open but can’t be completely separated from the box itself to avoid that it gets lost. The lid also has a thick handle that provides easy grasp to facilitate the sliding of the lid to open the game.
CreARTE has proved to be a useful tool at the visually impaired room at the Jose Felix Library were it has been in use since June 2010. We have received valuable feedback from its users were we have learned that they use it often to play, learn about colors and practice braille. In the future it would be nice to see paintings like the one depicted in the following figure being exhibited at the library.
An assistive technology device can have a great content of technical design or it can be rather simple, what is really important is that it meets its purpose: making people with a certain disability capable of carrying out the same function that has been limited by equalizing their potential. Under the personal idea that “to paint you just need to feel” making it possible for users of the game to express themselves through colors in a new way, by activating their touch sense and developing their, maybe unexplored, artistic skills.
In order to test if CreARTE was indeed an easy game to implement with an educational purpose, we explained the game to two groups of people at the library with different types of visual disabilities and different sensory abilities. Some of the players can distinguish some shades since they have a low vision, others have been visually impaired from birth and one participant has acquired her visual disability through aging and is a new braille learner. Players manifested how the game was fun because it is exciting since nobody knows who his winning as they can’t see each other’s boards. They also liked the idea of connecting the patterns they touch with color names they weren’t very familiar with before, they stated that using words like dark blue, gray, pink or light green made them imagine the colors and feel they understood a new language.
PERFORMANCE & COST ANALYSIS
CreARTE was donated to the library and after three years of use it is still in good shape and used every week. It has also encouraged teachers and users from the room to sign up for painting workshops specially designed for people who are visually impaired. CreARTE is suitable to be used in educational institutions since it is a low cost assistive device, is portable and has no need of maintenance.
- Wood, type: MDF to make 90% of the game: box, boards, chips, and covers. 6mm thickness: 61.083 COP about $ 30.00 Dollars (for the boards). 2mm thickness: 41.873 COP about $20 Dollars
- Special wood glue- $2.00
- Paint- $12.00
- Fabric for the bags that contain the covers and the chips-$4.00
- The University of Antioquia, allowed us to use their braille printer to print the manual and the labels for the chips.
The creation of CreARTE was possible thanks to Spanish artist Constanza Bonilla who designed the color patterns and the whole Constanz method. Her initiative of wanting to share art with people who have visual disabilities inspired this project as well as the students that visit the visually impaired room at the Jose Felix Library at Envigado, Colombia whose advice in the process of the design of the project was crucial and who are enthusiastic about the art workshops we are about to start since they have become familiar with the game and the Constanz system.
 M. Martinez, “technology in rehabilitation: A conceptual approach,” health sciences reviews, december 2006.
 C.Bonilla, “second art exhibit-Arte para tocar” , Argentina, at http://sistemaconstanz.blogspot.com/
contact info:Stephanie Valencia- firstname.lastname@example.org