Take a look at children’s playtime: these days, children are often glued to digital video devices, which are virtually useless for kids with visual impairments. After working with visually impaired and blind children (VI&B), educational psychologists Nadia Guevara and Pedro Bori saw a need for games and toys that not only allowed these kids to have fun but improves their cognitive abilities.
Their Kickstarter.com campaign (ending Monday April 13) is helping fund a prototype for their first product, the Smash-a-Ball electronic board game that provides maximum tactile sensations and feedback to VI&B players without the use of a video screen. The game board is a series of colorful buttons; auditory cues indicate which button or pattern to press. To play, children press a particular button as quickly as possible, or remember the pattern and press the correct buttons in a specific order as quickly as possible. Difficulty and pacing levels are chosen in advance; braille-etched on/off button and navigation bar are elements of the design. (See the video above).
Originally from Mexico and now based in Scotland, Guevara and Bori were inspired to develop toys after working with blind children for several years. “We had a class of special needs children and we started to think and ask each other about the options that visually impaired and blind (VI&B) kids have, and we found that they don’t have too many options,” she explained to NotImpossibleNow.com. “We decided to think just about a concept and a way to replace the screens or visual elements for other elements,“ she recalls. Their concept (the progenitor for Smash-a-Ball) won a national award in Mexico and they were able to build a working prototype.
Although designed for the VI&B, Smash-a-Ball quickly became of interest to others working with special needs children, especially those with autism, as they too have few options when it comes beneficial playtime. Playing the game helps improve cognitive development and key skills essential for the daily life such as, “body and spatial awareness, memory, reaction rates, attention, motor skills and other social skills like sharing, participation, patience, following directions, listening, resolving conflicts,” explains Guevara. Additionally, the ability to play and feel challenged makes these children feel included and increases their self-esteem.
The Smash-a-Ball team is also working on non-electric toys as well as apps for smartphones and tablets, offering the best options to the VI&B community, taking into account financial realities and children’s skill sets. Per Guevara, once the campaign is concluded, the funds will be used to finish the prototypes, test them again with children and to finish all the processes, enabling a faster delivery option. Investors are also being actively sought for the game-changing devices.
For more information, or to help the team achieve their mission, visit www.smashaball.com