“Yes, Blind People Can And Do Play Chess.”

You may have heard the saying that goes: While you may be playing checkers, your opponent might be playing chess. That comparison between games often means that someone is thinking or competing at a less thorough or skilled way than someone else. In the popular family-room mind, checkers is often seen as the easier game than the more complex game of kings and queens.

That’s especially true in the United States where very little press covers chess, rendering it to the annals of a few game stores and the stigmas about its participants as nerdy, brainiacs that are on another mental level than the rest of us. And that’s especially true among the blindness community where chess is advertised along with Connect Four, Scrabble, and Uno as being played at the dinner table, not in the parlans of known sports like basketball or football.

Yet, did you know that in chess, the United States has three of the top players in the world? Our best player, Fabiano Caruana challenged the reigning world champion, Magnus Carlsen, back in 2018.

Of course, this feat didn’t garner the attention that Bobby Fischer’s defeat of Boris Spasky did in 1974 when the United States had its first chess champion in decades. Still, Caruana’s accomplishments did inspire a lot of kids and adults to take up the game of chess during the era of the pandemic when we were all masking up and sheltering in place for far too long.

People who are blind and low-vision have organized correspondence and over the board chess events here in the United States since the late 1960s. Back then, players sent their moves to one another on postcards or called each other on the phone to play games. Some of our players teamed up in an international event for blind players before officially forming the United States Braille Chess Association. Since then, we have changed Braille to Blind while the acronym, USBCA still remains.

One of our first standout players was Al Sandrin. He’d been one of the United States’ top master level players before he went blind. Then, afterwards, he participated in USBCA events along with keeping up his play in top level sighted events. You can read more about him here. Other more recent winners of the over the board tournament include the Late Joe Kennedy, Jeff Siebrandt, Alex Barrasso, Henry Olynik, Mike Davis, Al Pietrolungo, and Jim Thoune. . Most recently, Jessica Lauser became the first woman to win our over the board annual tournament. The linked article tells of her journey to chess prominence.

You, too, can join us at this year’s annual over-the-board tournament which will be held in the Chicago suburbs on the Elmhurst College campus. There’s no need to wonder if you aren’t rated high enough or if new players can come. Anyone at any skill level is welcome at our over-the-board tournament about which you can read on our website.

While some of us who play in the USBCA are active competitors against sighted counterparts, many of us are not. We are a group of people who love the game and enjoy finding time for competition against each other while making new friends.

Of course, finding an adapted chess set-replete with tactile board and pieces-may seem to be a challenge for some and it’s not always cheap. Yet, if you go to the Braille Super Store, to Maxiaids, or to Chess Baron, you can purchase sets of varying quality and prices.

To further remove the mystique of chess as a game for just the brainy, join in with us and mix it up on Usbca_chess-request@freelists.org. In short, we are a community of beginners to the Olympic hopeful learning from and teaching one another.

As one of our USBCA past presidents often said: Yes, blind people can and do play chess. So set up those pieces and board for a game…and more!

Adaptive Sports: Ready, Set, Go!

Are your brackets busted or still thriving? Yes, as the college basketball season winds down and we fans can’t wait to see who is crowned champion, many adaptive sports are in full swing or heating up.

We feature a lot on here about sports like goalball, beep baseball, and other paraolympic activities for a great reason. We’ve got our athletic heroes and models in the blindness community just as fans do anywhere else. We also may try our hand at doing some adaptive sport ourselves from time to time. What a way to stay fit, alert, and primed for the rest of our lives!

For me, the fun is in running and weightlifting. No, I’m not a top performer myself. Yet, I love listening to the motivational advice and tips from such athletes as Tyler Merren who is the creator of the Revision Fitness App. I read a lot of articles on training regimens so that, even at age fifty-one, I’m still setting personal goals and challenging myself to be as in shape as possible. My competitive juices flow over the chessboard. Look for more about how we who are blind can and do play chess in the next post.

At The Blind Guide blog, Ed Henkler gives an excellent overview of adaptive sports-and not just the games like goalball and track but extreme sports like whitewater rafting. He mentions several paraolympic luminaries as well. Check it out here and see how he features the work that seven time goalball paraolympian, Jen Armbruster, encourages people in her community to stay fit through sports. Check out the numerous links to resources for you who may just be getting started or are searching for which sport might interest you.

What a joy it is to get up and get moving as we navigate life’s contours boldly blind.

Thankful For Those Who’ve Gone Before Us

While many in and beyond the disabilities community know the name of Judith Heumann who recently died, not as many know the name, Dr. Bill Takeshita. Certainly not as accomplished internationally as Heumann, he was a long-time advocate for those of us who are blind or low-vision. You can read the article from Braille Institute’s blog here about his teaching, speaking and lecturing on all things related to blindness. https://brailleinstitute.org/blog/our-stories/remembering-dr-bill-takeshita-a-guiding-light


There is much to glean from reading and studying the disability advocates who have gone before us or who are currently defending our dignity. The more and more I study luminaries such as Ed Robinson, Judi Heumann, Emily Ladau, et al, the more I gain a deep appreciation for how their arguments flow as much as what their writings say.

They say many good things about forming alliances between the disabilities community and defenders of equal opportunities for people of various ethnicities and races. But let’s examine a caveat in how we speak since we want to reach as wide an audience as possible. That is, let’s try making our points and positions known without using the jargon buzz words like ally, diversity, equity, inclusion, intersection and so forth.

After all, the more the casual or run-of-the-mill person hears such words, the easier they may get turned off or overwhelmed. Speaking politically, we want to reach both sides of the aisle, the right and the left. Like it or not, because our movement’ affects the private sector as well as the public politique, we must speak according to our audience’s presuppositions. After all, we do believe our case is “nonpartisan.” So let’s keep it there.

Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, championed by the late Judi Heumann and by the late Sen. Bob Dole during George H.W. Bush’s administration, the push for laws and folkways moving away from discrimination against us who are disabled has gained good steam. The problem we run into, therefore, is the language often employed by some which by its very nature causes division.

Case in point: The wooden use in speaking and writing one’s preferred pronouns along with their name when introducing them in advocacy situations buries our message behind terms which only part of those in attendance appreciate hearing. People get more caught up in not offending someone with the wrong manner of speech that the real desire for everyone, liberal and conservative, to become less discriminatory of us who have disabilities gets muddied like the reams of paperwork someone going through an agencies in-take forms must sign.

Unfortunately, the overemphasis on microaggressions in society has made employers afraid of asking the good questions of future team members who are disabled as well as afraid of presenting the less desirable ones. Gone is the good old-fashioned “sorry” and moving on when resolving a hicup in a conversation between someone who is disabled and someone who is not.

We who have striven for inclusion, accommodation, and acceptance before terms like diversity and inclusion became socially cool haven’t changed our aims. We boldly go wherever we need to when duty calls to speak up for the dignity of friends, coworkers, and other associates who are disabled. Our message hasn’t changed one iota and won’t if we don’t feel the need to use terms that only a handful of people in the body politique insist on using.

In other words, I don’t have to be an ally or say how much I’m an ally to join a friend who’s quadriplegic as I, a person who is blind, speak up for his public rights.

I don’t have to speak of diversity as part of my talk to enjoy times when sharing the platform or Facebook conversation with people who are black or Asian, heterosexual or homosexual when it comes to discussing disabilities.

So the next time we speak publicly or privately regarding our aims as people who are blind, deaf, quadriplegic, or so forth, let’s find ways of presenting our good case in language that avoids the jargon. Then, maybe, the intersections can clear of whatever traffic jams others or we may cause when trying to figure out whose more privileged or marginalized than another. In all our endeavors of being boldly blind, we rejoice in mixing it up with ourselves or others when raising awareness and bringing encouragement.


One of the twin aims of boldly Blind is to raise awareness among people who are not blind of our capabilities and dignity. It’s easier said than done. After all, we all are heirs of centuries-long progress and poverty regarding how people of differing races, disabilities, and ethnicities regard each other. Thankfully, Title IX in the 1960s illegalized discrimination in th eworkplace and school with regard to one sex, nationality, and disability. The Americans With Disabilities Act did a marvelous job from the Federal level with regard to opening up many opportunities in the private and public square for people to be hired and welcomed who are blind, deaf, mentally handicapped, mute, or cognitively disabled.

Still laws can’t and don’t always change hearts. They don’t by codification alone unteach biases that have built overtime. Hence, while systemic discrimination-that which is permitted under law and practiced without a social check-does not garner much press, much ingrained discrimination still remains. It’s not anyone’s overt fault but a symptom of someone’s lack of exposure to people who are disabled. How is someone to know what a person who is blind, deaf, mute, or quadriplegic able to do unless they observe it or are taught? They can’t, even in our technologically advanced age.

Hence, in her book, Demystifying Disability, Emily Ladau says what eeveryone who’s awareness can grow needs to hear: “It’s pretty common for the mere mention of the word disability to evoke fear, confusion, and an endless stream of misconceptions. And often, people don’t realize their own biases. There’s much work yet to be done to change hearts and minds—or, at the very least, to get nondisabled people to stop treating disabled people as a weird cross between precious gems and alien creatures. And I am one of the many disabled people who are passionate about doing such work.”” (Ladau, Demystifying Disability, p2)

What then is disability discrimination if it’s not systemic? The term I used is endemic. Biases are learned. Favoritism is ingrained. Hero worship is modeled. Fear is passed down from generation to generation especially unawares.

Yes, we need to be forthright when confronted with overt, ad hominim discrimination. That’s when we speak directly to a person as we diagnose their intent. Most of the time, however, we run into situations which call us to speak in the passive voice, about the disparate impact upon us caused by discriminating words or actions. For example, when a college insists on that its faculty does everything possible to accommodate for “special” needs through its disabled students services and yet a few professors refuse to provide course syllabae or handouts available only on a portal whose platform is not accessible to all screen readers, the impact on a blind or low-vision student is that he or she can’t c complete the required coursework. Thus he or she will be jeopardy of failing whatever class they are in.

Confronting the powers-that be means addressing the impact that not failure to provide a work-around has upon a student. Such an example was all too real in th ecase of Payan vs. Los Angeles Community College District. At last notice, to avoid the case being taken to the United States Supreme Court, LACCD agreed to work with all concerned parties and make adjustments to its course delivery.

It is important for us who advocate for the disabilities community that we remain staid and resolute in our stance while not becoming beligerent bulls in a china shop. AS we seek to raise awareness about people who are disabled, we do well to remember the quote from Ladau’s introduction. People whose attitudes and knowledge base has come endemically do need retaught whether by example or hands-on experience with people who are blind, deaf, mute, or otherwise disabled.

It also entails we whose impairments may be different work together as best we can, avoiding the skurmishes that intersectionality often creates between our varying blocs of advocacy. After all, we aren’t after making names for ourselves or a public blow-up for its own sake. Rather, our aim remains equal participation with those who are nondisabled in all that everyday, workaday life has to offer.

The United States Goes International With Blind Soccer

What’s the most popular sport that people worldwide play that involves a ball? If you guessed soccer, you’d be right. While not as familiar in the United States per se, its popularity is growing! Maybe, that explains the continued growth of a new blind sport: blind soccer.

We’ve featured the rules and appeal of this game in a previous article. Here, you can check out the United States Association of Blind Athletes’ team in action as well as a summary of the game. We played two games against the Canadian team, winning the first 1-0 and then 3-0. You’ve got to be athletic and quick-blind or sighted-to be good at this sport. Perhaps, you, your local association for the blind or friends might want to play. Contact the United States Association of Blind Athletes to get involved.

Leader Dogs’ Bark and Brew Is Back

Are you living in the northern suburbs of Detroit or visiting them in mid-June? You might enjoy a time to meet future and current guide dogs. That’s because Leader Dogs For The Blind’s Bark and Brew event is back for 2023. You can find the details here.

Like most other guide dog schools, Leader hosts a fun day when people interested in the work guide dogs do with their users can join the schools community of staff, trainers, graduates, and raisers for a few hours’ fun. It’s a way to kick back and support the work the school does while gaining greater awareness of how important dogs are for those who follow them across busy streets, through school and office buildings, and when traveling on vacation. Are you a 5K or mile runner? Consider supporting the work of Leader Dogs for the Blind through getting sponsorships while participating in a bit of your favorite form of fitness. You can also see the details for this event here.

And, of course, imbibe the brew or whatever beverage quenches your thirst while you’re at it.

To Be A Better Advocate, The Leadership Academy

Everyone of us who is blind has a story to tell about adapting to our vision loss. We use those stories when helping a friend going through difficult adjustments themselves. Maybe, those stories help a coworker or friend better understand how we adapt to living alone or travel around town. Maybe, we use those stories to advocate for others’ dignity when they feel discriminated in a public place.

It’s this last use that the Leadership Academy hosted by the League For the Blind’s Inclusion Institute wants to encourage. Over the next few months, we who join monthly in-person classes and do online modules will learn how to advocate for our needs in the local area of Fort Wayne, IN and beyond. Maybe, transportation is an area someone wants to improve. The directors of the institute may match them with opportunities to advise Citylink’s public transit officials. Someone else may have experience with handling housing concerns. Through the institute, they may learn ways of addressing needs for affordable or cost-effective renting while promoting homes with disability accommodations.

As I sat in an interview today with the Leadership Academy’s directors, I was privileged to discuss the concerns that affect us who are blind as well as people who have other physical and cognitive disabilities. In fact, the three people who interviewed me were all quadriplegic due to a number of conditions. As we talked, we shared our mutual longing to make various aspects of life here in Fort Wayne more accommodating so that people who have various disabilities can experience all that life has to offer with an equal opportunity as anyone else.

We’ll be focusing on four major areas: transportation, housing accessibility, education, and web access for local businesses and schools. Of course, these major areas involve many smaller topics and I am eager to share how the journey progresses. So stay tuned to see my updates on the class and the opportunities it affords me. Perhaps, a similar opportunity awaits you at the center for independent living in your town or city.

Remember, we may not all be involved with professional settings. But we are all advocates navigating life’s contours boldly blind.

For more about the Inclusion Institute at The League For The Blind in Fort Wayne, Indiana, go here.

Welcome To the Blind Kitchen

Have you heard the myth that it’s difficult to impossible for someone who is blind to cook? Well, let’s bust that myth with the help of http://www.theblindkitchen.com. Not only does this incredible website have a repository of products you can buy to adapt your kitchen, it is full of tips and encouragement for cooking easy to complex meals.

Perhaps, you may be afraid of using sharp objects such as knives. You can use such safety measures as cut gloves and tactile guides to help you navigate slicing up meat or vegetables.

The other neat aspect of this website is how it makes cooking fun. So often, we who work or don’t consider meal preparation a tough chore. It doesn’t have to be. We can gain confidence learning how to cook and fashion the activity to our needs. Maybe, we like salads or making desserts. Perhaps, we’re carnivores by nature. Well, look at the type of adaptive equipment such as meat thermometers, cutting gloves, tips for measuring and other gadgets to get you started.

I hope you enjoy this helpful and entertaining http://www.theblindkitchen.com.