Puzzles for the Visually Impaired

Puzzles for the Visually Impaired

Welcome back to the blog. This week we’re talking about a new range of jigsaw puzzles that we’ve produced with the talented Catherine Daley for the Royal National Institute of Blind people (RNIB). The Sylvia Smiles jigsaw puzzle collection features three 28 piece jigsaw puzzles, comprised of distinct, 10cm key shaped pieces which make it possible to do them entirely by feel alone. The choice of image and bright yellow edging should also help those with poor vision. The artist of the puzzles, Catherine Daley, has written in with some information about her collection:

Sylvia testing a puzzle prototype

“The idea for Sylvia Smiles was born because I was running out of ideas to entertain my severely sight impaired mother-in-law, Sylvia. She had stories on tape and some large print wordsearches etc and we tried large piece jigsaws aimed at dementia sufferers but they were not really suitable as the images were too dull (She has had glaucoma for years, a detached retina and macular degeneration).

Sylvia Reviewing Puzzle Samples

As her vision worsened puzzling became frustrating and left her feeling defeated. She missed doing puzzles, so I decided to create a new kind of jigsaw that would not depend on good vision. I had the idea of trying to make the puzzle entirely workable by touch and then I experimented with colours to see whether they could help at all. I found out that not many blind people can see absolutely nothing at all. Some can make out contrasts or shapes, some can see certain colours. So I tried to combine all these ideas with Sylvia as chief puzzle tester.

Sylvia testing the finished product

I originally made the puzzles out of thick mounting board, cut by hand and the first one was just Sylvia’s name in a bright colour against a main light coloured background. She loved it ( grinned from ear to ear - hence “Sylvia Smiles”) so I carried on drawing them and cutting them by hand which was very slow and very time consuming.

We then tried to find a puzzle company who might make them for us but everyone we tried wasn’t at all positive about the idea. I started making them using a Cricut machine instead, resigned to them just being for Sylvia’s entertainment.  Then one day by chance we found Clare from All Jigsaw Puzzles who had worked with a blind organisation before and knew exactly what I was trying to achieve. We had a few puzzles made and I contacted the RNIB to see if they would be interested and the rest is history!”

Catherine added “We now have a family competition as to who can complete the puzzle the fastest ( the rest of us wear blindfolds ).”

The Sylvia Smiles collection of puzzles has been designed to help blind and visually impaired people enjoy the benefits of puzzling – we hope this puzzle collection will help visually impaired people and their carers to enjoy this pastime as much as the visually abled can. Click here to explore the collection.

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