Go for the Visually Impaired (V.I.) is well established in Japan, where it has its own Society, headed by Morino Sensei 9 dan in Osaka. The purpose of this article is to let the Go community know about my activities to pilot this work in the UK, in the hope that it will encourage others to initiate other projects.
Whilst Yuki Shigeno was staying with us last summer, our talk turned to the ways in which it is possible for people with a visual impairment to play Go. Yuki has featured this in her reports, and I thought it was a shame that Go was not available to the blind community in the UK.
When Yuki returned to Italy she sent me a 9x9 set which uses circular cut-outs in a two-layer laminated cardboard board, with flat plastic discs as stones. The black stones have a hole in the centre for identification, and the white ones are plain.
Sheila and I met the Consul-General, Minister Takeuchi, from the Embassy of Japan at a reception at the Japan Foundation shortly afterwards, and he expressed interest in introducing some V.I. sets to children in the UK. He promised to do some homework. In May I was called to a meeting with him and Mr Endo from the Japan Information and Cultural Centre where I was presented with five of the cardboard sets, and 13x13 and 19x19 sets which use raised lines and stones with a cross-shaped indentation on the underside to fit on the intersections.
I quickly found opportunities to put the sets to use. Jenny Tuck, an adviser for gifted and talented children in Surrey was able to include three V.I. children in a day I ran for ten schools on 3rd July, and both systems were enthusiastically received. I left one set at Sythwood School to enable work to start there.
I had also been in discussion over the last year with Jean Cavanagh from the Greenwich Vision Impairment Service, who asked me to run a day at Crown Woods School in Greenwich, for twenty-five children and 10 staff. Two of the children had no sight, and coped very well with the sets. They expressed a preference for the first type, with discs and holes, as the stones needed no orientation - the second type need the stones to be rotated to fit onto the intersections. The remainder of the group had varying degrees of impairment, from extreme tunnel vision to extreme short sight - all of these could use either the large magnetic teaching board or standard equipment, though some found the adapted sets helpful because the stone could not move once played. We found that it was easy to put very thin strips of self-adhesive plastic over the lines on the magnetic board, which still allowed the stone to stick, and identify the black stones with sticky raised dots, which are available from the RNIB. The teachers had also adapted a standard 9x9 by using sticky plastic strings called Wikki-Stiks over the lines, and standard Go stones with small dots of blu-tac on top.
We were pleased to receive a message of encouragement from Morino Sensei (9p). Yuki has relayed an invitation from Yasuda Sensei to Sheila and me to join him at a Go and Communication event in Nagano in November, and Yuki has offered to go with us to meet Morino Sensei in Osaka while were in Japan.