New Gadget Provides Inclusive Experience for Rugby Fans with Disabilities

Assistive Technology, Europe, Universal Design, April 10 2020

UNITED KINGDOM:  Blind sports fans have received a boost from a magnetic gadget to help them enjoy a match. The “touchy-feely” board helps visually-impaired supporters keep up with the action and never miss a goal, try, putt or basketball hoop. The kit is the first of its type in the UK and is being used at Scottish rugby matches but it will soon be available to sports clubs across the country.

Person holding a device in a stadium

Record reporter James Moncur, who coaches a disabled rugby team, trialled a prototype tactile board at a Scotland rugby game (Image: Daily Record)

Volunteers move a small magnetic ball around the pitch-shaped board to indicate players’ positions and the movement of the ball. The lines of the pitch and goalposts are raised and different areas of the playing surface have different textures to feel. When combined with a special audio descriptive commentary, it gives visually impaired fans an all-inclusive experience.

The tactile board is the brainchild of Ruaridh Pye, of Edinburgh Rugby. He said: “To provide an enhanced sporting experience regardless of your condition is, and always has been, my aim. “I have not stopped at rugby – there has been interest from a variety of sports and potential investors from around the world.  “I have designed a board for use in football, curling, golf, American football and basketball.”

Ruaridh has worked alongside the Scottish Rugby Union and the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh to develop the equipment.  He said the next generation board will hopefully be launched in Hong Kong later this year.  It merges two boards into one, using magnetic traction, varied texture and LEDs.  Ruaridh has now approached some of the top teams in England and is hoping clubs from the Scottish Premiership will get on board too. He said: “I can’t imagine a life without sport so why should people living with an impairment or disability have to?”

Originally Published on Daily Record

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