„And now, could you please explain to me, how I can use the backend myself?“ We were out of breath for a moment … does she really want to do that? But this lady is not used to recognize borders. Instead, she always proves that you can fully go your own way, even when you’re having a physical impairment, so we would never oppose to her wish.
After a couple of minutes our surprise turned into a strong conviction that Erika Lendeckel could easily run the new webshop, which we have created for her and her husband, the operators of Velen Parlor Games.

Erika Lendeckel is blind. When seeing the elderly lady in her joie de vivre and vitality one will easily understand, why her husband made an effort 30 years ago, to grant her very special wish: She wanted to be able to play the parlor games which her husband and children enjoyed so much. Both worked as educational staff in a school for the blind and made plans, how they could make their plan a reality.

How can sighted- and blind people play games together?

The Lendeckel-family regularly exhibits their products in Spielescheune Burhave.

This was “Velen Spiele”‘s time of birth! They were not talking about parlor games for the blind. Those already exist in masses, but Erika Lendeckel considers them horribly boring. The challenge was to convert the popular Ravensburger Spiele® into games that could be played by both: Blind and Sighted people. Visually, the game boards should remain as they were. Since then, Volker Lendeckel adapted all “Ravensburger Spiele”-board games, by adding a transparent film. The film is equipped with a relief, that is sculpted by a machine. Like this, the details can be experienced by touching the board. The board game’s particoulored pieces are also upgraded by different types of relief – blue pieces have a wavelike-design, yellow ones have checks on them, etc. To prevent the pieces from moving to quickly, the board is attached to a metal-sheet and the pieces contain magnets.

“We never thought of games for the blind! These have always existed and were uninteresting for us! We wanted games that blind and sighted people could play together!”

Volker Lendeckel

Velen Spiele closes a gap This unique idea was not only very well received by “Ravensburger Spieleverlag”, but the publishing house is now also supporting Volker Lendeckel’s work in his by now very professionally equipped workshop. Since then Mr and Mrs Lendeckel have acquired international customers, e.g. from Norway and Switzerland. Schools and educational institutions appreciate this unusual commitment and have become regular customers in the course of the years. A CNC milling machine and thermoforming machine are investments that were only possible thanks to sponsors who supported the professional re-equipping. Nevertheless, the company does not make any profit, but complies with its non-profit-status. Every game is based on a lot of handiwork, that are partially produced in a disabled people’s workshop to keep the prices acceptably low. Furthermore the idea is supported, that disabled people can contribute with their work, supporting impaired people by letting them experience an enjoyment of playing and a barrier-free joie de vivre.

Erika Lendeckel is processing orders, while Volker Lendeckel is responsible for the technical implementation

Erika and Volker Lendeckel in their workshop in Neuwied Irlich.

When my business-partner told me about Velen Spiele’s request to re-edit their webshop, I immediately knew that our central task was to apply the principles of integration to their website.
We did not want to design one of those ugly-looking pages that meet the highest demands of barrier-free web contents, while being visually unattractive to the sighted visitors.
No! We pursued the goal to create the same good-looking results, as Erika and Volker Lendeckel did with their games.

If you have understood SEO, you’ll see that barrier-free webdesign is a crucial advantage!
Basically, the so-called WCAG3 (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) intend that everyone should have access to information on the internet: As far as possible without any restrictions. So-called assistive technologies support this plan. In case of impaired vision or blindness this means that the website needs to be accessible by a screen reader, a program that reads out the texts to the user. To ensure that the program does not simply read out an entire page’s text, the program only reads out the parts that are currently in the center of the screen. Using keyboard shortcuts one can switch between the typical elements of a website, such as headlines, grids, links or enumerations. One of the essential requirements for this is, that the elements on the website are clearly structured and inserted. Furthermore, a braille-line is often placed next to the keyboard, so that the screen reader converts the texts into braille.

Watch here the entire interview with the developer of the theme that we have used: Elegant Themes:

To make sure that a screen reader can be properly used, a website has to be well and neatly coded. Realizing the website, our experience with Search Engine Optimization, which we consider one of our core areas, was of great advantage. When doing SEO, your sole aim is to give the search engine the possibility to create a very good index your website. In other words you could say that from a content-designing point of view, a search engine is similar to a physically impaired person: its perception and understanding of contents are somewhat limited.
As a result, the measures of a barrier-free website are also a part of SEO. For us, the sequential grading that is used in Divi Themes was very helpful. Structuring the text into sequences and modules is the best possible way to assure that the screen reader can easily head for each element.
It is suggested to integrate structural elements, such as <h1> continuously within the elements, as a good navigation structure and a clear semantic structure are vital. The use of so-called alt tags support the recognition of image files. Complex interactions, interlaced contents, dynamic menus or interactive flash-elements that require a mouse, should be completely omitted.

Even though it might disturb screen readers, we did not want to do without the visual support of CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). As long as the semantics are not optically supported, this will not be a problem, so we could insert effects, just as we intended to, to make the page an eye-candy for all sighted visitors. First and foremost, the website is used as a shop and the shop-practicality is in the center of attention. Mrs. Lendeckel’s suggested to insert a video, explaining the respective game on every product’s page: An idea that we liked a lot. Videos are not only high-quality content, but in this case also a practical addition to the games’ descriptions.

Before handing-over the website to our unusual customers, we put the website to the acid test by checking it with various web browsers and screen readers. We held our breath to see, if it would stand up to that critical examination. And it did! Both parties were extremely delighted! We had managed to create a website and shop, that did not remind the sighted visitor of a barrier-free website at all, but at the same time it met the highes requirements of modern webdesign. We have installed various features, image-animations and CSS stylesheets.
Mr Lendeckel himself was very impressed by those two blog-articles, as he had never considered his works that way before.

Mr Lendeckel himself was very impressed by those two blog-articles, as he had never considered his works that way before.

Contents should be easily formulated. A clear, concise langue. In accordance with the guidelines of barrier-free webdesign.
An impaired person cannot see the images on a website, or recognize the colors. This has to be taken into consideration when designing a website.
Well-structured contents facilitate the accessibility. Contents should be readable without good markups .

We had planned to fulfil the requirements for all three fields that make up highly accessible websites: Content, Design and Technology. And we set ourselves a fourth task: Searchability.
Only a few days later Mr Lendeckel gave us a call to inform us that the first order had been made through his new webshop.

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