Disability and Online Play

About a week ago, a post by a parent on a Marfan Syndrrome and Ehlers-Danlos* support group asked for activity suggestions for their son – who had just received his diagnosis. Ones where he could integrate as seamlessly as possible, and ones where strenuous physical activity like running could be avoided.

Of course, giving online bridge a try was the most natural suggestion on my mind. As a player who suffers from connective tissue disorders myself, here’s why and how online bridge has helped.

Online Play is Accessible

For many disabled people, travelling can be a major inconvenience or a massive headache that starts to feel as elaborate as a plan to protect a VIP moving from one point to another. (“Have you packed all the medication?”, “Where are the fire exits?”, “Are there stairs?”)

The simple manoeuvre of going to the store can turn into a several hour-long trip instead. It’s painful on the good days, and on bad days you can absolutely forget it.

Online play is accessible from anywhere, and online bridge cuts out the need for travelling to be part of something. If you’re feeling up to attending an event, that’s great – but if you’re not able to physically be there, just log in to Bridge Base Online.

Available While You’re Anywhere

Any long-term, unpredictable health condition can make things hard. How am I going to feel Tuesday at 7 pm a week from now? I have no idea – but I’ll have to show up and see whether or not I start projectile vomiting again.

When waking up in the morning, I have no idea what the day is going to be like. Sometimes everything feels okay – other times, one part feels okay and the rest not nearly as fine.

If, next Tuesday at 7 pm, I’m not feeing as great as I hoped, it’s usually still possible to log in to Bridge Base Online – and it remains true whether I’m stuck at the emergency room or stuck at home wearing a robe without having washed my hair.

Systems are Adaptable to Disability

Online bridge (or poker, backgammon, etc.) has added features and capabilities that makes playing a lot easier for several reasons – and several different conditions.

Sight degeneration is part of my condition: Being able to zoom in (or broadcast the game to a larger screen) is a huge help.

Also, thanks to arthritis, it’s easier to handle a smartphone or mouse than a card deck.

(Of course, there’s an increasing amount of helpful tech-related advances in bridge: Good to see, and it’s certainly making bridge even  more accessible for everyone.)

It Exercises the Mind

A lot of disabled people are painfully aware of their bodies, me included.  Sometimes it feels like a separate entity that does whatever it wants. Because of this, I’ve always put a lot of emphasis on what I do with my mind. (There are very few ways to get healthy exercise without either stretching or tearing a muscle in my case, so football – American or otherwise – has always been off the table.)

Bridge is a way to keep the mind active – and a way to help ward off degenerative brain conditions.  I’ve also found that it’s a great way to deal with depression, whenever it pops up.

Bad day? Play bridge! You’ll feel better.

The Game is All-Inclusive

Bridge is wonderfully all-inclusive, and a great way to connect with a whole world of new people. When the original post asked for activities where their son could integrate without any judgement, this was one of the first reasons for my answer.

The game sees all different types of people, players from every career and interest that you can imagine – and bridge has helped me to form close connections with people that would have been impossible any other way.

A Call for Change to Regulations

For now, earning money from online gambling or gaming is still on uncertain terms in many countries – and in others, it’s an outright no. There are an increasing number of calls across the world to change this, and I support seeing the legalization of online play (and the subsequent return of Money Bridge on platforms everywhere, I’d hope).

Yes, bridge is a sport. So is poker, backgammon and chess. If it’s broadcast, people will watch it – and if money bets are allowed, people would certainly do it. It might even make careers within these sports far more accessible for disabled people who want to be more involved.

I’d like to see online play legalized – especially because I’m a disabled player with most of my time spent online.