Equality is the endgame: Making chess accessible to everyone
- Posted on October 12, 2022
- Estimated reading time 2 minutes
Since he was seven years old, Kaled Weirich Oro has had a love affair with chess. It’s the logic of it that appeals so strongly to him. “The idea that an 8x8 board with 16 pieces can generate a range of possibilities that is larger than the number of atoms in the universe is something fantastic,” he said. “It’s almost like a never-ending journey.”
Being born with cerebral palsy, Kaled always had to have someone to help move the pieces for him. Fueled by a determination to play chess autonomously and make the game more accessible to millions in the disabled community, he started working on the Freedom Chess project in 2018. “It was a fun build and exciting to work on. I built the app largely in my free time,” said Kaled. “In the early mornings, the afternoons, and late at night.”
A few months later, the software was ready to launch. Freedom Chess is an open-source, online chess tool that creates an auditory reproduction of the entire game - informing players of the moves, the position of pieces, and other elements of the game. This is especially useful for the visually impaired and allows them to play the game independently. The interface also has multiple input modes, and players can make their moves via voice, keyboard, or mouse.
In recognition of his achievement, Kaled was feted by the Instituto Gustavo Kuerten during their 2022 IGK Awards – a platform that celebrates accessibility and social inclusion pioneers. According to Kaled, the award represents a real opportunity. “Being recognized like this means being able to take the project to more people and contribute to a more inclusive world, empower people with special needs, and allow them to reach their potential.”
But the Freedom Chess project is just a first step. Kaled’s larger goal is to continue developing projects that improve accessibility around the world. Having recently joined Avanade Brazil as a software developer, Kaled is confident about the potential for technology to make a genuine human impact. “When I joined Avanade, I was given enormous support to continue my work, including access to new technologies and systems that will help me build richer accessibility products. The policies, the people, and the infrastructure at Avanade make me feel like a trusted and valued member of the team.”
Avanade’s disability inclusion network, DiversAbility, is designed to create more awareness of workplace disability and a more inclusive ethos. In sharing Kaled’s story, we hope more organizations and leaders see that people with disabilities bring unique perspectives, insights, and valuable skills. By working together and creating an environment where all individuals can thrive will enable millions of people around the world to have successful, productive, and highly innovative career paths.