Lego Releases Braille Bricks to Build Literacy for Vision Impaired Children

For blind or visually impaired children, learning new things often centers around listening closely to audio instructions and using a braille machine and braille printouts to further their work. However, this process throws up a number of challenges, not least of which is that it is difficult (though certainly not impossible) to integrate play and creative exploration into these methods of learning. LEGO thinks it can change that.

LEGO has announced a grassroots project dubbed Braille Bricks: LEGO bricks molded with the same notches as the braille alphabet and canástill fit with the regular line of bricks.

TheáDanish Association of the Blind first proposed this idea back in 2011, and Brazil’sáDorina Nowill Foundation for the Blindáechoed the call in 2017. LEGO agreed that this seems like a natural fit for the design of their world-renowned toy construction blocksáand set about making them a reality by working with blindness advocacy groups. They unveiledáthe finished article this past week at theáSustainable Brands Conference in Paris, France.

There will be 250 Braille Bricks in total. They will encompass the entire Braille alphabet. They will also incorporate numbers from zero to nine, maths symbols, and what the company refers to as “inspiration” for learning and games.

The LEGO Braille Bricks could also give a major boost to braille learning which, in the past few decades, has seen a decline.

“With thousands of audiobooks and computer programs now available, fewer kids are learning to read Braille,” Philippe Chazal, Treasurer of the European Blind Union, toldáCNN. “This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education and better employment opportunities. We strongly believe LEGO Braille Bricks can help boost the level of interest in learning Braille, so we’re thrilled that the LEGO Foundation is making it possible to further this concept and bring it to children around the world.”

Currently, LEGO is testing Braille Bricks ináPortuguese, Danish, English and Norwegian schools. It will roll out French and German versions soon.

Below is a video which shows blind and visually impaired young people learning with the bricks and talking about what Braille Bricks means to them:

LEGO Group Senior Art Director, Morten Bonde, who is dealing with a degenerative visual impairment, had a hand in developing Braille Bricks. He says that the bricks give a level of creative freedom in learning which could ultimately shape young people for life.

“Experiencing reactions from both students and teachers to LEGO Braille Bricks has been hugely inspirational and reminded me that the only limitations I will meet in life are those Iácreate in my mind,” Bonde told CNN. “The children’s level of engagement and their interest in being independent and included on equal terms in society is so evident. I am moved to see the impact this product has on developing blind and visually impaired children’s academic confidence and curiosity already in its infant days.”

According to the World Health Organization, 1.3 billion peopleáglobally live with some form of visual impairment. This figure will continue to grow as our population expands and people live for longer, meaning that they will have to deal with age-related visual impairment.

Life with a visual impairment or blindness can, of course, be as rich and fulfilling as any other. However, there are early barriers to that kind of life if a child cannot access the materials they need to learn and, just as critically, can not then use what they have learned to express themselves. Isolation is among theáleading causes of blind and visually impaired children falling behind at school, but with strong interventions we can prevent that.

What is perhaps so pleasing about the LEGO Braille Bricks is that they function just like regular LEGO pieces. That’s important, because itáwill allow visually impaired childrenátoáplay alongside their sighted peers while enjoying a rich learning and social experience. In addition, they have on them the printed letter or number that they represent. This will allow cross-educational opportunities for sighted and visually impaired children. It will also be an easy way for parents and teachers to get involved in the learning experience without having to refer to charts.

LEGO has said that when the kits ship in 2020 they will distribute them for free to schools that want them via LEGO’s partners.

Related at Care2

Photo credit: Getty Images.

46 comments

Thomas M
Thomas M11 days ago

well done

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Celine Russo
Celine Russo17 days ago

But will it still be made from plastic?

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S M
S M17 days ago

Great idea! Well done Lego!

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Ruth S
Ruth S20 days ago

Thanks.

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Ruth S
Ruth S20 days ago

Thanks.

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Danuta W
Danuta Watola20 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Martha P
Martha P20 days ago

very good

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Debbi W
Debbi W20 days ago

That is great. So nice for the vision impaired. They should be very popular.

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Marie P
Marie P21 days ago

Awesome. TYFS

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Bronwyn B
Bronwyn B21 days ago

WONDERFUL!! Excellent work, Lego! : )

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