LEGO Releases Braille Bricks For Blind And Visually Impaired Children

The Braille Bricks project, co-founded by the Dorina Nowill Foundation For The Blind, was set up a few years back in Brazil to help blind children learn to read while having fun. The idea has now been taken on by LEGO and unrolled on a much larger scale, giving thousands of children the opportunity to learn the touch writing system through play.

Image credits: The Lego Foundation

Image credits: LEGO_Group

The sets are due to be launched in 2020 and will incorporate both the studs used for characters in the Braille alphabet, plus printed letters so sighted people can also read the bricks. They will be “fully compatible” with existing Lego bricks, the company said in a press release.

Image credits: The Lego Foundation

“The concept behind LEGO Braille Bricks was first proposed to the LEGO Foundation in 2011 by the Danish Association of the Blind and again in 2017 by the Brazilian-based Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind,” LEGO says. “It has since been further shaped in close collaboration among blind associations from Denmark, Brazil, UK, and Norway and the first prototypes are now in those same countries for concept testing.”

Image credits: rnib

Image credits: RNIB

“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.”

Image credits: The Lego Foundation

The Braille Bricks will be molded with the same number of studs used for individual letters and numbers in the Braille alphabet. The final set will have around 250 bricks, covering the complete Braille alphabet, numbers from zero to nine as well as other mathematics symbols, and are designed to give inspiration for teaching and interactive games.

Image credits: LEGO_Group

The product is currently being tested in Danish, Norwegian, English, and Portuguese, while German, Spanish and French will be tested soon. LEGO has promised that the sets will be distributed free of charge to select institutions so as many visually impaired children as possible will be able to use them.

Image credits: The Lego Foundation

“Blind and visually impaired children have dreams and aspirations for their future just as sighted children,” said John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation. “They have the same desire and need to explore the world and socialize through play, but often face involuntary isolation as a consequence of exclusion from activities.”

Image credits: The Lego Foundation

“In the LEGO Foundation, we believe children learn best through play and in turn develop the breadth of skills, such as creativity, collaboration and communication, that they need in the post 4th Industrial Revolution. With this project, we are bringing a playful and inclusive approach to learning Braille to children.”

Image credits: The Lego Foundation

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“I hope children, parents, caregivers, teachers, and practitioners worldwide will be as excited as we are, and we can’t wait to see the positive impact.”

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The World Health Organization estimates that on a global level, 19 million children are vision impaired. Of these, approximately 1.4 million children have irreversible blindness. Around 75% of European adults with a sight disability are unemployed.

Image credits: VisionTechSvcs

In the United States, only 10% of blind children are learning to read Braille, compared with over 50% in the 1950s.  However, according to the American Printing House for the Blind, there’s an indication that things are changing as the public are regaining faith in the relevance of learning Braille, despite advanced digital aids for the blind. These cool LEGO sets will hopefully kickstart a real renewal of Braille as a vital component in the life of the visually impaired!

Image credits: VisionTechSvcs

People responded overwhelmingly positively to the initiative

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