Inspired by stories from the blind community, this amazing grassroots project from LEGO is designed to help blind and visually impaired children learn through play. As LEGO trials their innovative new LEGO braille bricks idea, we find out all there is to know:
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In a bid to encourage creativity, inclusiveness, and fun, LEGO has worked with blind organisations to design a 250-piece Braille set of bricks that will make play and learning much easier.
The World Health Organisation estimates that 19 million children around the world are vision impaired. Of these, approximately 1.4 million children have irreversible blindness. Yet, despite this, the number of children learning Braille has dropped worldwide, due in part to more digital aids becoming available.
In the United States, only 10% of blind children are learning to read Braille, compared with over 50% in the 1950s. There does seem to be an upward trend happening recently though, as parents and teachers realise the relevance of learning Braille.
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What Are LEGO Braille Bricks?
LEGO Braille Bricks, just unveiled at the Sustainable Brands Conference in Paris, was first suggested 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.
The idea has since been developed with blind associations from Denmark, Brazil, UK, and Norway – and the first prototypes are now in those same countries for testing.
“With thousands of audiobooks and computer programs now available, fewer kids are learning to read Braille,” said Philippe Chazal, Treasurer of the European Blind Union.
“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.”
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How Will the Bricks Work?
LEGO Braille Bricks will be moulded with the same number of studs used for individual letters and numbers in the Braille alphabet – and, brilliantly, they will still be entirely compatible with the traditional LEGO bricks.
Each brick will also feature a printed letter or character to ensure the Braille bricks are inclusive and allow sighted teachers, friends and family members to play and interact equally. This clever combination brings a whole new and playful approach to get blind and visually impaired children interested in learning Braille, enabling them to develop a range of skills needed to thrive and succeed in a fast-paced world.
In addition to the blind organisations who worked with LEGO to create the Braille bricks, LEGO also had an internal consultant on the project. Morten Bonde, LEGO Group Senior Art Director, suffers from a genetic eye disorder that is gradually turning him blind. He currently has 4-degree sight left but is determined not to let his loss of sight limit him.
“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 I create in my mind. The children’s level of engagement and their interest in being independent and included on equal terms in society is so evident.”
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When Will LEGO Braille Bricks Be Available?
The final LEGO Braille Bricks kit is expected to launch in 2020 and will contain approximately 250 LEGO Braille Bricks covering the full alphabet, numbers 0-9, select math symbols and inspiration for teaching and interactive games.
The product is currently being tested in Danish, Norwegian, English and Portuguese, while German, Spanish and French will be tested later in 2019. When finalised, the bricks will be distributed free of charge through participating networks in the countries where testing is being carried out.
“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 socialise through play, but often face involuntary isolation as a consequence of exclusion from activities.”
“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. 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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Do you know someone who would enjoy this LEGO Braille Bricks set? Leave a comment below and let us know – we’d love to hear from you!