Lego's Newest Bricks Teach Braille to Kids With Impaired Vision

Only 10 percent of blind kids in the US learn to read Braille nowadays



(courtesy LEGO)

Children love to play with LEGO bricks and can spend hours building castles, airplanes, robots and more. If children can imagine it, they can build it with LEGOS. That's because the Danish company has been involved with creating engaging and educational toys for over 70 years.

Now, LEGO has found a way to use the bumps on the bricks for an entirely new learning experience, teaching visually impaired children Baille; a reading and writing system for the blind that uses raised dots for the letters of the alphabet. The bumps on the LEGO bricks are being used to represent the different letters, numbers and math symbols too.

The LGO Braille bricks are completely compatible with LEGO systems and to ensure that the system is fully inclusive to sighted teachers, classmates and family members, each brick will also have a printed letter or character according to a company press release. The new Braille system will allow blind and low vision children to learn braille in a new playful approach that is very different from traditional methods of teaching braille.

“Children are used to playing with Lego bricks and therefore immediately take to the idea and intuitively start testing, playing around, and learning through play – often without realizing they are even learning to read Braille,” Stine Storm, the Braille Bricks project lead at the LEGO Foundation, told Fast Company.

The World Health Association has estimated that 19 million children are visually impaired worldwide but many of these children never learn to read Braille. In the US, only 10 percent of blind children are learning to read Braille, according to a National Federation of the Blind report, in the 1950s the number was over 50 percent.

“With thousands of audiobooks and computer programs now available, fewer kids are learning to read Braille,” Philippe Chazal, treasurer of the European Blind Union told LEGO. “This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education and better employment opportunities."

The project is currently being tested in schools and homes and the feedback is very positive. Morten Bonde, the senior art director for LEGO and a consultant for the project because he suffers from a genetic eye disorder that is causing him to lose his sight said, “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. 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.”

The company introduced the product at the Sustainable Brands conference in Paris France on April 24 and the launch of the Braille kit will be in 2020. The set will be given free-of-charge to partner organizations. The sets will contain around 250 bricks that include the entire alphabet, numbers 0-9, some math symbols as well as pedagogical toolkits for teachers to use. The company’s tests certainly look like the concept will be incredibly successful.

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