LEGO releases Braille bricks for visually impaired children
Less than 10 per cent of Canada’s 830,000 vision impaired can read Braille according to surveys from the US and the UK. This may be in part to current technologies such as screen readers and ebooks. For children who are born blind or visually impaired, however, Braille remains a crucial skill to learn. And with the newest update from LEGO, kids can learn it through hands-on play rather than more rigid methods like Braille readers and printouts.
“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.”
The Braille Bricks project, a collaboration between LEGO, the Danish Association of the Blind and the Brazil-based Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind, will help thousands of blind children learn the touch writing system while having fun. The first prototypes have been rolled out in close collaboration among blind associations from Denmark, Brazil, UK, and Norway for concept testing. The first sets are due to be launched in 2020 and will incorporate both the bumps used for characters in the Braille alphabet, as well as printed letters so sighted people can also read the bricks.
Braille Bricks make learning easier
Given the naturally Braille-like structure of LEGO blocks, it’s surprising this idea wasn’t done decades ago. The new bricks, however, will be fully compatible with existing ones, the company said in a press release. The final set will contain around 250 bricks and cover the complete Braille alphabet, including numbers from zero to nine as well as other mathematics symbols. LEGO hopes that this new set will encourage everybody to engage with the blocks and learn Braille.
“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.”
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. Children with disabilities often face difficulties in the school system, because there are not enough resources. Hopefully the Braille Bricks will change some of that.