The LEGO Foundation and LEGO Group are teaming up with blind associations to pilot LEGO Braille Bricks to help blind and visually impaired children learn through play using LEGO bricks.
The project, LEGO Braille Bricks, was unveiled this week at the Sustainable Brands Conference in Paris, France and its hoped that by using Braille customised LEGO bricks it will help blind and visually impaired children learn Braille in a playful and engaging way.
This idea first came about back in 2011 and today sees these prototype bricks being rolled out in a collaboration among blind associations in Denmark, Brazil, UK, and Norway for concept testing.
Braille was originally developed in France by Louis Braille in 1824 while he was a student, he had lost his sight when he was just three and since this Braille has continued to be modified over the years.
Braille is not a language; it is a touch reading and writing system used by people with visual impairment and blindness.
Braille is a code using raised dots to reproduce letters of the alphabet, the sounds, phonetics, and semantics of a language, as well as mathematics, scientific characters, music and computer notation.
A full Braille cell consists of six raised dots arranged in two vertical rows next to each other which both have three dots and there are Sixty-three possible combinations by using one or more of these six dots. Each cell can be used to represent a letter of the alphabet, number, punctuation mark or even a whole word.
So, you can see just why a LEGO brick with its raised dots can lend itself really well to this idea.
In the modern age of thousands of audiobooks and computer programmes there are fewer children learning to read braille. However, Philippe Chazal, the Treasurer of the European Blind Union points out that “This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education and better employment opportunities.”
Philippe Chazal is a big support of this new concept Braille Brick and said “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.”
The LEGO Braille Bricks will be moulded with the same number of studs used for individual letters and numbers in the Braille alphabet, but cleverly will still be fully compatible with the LEGO system in play.
The bonus is so that sighted teachers, students and family members can interact on equal levels because each brick will feature a printed letter or character. This ingenious combination will open doors for a whole new and playful approach to get blind and visually impaired children interested in learning Braille.
Whilst there has tried to be a move toward braille uniformity, known as Unified English Braille (UEB) Braille is still very much taught in a country’s own language.
So, with this in mind these new braille bricks are currently being tested in Danish, Norwegian, English and Portuguese. With plans for German, Spanish and French to be tested in that late Summer of 2019.
Morten Bonde who is LEGO Group Senior Art Director actually suffers himself from a genetic eye disorder that is gradually turning him blind and he personally worked as an internal consultant on this project.
Morten who currently has 4-degree sight left but is determined not to let his loss of sight limit him has 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.”
We are going to be very lucky here in the UK as the final LEGO Braille Bricks kit which is expected to launch in 2020 will be distributed free of charge to select institutions here through participating partner networks.
It will contain approximately 250 LEGO Braille Bricks covering the full alphabet, numbers 0-9, select math symbols and inspiration for teaching and interactive games.
You know LEGO have always believed that kids learn best through play and John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation said “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.”
We personally think this is an absolutely Fab project and just love the way that it will enable sighted and visually impaired kids to play together – Well Done Sticker 👍 to LEGO we think!!