The LEGO Foundation has revealed its next project: Braille bricks to help visually impaired children learn how to read the alphabet in a fun way.
The company announced that it is working with The Danish Association of the Blind and the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind to create LEGO Braille Bricks, which look just like regular LEGO bricks but feel quite different.
In a release, LEGO said that the bricks will allow children to learn the tactile writing system through play. Bricks in the 250-piece set will feature studs that form letters from the entire Braille alphabet, numbers from zero to nine, and math symbols. The bricks will also include printed characters, so people with sight will be able to read them. But more importantly, they will be “fully compatible” with existing Lego brick sets.
LEGO said the final version of the Braille Bricks kit is expected to be available in 2020, and they will be distributed free of charge to select institutions through participating partner networks.
Philippe Chazal, treasurer of the European Blind Union, explained that with the advent of audio books and computer programs, fewer people are learning to read Braille.
“This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education and better employment opportunities,” Chazal said, adding that the Braille bricks can help boost interest in the alphabet.
The LEGO Foundation and the LEGO Group team up with blind associations to pilot LEGO® Braille Bricks and develop children’s breadth of skills.
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— The LEGO Foundation (@LEGOfoundation) April 24, 2019
LEGO Group Senior Art Director, Morten Bonde, who is losing his sight slowly from a genetic disorder, worked as a consultant on the project. Morten said the reactions from children and teachers were inspirational to him.
“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.”
David Clarke, director of services at the Royal National Institute of Blind People, told CNN in a statement that the bricks would improve education and encourage inclusion.
“Thanks to this innovation, children with vision impairment will be able to learn braille and interact with their friends and classmates in a fun way, using play to encourage creativity while learning to read and write,” Clarke added.
CEO of the LEGO Foundation, John Goodwin, said that blind and visually impaired children have dreams and desires just like children with sight but often face involuntary isolation. He said the project allows LEGO to bring children a playful way to learn Braille, adding that he couldn’t wait to see the impact these bricks would have.