LEGO to Introduce Braille Bricks for Children who are Blind! Coming to Stores in 2020

The Importance of Braille

For any child with a rare disease that leads to blindness or visual impairment such as Stargardt disease, Usher Syndrome, Alström syndrome, or Retinal Blindness life is full of many challenges. One of those, is learning Braille.

Kate Katulak, from the Perkins School for the Blind, explains that blind students are increasingly being sent to public schools. The biggest issue with this switch, is that public school does not allow much time for blind students to learn Braille. That said, visually impaired children have been supplementing their education in other ways outside of the classroom. The rise of audio books and other forms of technology that can help blind students learn, has led to a decrease in the number of blind children choosing to learn Braille at all.

There are definitely perks to things like audiobooks but there are also downfalls. For instance, when you listen to a book instead of reading it, you miss learning punctuation, grammar, spelling, and how to break up paragraphs. Therefore, by not learning Braille, reading and writing abilities can be drastically reduced.

“At an age when students are trying to fit in among their peers, headphones that can mask a disability give kids an incentive to dismiss the importance of learning Braille.”

According to the National Federation of the Blind, less than 10% of the blind population in the US can read Braille. Likewise, 10% of blind children are currently learning it. Contrast these striking numbers with the 1950s, during which approximately half of all blind children learned Braille.

Learning Braille is strongly linked to long-term academic achievement as well as employment success. Many believe it is just as important as learning to read for those who don’t live with vision impairment.

New Legos

Lego has announced the development of LEGO Braille Bricks which will feature Braille six-dot configurations of numbers and letters. The company hopes they will be a fun and interactive way for children to learn Braille.

The concept came from the Danish Association of the Blind who approached the LEGO Foundation in 2011 about their idea. Then, in 2017, the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind came up with the same proposition. The LEGO Foundation took hold and with collaboration from both of these organizations as well as other advocacy groups located in Denmark, Brazil, UK, and Norway, the first prototypes were developed.

All of the Legos have a letter/number printed on them so that visually impaired children can play educational games with children who don’t live with visual impairment. This, and the fact that the bricks are fully compatible with traditional bricks, keeps the game inclusive and fun for all. Additionally, it allows teachers and parents to facilitate educational games easily.

These Legos are also being tested in other languages including Portuguese, Spanish, German, Norwegian, French, and Danish.

Perhaps the best part is that Lego has vowed to provide these Legos for free to select organizations across the globe.

These new Legos should be in commercial stores next year, helping blind and visually impaired children learn Braille in a fun and engaging way.

You can read more about these new bricks and how they came about here.

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