LEGO has created a version of its building bricks printed with letters and numbers from the braille alphabet, so blind and partially sighted children can learn to read as they play.
Six dots, arranged in two vertical rows of three dots each, form the basis of Braille named after Louis Braille. The LEGO Group and the LEGO Foundation have transferred this point pattern together with various associations for the blind to LEGO stones. The aim is to further promote the learning of the world-renowned Braille with the help of LEGO bricks. Following completion of the current prototype testing phase, the LEGO Group plans to provide LEGO Braille Sets to blind and visually impaired children free of charge through selected organizations as of 2020, as the Danish company today announces at the Sustainable Brands Conference in Paris, France.
A LEGO Braille Set is expected to contain 250 different LEGO Braille Stones, each with their easy-to-sense dot patterns of individual letters, numbers or symbols. Each set contains the appropriate stones for, among other things, the alphabet, the numbers from zero to nine and mathematical symbols. In addition, LEGO Braille stones are printed with letters or symbols to accommodate family members, teachers and other visually impaired children, and to provide a shared play and learning experience. Before the respective market launch, the sets go through extensive test phases, currently in Brazil, Denmark, Great Britain and Norway, to meet the different linguistic requirements. In the late summer of this year, Germany, France and Spain will follow.
“Less and less children who are blind or visually impaired learn to read and write through Braille, and often just use computer programs, audiobooks, and other technical aids, which may seem beneficial, but they can be detrimental because we know that the people who use Braille, who are often more independent, have a higher education level and better job prospects, “says Philippe Chazal, French treasurer of the European Blind Union (EUB). “We firmly believe that the LEGO Braille Stones are helping to increase the interest in learning Braille, so we are delighted that the LEGO Foundation is further developing this concept to bring Braille to children around the world.”
John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation, adds: “Blind and partially sighted children, like unrestricted children, have dreams for the future and yearned longing, they have the same desire to explore the world, but they are often exposed to involuntary isolation. That children learn best via playing, and thereby develop key skills such as creativity, teamwork, and communication, we are creating a playful and inclusive approach to braille learning, hopefully children, parents, caregivers, teachers, and practitioners worldwide as well as us enthusiastic. “
The LEGO Braille Stones idea was introduced to the LEGO Group by the Danish Association of the Blind in 2011, and the Brazilian Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind was convinced of the concept in 2017 as well. In close collaboration with other blind organizations from Brazil, Denmark, Great Britain and Norway, the innovative LEGO bricks were created to facilitate and promote the learning of Braille.
Morten Bonde, Senior Art Director at the LEGO Group, knows the difficulties of visually impaired people from his own experience: He suffers from a genetic eye disease that causes him to go blind over time. “The responses to the LEGO Braille Stones we’ve received from students and teachers during the trial have been very inspirational, reminding me that the only limitations in life are those I set for myself and their interest in being independent and equal in society is very strong, and it touches me how blind and visually impaired children benefit from the LEGO Braille stones, and thus develop important skills and self-confidence for their job and everyday life.”