LEGO Braille Bricks are being launched in seven countries including Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, UK and USA with the ambition to be implemented across 20 countries by early 2021. This play-based methodology teaches braille to children who are blind or have a visual impairment and as toolkits launch in each country, they are being distributed free of charge to select institutions, schools and services catering to the education of children with visual impairment.
The toolkits are available in six languages including Danish, Norwegian, English, Portuguese, German and French and four additional language versions are set to launch over the next six months. A kit contains 300+ LEGO Braille Bricks covering the full alphabet in the chosen language, numbers 0 to 9 and select mathematical symbols and punctuation marks and is available in five LEGO colours including three base plates and a brick separator.
The bricks keep their iconic form but unlike a regular LEGO brick, the studs are arranged to correspond to numbers and letters in the Braille alphabet. Each brick shows the printed version of the symbol or letter allowing sighted and blind children to play and learn together with the toolkit accompanied by a pedagogical concept based on learning through play, including inspiration for brick-based activities to enhance learning and skill-development.
David Clarke, director of services at the Royal National Institute of Blind People, which worked with the LEGO Foundation to develop and test the bricks in the UK, says with these Braille bricks, the foundation has created a new and engaging way for children with vision impairment to learn to read and write. He says braille is an important tool, particularly for young people with vision impairment and these bricks enable children to learn braille creatively while engaging with their classmates in a fun and interactive way.
The LEGO Foundation plans to work with teachers of the visually impaired to continue to develop the LEGO Braille Bricks concept and is calling on teachers to submit more ideas to continuously expand the pool of activities. Paige Maynard, teacher of the visually impaired and developmental interventionist at Visually Impaired Preschool Services in Kentucky, says as an educator, she knows LEGO Braille Bricks will be helpful in bringing together different kinds of learners.
“Students with visual impairments will be able to play and learn alongside their sighted peers. The bricks bring the joy of play into braille and tactile skills instruction. They help remind us that the most impactful and long-lasting learning occurs when children are actively engaged in activities they enjoy,” says Maynard.
Stine Storm, senior play and health specialist at the LEGO Foundation, says they are thrilled to launch the first wave of the LEGO Braille Bricks program and get the toolkits into the hands of children. She says throughout the testing and pilot program, they have received overwhelming support and positive feedback from children, parents, teachers and partner organisations.
“Children, parents, teachers and organisations have experienced LEGO Braille Bricks and see the potential of these toolkits to encourage learning in a new and exciting way. The possibilities for learning through play are endless and we look forward to seeing how this can inspire children in their journey to learn braille,” says Storm.
The concept behind LEGO Braille Bricks was first proposed to the LEGO Foundation in 2011 by the Danish Association of the Blind and again in 2017 by the Brazilian-based Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind. Since then, it has been further shaped in close collaboration with Blind communities in Denmark, Brazil, UK, Norway, Germany, France and USA where testing has been conducted in two waves over the course of nearly two years.