Here’s some super non-depressing news we can get behind: LEGO is going to release a new set of Braille building bricks designed especially so that blind and visually impaired kids can learn to read using the tactile reading system.
Each Braille brick represents a letter or number, and can be placed next to each other on a LEGO board so that kids can learn to read and do simple math. The bricks also have the traditional, corresponding letter or number printed on them, so that sighted kids and visually impaired kids can play and learn together – along with educators and family members.
And, YEP, they are totally compatible with regular LEGO building blocks.
Each set comes with about 250 blocks, in five bright, classic LEGO colors. The sets will also come with a packet of ideas about how to play with the blocks and interactive games. The blocks are being tested in several different languages in addition to English.
Maybe the best part? Once they’re released, sets of the blocks will be provided for free at learning organizations around the world.
We’re super excited to introduce LEGO Braille Bricks – a new product from @TheLegoFoundation that will help blind and visually impaired children learn Braille in a playful and inclusive way! pic.twitter.com/48cqYEZ54t
— LEGO (@LEGO_Group) April 24, 2019
The program, which originally launched in 2011, is piloted by the LEGO Foundation, the research department of LEGO. The project is a long time coming: twice in the past, organizations from the blind community have approached LEGO with the idea, but only now that they’ve launched a new ventures department can the company move forward with the idea – which so ingeniously melds the building blocks with Braille reading blocks.
“Children are used to playing with Lego bricks and therefore immediately take to the idea and intuitively start testing, playing around, and learning through play–often without realizing they are even learning to read Braille,” Stine Storm, the Braille Bricks project lead at the Lego Foundation, told Fast Company. “It adds a lot of fun to what can otherwise be a challenging task.”
“It’s like you’re touching a language”
Lego has developed ‘Braille bricks’ for children with sight loss.
— Victoria Derbyshire (@VictoriaLIVE) April 24, 2019
“As we engaged experts within this field, we realised just how important it is for all kids who are blind or have low vision to learn Braille, even with increased access to technological advancements such as audio voice,” Storm said.
Currently, LEGO has developed 50 new molds to create the sets, and the new product is being tested in private homes and classrooms around the world. The project is on its second prototype, and hopes that the next rendition will be the final draft.
We’re proud to work with @LEGOfoundation on the development of braille bricks. Thanks to this innovation, children with vision impairment will be able to learn braille and interact with their classmates in a fun way: https://t.co/O3p5Xt4xCN pic.twitter.com/HfklitKCWG
— RNIB (@RNIB) April 24, 2019
LEGO has been working closely with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB), a non-profit for the visually impaired,
“At RNIB, our vision is a world without barriers for people with sight loss, but we can’t achieve this alone,” said RNIB Director of Services, David Clarke. “We’re proud to have worked with LEGO on the development of these braille bricks which will improve education for children with vision impairment and encourage inclusion.”
He continued: “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. I use braille every day both at work and at home, so I’m excited to see how together, RNIB and LEGO can inspire and support the next generation.”
The reaction by parents has already be lovely. Sure, we will still swear every single damn time that we step on a LEGO while we’re in our socks, but there’s no denying it: We love you, LEGO.