Lego has announced a new product to help blind and visually impaired children learn Braille.
The Lego Braille Bricks, which were unveiled this week at the Sustainable Brands Conference in Paris but will not be available until 2020, have the studs of numbers and letters in the Braille alphabet moulded on to them.
The bricks, which are “fully compatible” with existing Lego bricks, also feature a printed letter or number to ensure teachers, family members and other children can use them. Each set will contain approximately 250 bricks covering the full alphabet, numbers 0-9, selected maths symbols and “inspiration for teaching and interactive games”.
Morten Bonde, a senior art director at Lego who suffers from a genetic eye disorder, said that working on the project had been "hugely inspirational", adding that, "it reminded me that the only limitations I will meet in life are those I create in my mind".
The CEO of the Lego Foundation, John Goodwin, hopes that the product, tested in Danish, Norwegian, English and Portuguese, will help to combat “involuntary isolation” among blind and visually impaired children. Spanish, French and German sets will be tested later this year.
“They have the same desire and need to explore the world and socialise through play, but often face involuntary isolation as a consequence of exclusion from activities,” said Goodwin. “With this project, we are bringing a playful and inclusive approach to learning Braille to children. I hope children, parents, caregivers, teachers and practitioners worldwide will be as excited as we are, and we can’t wait to see the positive impact.”
The bricks, which were developed with two British charities and the Norwegian Association of the Blind and Partially Sighted, will be distributed free of charge to select institutions.
“With thousands of audiobooks and computer programs now available, fewer kids are learning to read Braille,” said Philippe Chazal, treasurer of the European Blind Union. “This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education and better employment opportunities.
“We strongly believe Lego Braille Bricks can help boost the level of interest in learning Braille, so we’re thrilled that the Lego Foundation is making it possible to further this concept and bring it to children around the world.”