Lego will release its range of bricks with Braille for blind and partially sighted children for home use next month.
The Danish toymaker has been distributing free packs to organisations and schools involved in educating blind and visually impaired children since 2020. Lego Braille Bricks were initially available only through organisations such as the UK's Royal Institute for Blind People.
However, following what Lego describes as “overwhelming” requests from parents, educators, carers and children themselves to make the packs more widely available, they are now available to order by individual customers, with deliveries beginning on September 1.
The home play pack costs $89.99 and is available in English or French. Each contains 287 bricks in Lego's five colours: white, yellow, green, red and blue, and all bricks are fully compatible with other Lego products.
Each brick is marked with studs to denote a letter or number, as well as a printed version underneath to allow visually impaired children to play with their families, and reinforce at home the games and skills learnt at school.
There are two baseboards and each pack comes with additional games, such as rock, paper, scissors.
Martine Abel-Williamson, president of the World Blind Union, explained why children being able to play with Braille bricks at home is important. “For blind and partially sighted children, it makes all the difference if they can share their journey of learning Braille with the people they love the most," she said.
“For the blind community, Braille is not just literacy; it’s our entry to independence and inclusion in this world. To have Lego Braille Bricks made available for the wider public is a massive step forward to ensuring more children will want to learn Braille in the first place.
“And because it’s based on a product that so many families already know and love, this is really an invitation for all family members to have fun building tactile skills and getting familiar with Braille using the same tool.”
Rasmus Logstrup, lead designer on the bricks, said the company felt compelled to create Braille blocks because “play has the power to change lives; when children play, they learn vital lifelong skills”.
Lego has also partnered with Be My Eyes, an app that connects blind and visually impaired people with sighted volunteers to help with everyday tasks. For its Braille Bricks customers, it will provide live assistance, from unboxing to general support, via the app.
While the first bricks were made for educational programmes, Lego created a series of open-access online learning courses, called massive open online course (MOOC), which are available to everyone. They are free to access and available in three languages, English, French and Spanish.
Collaboration with US-Philippine consulate
In another important step towards inclusiveness, Lego has collaborated with the Philippine consulate in New York to create a series of Filipino mini figurines to mark the 125th anniversary of the country's independence.
The limited-edition toys were presented to consul general Senen Mangalile on August 17 at Lego's flagship store on Fifth Avenue to mark the anniversary as well as to celebrate the contributions of the Filipino community to America.
The miniatures were made by staff at the store using the on-site customisation lab. Although the figures are not for sale, customers have been invited to come into the store and make their own versions.