According to a 2009 study from the National Federation of the Blind only 10 percent of visually impaired children in the United States are learning to read Braille. The LEGO Foundation is looking to change that with the introduction of LEGO Braille Bricksan innovative product specially designed to help visually impaired children learn language.

LEGO Braille Bricks introduces a fun and engaging way to help children with vision impairment develop tactile skills and learn the braille system. The bricks are molded with the same number of studs used for individual letters and numbers in the Braille alphabet and they are fully compatible with the LEGO System for construction and play. Each brick will also be labeled with a visual number or letter so that teachers and family members can play and interact as well.

The LEGO Braille Bricks kit just launched and will be distributed free of charge to select institutions, schools and services catering to the education of children with visual impairment.The LEGO Foundation will work together with Official Partners in each country to manage distribution of the toolkits and support localization and training of the teaching concept presented on www.LEGOBrailleBricks.com.

“We are thrilled to launch the first wave of the LEGO Braille Bricks program and get the toolkits into the hands of children,” says Stine Storm, Senior Play & Health Specialist at the LEGO Foundation. “Throughout the testing and pilot program, we have received overwhelming support and positive feedback from children, parents, teachers and partner organizations who have experienced the 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.”

Each kit will contain 300+ LEGO Braille Bricks covering the full alphabet in the chosen language, numbers 0-9, and select mathematical symbols and punctuation mark. It will be available in five LEGO colours and will also include three base plates and a brick separator.

“With these Braille Bricks, the LEGO Foundation has created a totally new and engaging way for children with vision impairment to learn to read and write,” says 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. “Braille is an important tool, particularly for young people with vision impairment, and these cleverly designed bricks enable children to learn braille creatively while also engaging with their classmates in a fun and interactive way.

LEGO Group Senior Art Director, Morten Bonde, who worked as an internal consultant on the project suffers from a genetic eye disorder that is gradually turning him blind.  “I want to help all blind and visually impaired children in the world dare to dream and see that life has so much in store for them. When, some years ago, I was hit by stress and depression over my blind future, I decided one day that life is too precious for me not to enjoy every second of,” Bonde explained. “I would like to help give blind children the desire to embark on challenges, learn to fail, learn to see life as a playground, where anything can come true if you yourself believe that they can come true. That is my greatest ambition with my participation in the LEGO Braille Bricks project.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin

All photos: Courtesy of LEGO

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