LEGO to produce braille kits to help blind children learn through play

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View image at flickr

Here's an interesting press release about a new initiative that you wonder why it hasn't been done before, given the affinity between LEGO studs and braille:

Motivated by stories and ideas from blind people around the world, the LEGO Foundation and LEGO Group will pilot a grassroots innovation that can help blind and visually impaired children learn through play using LEGO bricks.

Paris, France April 24: Today, the LEGO Foundation and LEGO Group will announce their support of a pioneering project that will help blind and visually impaired children learn Braille in a playful and engaging way using Braille customised LEGO bricks. The project, LEGO Braille Bricks, will be unveiled today at the Sustainable Brands Conference in Paris, France.

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. It has since been further shaped in close collaboration among blind associations from Denmark, Brazil, UK, and Norway and the first prototypes are now in those same countries for concept testing.

“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.”

View image at flickr

LEGO Braille Bricks will be moulded with the same number of studs used for individual letters and numbers in the Braille alphabet, while remaining fully compatible with the LEGO System in Play. To ensure the tool is inclusive allowing sighted teachers, students and family members to interact on equal terms, each brick will also feature a printed letter or character. This ingenious combination brings a whole new and playful approach to get blind and visually impaired children interested in learning Braille, enabling them to develop a breadth of skills needed to thrive and succeed in a fast-paced world.

LEGO Group Senior Art Director, Morten Bonde, who suffers from a genetic eye disorder that is gradually turning him blind, worked as an internal consultant on the project. Morten currently has 4-degree sight left but is determined not to let his loss of sight limit him.

“Experiencing reactions from both students and teachers to LEGO Braille Bricks has been hugely inspirational and reminded me that the only limitations I will meet in life are those I create in my mind. The children’s level of engagement and their interest in being independent and included on equal terms in society is so evident. I am moved to see the impact this product has on developing blind and visually impaired children’s academic confidence and curiosity already in its infant days.”

The product is currently being tested in Danish, Norwegian, English and Portuguese, while German, Spanish and French will be tested in Q3 2019. The final LEGO Braille Bricks kit is expected to launch in 2020 and will be distributed free of charge to select institutions through participating partner networks in the markets where testing is being carried out with partners. It will contain approximately 250 LEGO Braille Bricks covering the full alphabet, numbers 0-9, select math symbols and inspiration for teaching and interactive games.

View image at flickr

“Blind and visually impaired children have dreams and aspirations for their future just as sighted children” said John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation. “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. In the LEGO Foundation, we believe children learn best through play and in turn develop the breadth of skills, such as creativity, collaboration and communication, that they need in the post 4th Industrial Revolution. 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.”


Thanks to Andres at Zusammengebaut for bringing this to my attention.

42 comments on this article

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By in United States,

This is absolutely amazing. I’m am so happy this is finally being done and I can’t wait to see the positive impact it will have on everyone, not just the blind or visually impaired. Job well done LEGO, especially since they will be distributed for free. This article made my day, thank you.

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By in United Kingdom,

It’s great to see a an education based company reaching out to all sorts of people, i’m sure this will make learning brail fun for those who need it and it might make some want to learn it weather they need it or not.

I would actually love lego to release maybe one or two sets for the general public to buy but that’s unlikely.

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By in United Kingdom,

Excellent, this will have great child development opportunity.

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By in United States,

So, what are the chances of some of these bricks making their way into regular sets? The potential of bricks with flat sections seems too great for some of them to not find their way into sets.

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By in United Kingdom,

Ingenious! When you think about it, it's an obvious marriage, given the tactile aspect of Lego bricks...

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By in United Kingdom,

Couldn’t you just make the equivalent from existing bricks? Take a 2 x 4 brick (or plate), add a square 1 x 1 plate and a round 1 x 1 tile for a bump, or a 1 x 1 square tile with no 1 x 1 plate for a flat.

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By in United Kingdom,

Amazing. Heartwarming. Inspirational.

This news made me feel quite emotional.

Excellent work, LEGO

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By in United States,

Seems weird LEGO would make 250 new bricks for a learning set but then tells fans no new pieces in idea sets. But whatever it's super neat.

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By in United States,

This is very cool!

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By in Singapore,

This is a wonderful initiative, I'm sighted but I've always wanted to learn Braille and I think this could be a great way for me to learn.

@Zander: I'd guess that a single moulded brick makes it so that there are no distracting seams between individual pieces to interfere with the tactile and recognition experience (I don't know if this is a big deal for blind users, I'm just hypothesizing). Not to mention the prints. And having to assemble before use seems like an unnecessary hurdle for educators especially if they are inexperienced with LEGO. Not everything LEGO needs to be built. That said, fans are of course more than welcome to build *with* these new Braille Bricks if they so desire...

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By in United States,

@David1985 I'm assuming they meant 250 bricks will be included in each pack, not 250 new molds.

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By in United Kingdom,

This is absolutely amazing.Excellent work, LEGO!!!!!

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By in United States,

Great idea...and great way to teach Braille to everyone!

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By in United States,

Awesome!!!!!!!!!! This is the perfect opportunity!!!

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By in United States,

I hope LEGO will make these available for purchase through their website. I think a lot of people would buy at least one set, especially if buying a set also funded a set for a school.

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By in Netherlands,

I think this is a great incentive! I hope LEGO will give us updates about their progress and impact of this project.

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By in Belgium,

Great news! Well done Lego.

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By in Switzerland,

Good luck the letters are prints and not stickers.

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By in United States,

@ datsunrobbie I would buy a set JUST so I could give it to my local schools. I would want one for myself depending on the price.

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By in Finland,

Well I didn't see this coming! ...I'll see myself out.

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By in United States,

It'd be great if they made this available to the public. I know a number of teachers and social workers who could use them, and they of course know any number of people who might want their own set.

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By in United States,

That’s awesome! Great job, Lego.

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By in United States,

My daughter is learning Braille because she has juvenile macular degeneration. I would love to buy her this set, or perhaps her school will be able to access it for her to use. As a parent and a LEGO fan this warms my heart...amazing idea!

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By in United States,

Very gods idea. I am not blind but will probably pick one of these sets up for creative building. I may even try to learn Braille for fun myself.

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By in United Kingdom,

This is a brilliant idea, hope lego adapt the same process with duplo bricks too,

Great work and and an inspiring move forward for lego..

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By in Germany,

They should really consider selling these bricks to the general public as well, at least through S@H. I mean they made the moulds, they might as well produce more of them than just those they intend to give away.
I would love to be able to learn Braille that way. And I think my kids would be very keen too. Talk about expanding your horizon through your favorite hobby.

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By in United States,

This is fantastic. Like Huw says, you wonder why it hasn't been done before! I hope there's a way to sponsor getting these kits into kids' hands; I'd love to be part of that.

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By in Netherlands,

@AustinPowers I second that! I may add: through Bricks & Pieces, too. :)

Regardless of MOC applications, this whole thing sparks joy. Hats off to the company's innovation department!

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By in United States,

This coyod go beyond blind people, I need these.

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By in United States,

The bricks have to be printed, not stickers: If you put the stickers on the wrong bricks, then try to teach Braille using those bricks... :(

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By in United Kingdom,

Finally, a major company is using its money to do some good. Well done Lego.

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By in Singapore,

Also wanted to add to my comment, just as having to assemble would be an unnecessary hassle, so would the possibility of them coming apart after the fact and having to be repaired. A Braille Brick representing a specific character should ideally stay that way without being able to be disassembled or modified, just like any 2x4 LEGO brick should stay a 2x4. They're called Braille *Bricks* for a reason.

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By in United States,

I always wanted to learn braille because I thought It'd be fun to write LEGO messages with it, turns out I could probably do it the other way around!

I wonder if these new molds will get a wider release? would be handy for creating shaping and flat surfaces.

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By in France,

fantastic

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By in United Kingdom,

What a fantastic idea, well done Lego Foundation and Lego Group! I think we are all fans of the best company on the planet!

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By in United Kingdom,

Fab idea.

My first thought was that you would need about 45 to 50 moulds for A-Z, 0-9 and punctuation plus maths symbols. But if Braille is a complete transliteration system then 250 new moulds could actually be right to cover accents and punctuation for assorted languages.

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By in Australia,

What a brilliant idea.

One of the things I’ve definitely taken for granted until now is the ability to build a set from scratch and see all the colours and shapes, which is something many aren’t able to do. I hope this somehow leads to more involved ‘braille sets’ for the visually impaired down the track.

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By in Netherlands,

Thumbs up! I hope the bricks will be available publicly, to be used in any way, but also for anyone to become more aware of the fact that not all people have good eye sight.
I can't imagine it being available that exclusively anyway, since visually impaired are everywhere in society, and for sure they should have access to this.

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By in United States,

I absolutely love this. It makes so much sense, too.

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By in New Zealand,

It would be cool to see these available on shop@home, even if it was a smaller set of parts, with some part of the profit going to the local blind foundation or helping to pay for the sets donated to schools.

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