New Braille bricks will help children become more independent.
Lego bricks are a firm favorite among families for encouraging creativity, dexterity, and inventiveness — appealing to children and adults of all ages. But at the Sustainable Brands Conference in Paris at the end of April, Lego launched its new design of bricks that will make the famous brand even more inclusive.
Thanks to the inventive work of Morten Blonde, senior art director at the Danish toy company, and his team, the familiar bricks now include a design to help teach Braille to blind and visually impaired children.
Lego bricks and Braille are in fact a natural combination. Those little raised studs used to snap the bricks together — which send sharp pain through the foot of any unsuspecting parent as they clear up the house — are similar to the raised dots used in the traditional Braille system. Each new Braille brick represents a character thanks to the raised stud, or studs, and has the standard version of the character printed onto the brick too so teachers, friends, and family can also join in the fun.
These new Lego Braille bricks have 250 designs to incorporate the alphabet and mathematical signs with the hope to educate children through interactive play. As John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation, explains to De Zeen: “Blind and visually impaired children have dreams and aspirations for their future just as sighted children. They have the same desire and need to explore the world and socialize through play, but often face involuntary isolation as a consequence of exclusion from activities.”
Lego, which is known for its innovative approach to design, had initially been approached in 2011 by the Danish Association of the Blind to develop the project. There are potentially 19 million blind or visually impaired children throughout the world — according to figures from the World Health Organization — who can benefit from these new bricks.
Blonde, who is actually partially blind himself, shared: “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.”
While technological advances, such as computer programs and audiobooks, have helped children to learn, it has meant that fewer children are learning to read Braille, according to Philippe Chazal, the treasurer of the European Blind Union. He points out there is a strong correlation between increased independence and having a job if individuals are able to read Braille. So these bricks will be crucial for those with visual impairments to feel more inclusive in society later in age.
Although the new bricks are only available in Danish, Norwegian, English, and Portuguese alphabets for now, French, Spanish, and German will be tested this year.