"This ingenious combination of features opens up a whole new world of playful learning that teaches children Braille in an enjoyable and tactile environment."
LEGO's recent project to be inclusive has resulted in them releasing a set of bricks for visually impaired children. According to their website, The LEGO® Braille Bricks concept is a play-based methodology that teaches braille to children who are blind or have a visual impairment. Basically, the educational toy with a 3-by-2 grid of raised dots includes bricks imprinted with every letter, number, and mathematical symbol in the braille alphabet. This product is being introduced at a time when Braille literacy is declining among Americans. With the availability of audiobooks and voice-to-text technology, Braille is becoming a lost art.
The LEGO Braille Bricks help kids learn how to learn the language. Each brick in the LEGO® Braille Bricks toolkit retains its iconic form, but unlike a regular LEGO® brick, the studs are arranged to correspond to numbers and letters in the Braille alphabet. Each brick shows the printed version of the symbol or letter, allowing sighted and blind children to play and learn together on equal terms. This ingenious combination of features opens up a whole new world of playful learning that teaches children Braille in an enjoyable and tactile environment. This product is definitely going to change the way visually impaired people learn Braille.
"Who doesn't want an activity that they can do with their friends that's also educational?" said Kate Katulak, the assistant director of college success at the Perkins School for the Blind in Massachusetts, in an interview with NPR. The idea was first pitched to Lego by two nonprofits that advocate for the inclusion of the visually impaired — the Danish Association of the Blind in 2011, and then the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind in 2017. Since then the brand collaborated with both the foundations, as well as a few other associations for the blind, to create prototypes for the same.
The Royal National Institute of Blind People in the United Kingdom is also said to be helping to develop the bricks. David Clarke, the director of the institute, is quoted as saying, "Thanks to this innovation, children with vision impairment will be able to learn Braille and interact with their friends and classmates in a fun way, using play to encourage creativity while learning to read and write." As mentioned earlier, this product is being introduced at the perfect time. "More and more students who are blind or visually impaired are being mainstreamed in public schools," Katulak said. "Because the emphasis is placed on the core curriculum ... there is little time left in the minds of some to teach Braille."
LEGO Foundation's announcement on @LEGO_Group Braille Bricks is an important one for blind / visually-impaired children.— ChurchMag (@ChurchMag) August 1, 2019
In light of this @ifbdesign challenges us to think about children's ministry for those with impairmentshttps://t.co/vuqhI6jagA#lego #kidsmin #church
But even in the digital age, audiobooks, for example, can't replace Braille's relevancy, especially among emerging readers, according to Katulak. "Audiobooks are wonderful, but when you think about listening to an audiobook, there's really important information that you're missing," she said. "You're not hearing how words are spelled, grammar, punctuation, where does a paragraph begin and end." She also added that it is very important for the visually impaired to learn Braille. "If they only learn to read by listening, it's going to impact their writing and their own reading abilities." She also mentioned that this would definitely help them academically and career-wise, later on.