Last April, the LEGO Foundation announced the pilot program involving using modified 2×4 bricks to teach Braille to visually impaired students around the world. After more than a year in pilot programs, the Foundation are pleased to announce that the finalised product will start to roll out around the world – in six countries initially, followed by a wider distribution in 2021.
Braille is a written form of communication developed for use by the visually impaired, using a series of raised dots which can be felt by the reader. Each character is represented by a 6 cell character – 2 columns of 3 potential dot positions. In recent years, as technology has seen a significant roll out of text to audio technology, the number of visually impaired children learning Braille has decreased significantly: hence the inspiration for Braille Bricks.
The Project was initially put forward to the LEGO Foundation by the Danish Association for the Blind in 2011, and again in 2017 by the Brazilian organisation, Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind. Over that time, the Foundation has been involved in the development of teaching materials to use in conjuntion with the bricks.
The Braille Bricks are modified 2×4 Bricks: while Braille is represented by a 2×3 matrix, the 2 blank positions on the 2×4 brick allow for the users to confirm the brick orientation(it is always at the bottom of the brick) , as well as provides a place for the ‘key’ to the character to be printed on the brick itself. the sets come with over 300 bricks, including all letters and numbers, as well as limited punctuation and mathematical symbols. they are produced in white, bright red, bright yellow, medium azur and bright yellowish green.. The sets also come with a baseplate and brick seperator.
Over the testing period, there have been a significant number of teaching activities developed to help aid using the bricks in the teaching bricks. the sets will be rolled out to the Foundation’s selected partners in the UK, Brazil, USA, France, Germany, Norway and, of course, Denmark. there will be roll out into further countries in 2021, including Australia and a number of other european countries.
The roll out of Braille Bricks comes almost 12 months after the initial pilot program for another initiative for visually impaired children was rolled out – the LEGO Audio Instructions. After a pilot program incorporating 4 sets last year, there are now a total of 26 sets with audio and Braille instructions available from a number of themes, including Superheroes, Trolls, Friends, Disney Princess, Ninjago and even one of the of the smaller Technic sets!
Billund, August 20th 2020: Today, the LEGO Foundation and the LEGO Group announced the official launch of LEGO Braille Bricks in seven countries, including Brazil, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, UK, and USA. The program was first unveiled as a pilot project in April 2019 during the Sustainable Brands Conference in Paris, France – home ground of Braille inventor, Louis Braille. Since then, the concept has been tested across various languages and cultural contexts and is ready to launch in six languages, including Danish, Norwegian, English, Portuguese, German and French. Four additional language versions will launch over the next six months, with the ambition that the concept will be implemented in a total of eleven languages across twenty countries by early 2021.
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 moulded so that the studs on top reflect individual letters and numbers in the Braille alphabet while remaining fully compatible with the LEGO System in Play. The bricks also feature printed letters, numbers and symbols so that they can be used simultaneously by sighted peers, classmates, and teachers in a collaborative and inclusive way.
“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.”
The LEGO Braille Bricks toolkit is accompanied by a pedagogical concept that is based on Learning through Play and includes inspiration for brick-based activities to enhance learning and skill-development. All of the pedagogical materials are available atwww.LEGObraillebricks.com, a dedicated website that offers inspiration for pre-braille and braille activities to promote Learning through Play. However, the LEGO Foundation also plans to work with teachers of the visually impaired to continue to develop the LEGO Braille Bricks concept, and is calling on teachers to submit more ideas to continuously expand the pool of activities. This interaction will be facilitated online in a Facebook group – LEGO Braille Bricks Community – where teachers can meet to share best practices, creative ideas and playful experiences with LEGO Braille Bricks.
“As an educator, I know LEGO Braille Bricks will be so helpful in bringing together different kinds of learners,” says Paige Maynard, Teacher of the Visually Impaired and Developmental Interventionist at Visually Impaired Preschool Services in Louisville, KY. “Students with visual impairments will be able to play and learn alongside their sighted peers. The bricks bring the joy of play into braille and tactile skills instruction. They help remind us that the most impactful and long-lasting learning occurs when children are actively engaged in activities they enjoy.”
As LEGO Braille Bricks toolkits launch in each respective country, they 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.
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 marks. It will be available in five LEGO colours and will also include three base plates and a brick separator.
“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.”
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. Since then, it has been further shaped in close collaboration with Blind communities in Denmark, Brazil, UK, Norway, Germany, France and USA, where testing was conducted in two waves over the course of nearly two years. The first wave of LEGO Braille Bricks is now rolling out in those same countries and will launch in 13 additional countries in early 2021, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Finland, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the Netherlands.
As a product of the LEGO Foundation, the Braille Bricks are not available for sale: they will be provided free of charge, to nominated representative societies in each country in which they are being made available, for distribution to those who will benefit from them.
The LEGO Foundation benefits from the profits raised by the LEGO group, and “aims to build a future in which learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners.”
What are your thoughts about the Braille bricks? Why not leave your comments below, and until next time,