Lego introduces new bricks for visually impaired children

Rebecca Speare-Cole

The Lego foundation and Lego Group has introduced a new product which could revolutionise how children with sight disabilities learn braille.

It aims to help blind children play their way to learning the tactile writing system used by those who are visually impaired.

The project, Lego Braille Bricks, was unveiled on Wednesday at the Sustainable Brands Conference in Paris and is currently in it's pilot testing stage.

Stackable blocks will be scored with braille dots as well as printed letters, numbers and math symbols, the company announced.

The combination of braille and visible printed characters are designed to help sighted teachers, students, other children and family members to interact with the bricks on equal terms, encouraging more interactive play.

According to the National Federation of the blind, only 10% of blind children are learning to read the system in the US and the new initiative was launched with the mission to encourage the learning of braille and boost employment prospects.

In Europe, 75% of adults with a sight disability are unemployed, reports the European Disability Forum and European blind forum.

“With thousands of audiobooks and computer programmes now available, fewer kids are learning to read Braille,” said Philippe Chazal, Treasurer of the European Blind Union told Lego.

“This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education and better employment opportunities.

Lego's new product is in its pilot stage. (Efraimstochter/pixabay)

“We strongly believe LEGO Braille Bricks can help boost the level of interest in learning Braille.”

The concept behind the new 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.

Blind associations from Denmark, Brazil, UK, and Norway have helped shape the new produce and the first prototypes are now being concept tested in these countries.

In the US, the American Printing House for the Blind is reportedly coordinating with Lego to begin testing the braille bricks in select schools starting in autumn 2020.