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Lego's Braille Bricks build inclusivity in toy industry

Updated: Oct 19, 2020

By Raymond Dai and Miranda Lu Oct. 14, 2020

What do the Lego's above spell? Comment in the section below!

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Adapting to changes during the coronavirus pandemic has been difficult for schools, especially those with visually impaired students who have struggled to continue learning. To address this, schools have turned to Legos.

On Aug. 20, Danish toy company The Lego Group launched Lego Braille Bricks, a new product designed to help children with low vision learn the braille alphabet. The bricks are molded into the same shape as regular Lego bricks, but the studs on top have been rearranged to correspond with letters and numbers in the braille system.

French teenager Louis Braille created a reading and writing system with raised dots for people with limited vision, each pattern representing individual alphabet letters and numbers in 1824. Known as Braille, the system has declined in use due to both the rise of online learning programs and audiobooks and the difficulty teachers and parents have teaching it. According to the World Health Organization, around 19 million children around the world are either blind or visually impaired, but only 10 percent of those children in the U.S. are learning to read braille.

According to the World Health Organization, around 19 million children around the world are either blind or visually impaired, but only 10 percent of those children in the U.S. are learning to read braille.

To help address the declining popularity of Braille, Lego announced in 2019 that it would distribute Braille Bricks similar to its mainstream building blocks. Before Lego planned on releasing the bricks in the fall, the company tested them in schools and community centers in Brazil, Denmark, Norway and Great Britain. In the fall of 2019, the product was expanded to four more countries including the U.S. Braille Brick toolkits have been sent free of charge to parents and schools that work with children who are visually impaired or blind. Plans to make Braille Bricks available in stores have not been released yet, but in an effort to increase accessibility in the toy industry, Lego aims to expand toolkit distribution to more countries next year.

The Lego Braille Brick toolkit is available in several languages and includes over three hundred bricks in five different colors that reflect the braille alphabet, numbers, punctuation marks and mathematical signs. Braille Bricks can also be connected to form words, sentences and math equations and fit together with regular Lego blocks. The letter, number or symbol corresponding to the studs are printed on the brick, allowing children with visual impairment to play and learn with sighted children.

Lego’s new toy fosters a unique and inclusive approach to learning the braille system, possibly helping children with lack of sight connect with others and develop skills like collaboration and communication. Stine Storm, Senior Play & Health Specialist at the Lego Foundation, has already reported a large amount of positive feedback from children, parents, and teachers who tried the Braille Brick toolkit through the testing program.

Stine Storm, Senior Play & Health Specialist at the Lego Foundation, has already reported a large amount of positive feedback from children, parents, and teachers who tried the Braille Brick toolkit through the testing program.

“Braille Bricks are an important advancement in the toy industry because they facilitate accessibility for children who are visually impaired. Fewer children are learning Braille nowadays, even though they need it to receive more educational and vocational opportunities. Braille Bricks will motivate them to learn Braille and will also present a creative methodology to teach language in classrooms,” Sophomore Karis Moon said.

Lego’s Braille Bricks are not the first products to be developed for children with low vision. Many other products made before Braille Bricks can also help these children learn braille. Some examples include Alphabet blocks and UNO playing cards with braille dots etched onto them. A few other toys focused on helping impaired children were recently developed, one of them being Light Stax—light-up plastic blocks that connect with one another; similar to Legos. Nevertheless, Lego bricks are mainstream among children, and the new Braille bricks can be an unique and attractive approach to helping these visually impaired children learn braille. More importantly, the advent of Lego Braille Bricks could help decrease the stigma around disabilities and push the toy industry to offer a wider range of products for disabled children.

“The launch of Lego Braille Bricks could potentially set the stage for more inclusivity within different industries, compelling businesses to create more products geared towards people of all abilities,” Senior Jacqueline Pham said.

 

About the Contributors

Raymond Dai


Raymond Dai is a sophomore at Leland High School and a Staff Writer for the Charger Account. He likes to play video games, play badminton and go out biking in his free time.










Miranda Lu


Miranda Lu is a sophomore at Leland High School and a staff writer. She enjoys hiking, reading, and watching movies in her free time.

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