As parents, we all want our kids to learn and have fun while doing it. But for the 19 million children worldwide who suffer from vision loss and blindness, it’s a bit more difficult. It turns out that due to incredible advancements in technology, like audiobooks and other computer-based learning, fewer and fewer blind children are learning how to read Braille. In the US, only 10% of visually impaired kids are learning the tactile reading system, down from 50% in 1950.
While audiobooks and other technologies are amazing, it is just as important that blind children learn how to read books than seeing children. The language of Braille can increase their chances of finding and holding down jobs later in life, and it connects them to their seeing classmates.
Phillippe Chazel, Treasurer of the European Blind Union explains, “With thousands of audiobooks and computer programs now available, fewer kids are learning to read Braille. This is particularly critical when we know that Braille users often are more independent, have a higher level of education and better employment opportunities.”
That’s why LEGO has developed a groundbreaking product to help visually impaired kids learn how to read: LEGO® Braille Bricks are designed using the same of studs as the Braille alphabet but remain fully compatible with the rest of the brand’s building blocks. Each piece has a printed letter or character so that blind students’ friends and teachers can learn along with them, making reading Braille more accessible and also more fun for young learners.
The project is close to the heart of LEGO Group Senior Art Director, Morten Bonde, who is slowly losing his sight due to a genetic disorder. “The children’s level of engagement and their interest in being independent and included on equal terms in society is so evident. I am moved to see the impact this product has on developing blind and visually impaired children’s academic confidence and curiosity already in its infant days,” he says.
The LEGO Braille Bricks were unveiled in Paris this week at the Sustainable Brands Conference. Currently being tested in several languages including English, a final product is expected in 2020. The bricks will be distributed free of charge to select partner programs across the globe.
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