Thanks to audiobooks and computer programs, fewer children are learning to read Braille than ever before. Here's how Lego is trying to change that.

By Rebecca Macatee
Courtesy of LEGO Foundation and LEGO Group

April 26, 2019

Lego toys are a longtime favorite of both kids and parents, but now there's a new reason to love those colorful plastic bricks. Beginning in 2020, Lego Braille Bricks will be available as a toy and helpful tool in teaching blind and visually impaired children to read to Braille.

The Lego Group and Lego Foundation announced the exciting new product at the Sustainable Brands Conference in Paris earlier this week. Each Braille Brick is shaped to be fully compatible with the Lego System in Play, but unlike traditional Lego toys, each one of these customized bricks will feature a raised Braille letter or number. They'll also have the character printed on them so that family members and teachers who don't know how to read Braille themselves can still utilize the Braille Bricks as a valuable learning device.

Playing with Lego Braille Bricks certainly seems like a fun, engaging way to help kids (and maybe grownups, too!) learn to read Braille. The concept was first proposed to the Lego Foundation in 2011 by the Danish Association of the Blind, and it was developed in close collaboration with blind associations from Denmark, Brazil, U.K., and Norway.

Philippe Chazal, treasurer of the European Blind Union, said in a statement: "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. We strongly believe Lego Braille Bricks can help boost the level of interest in learning Braille, so we're thrilled that the Lego Foundation is making it possible to further this concept and bring it to children around the world."

Lego Braille Bricks are currently being tested in different languages around the world, and the final set is expected to launch in 2020. Each kit will contain approximately 250 Lego Braille Bricks covering the full alphabet, numbers 0-9, and select math symbols.

"With this project, we are bringing a playful and inclusive approach to learning Braille to children," said John Goodwin, CEO of the Lego Foundation. "I hope children, parents, caregivers, teachers, and practitioners worldwide will be as excited as we are, and we can't wait to see the positive impact."

This isn't the first time Lego has helped make the toy world more inclusive. Back in 2016, the beloved Danish company released its first disabled minifigure, a boy in a wheelchair. Lego was encouraged to create the progressive toy by #ToyLikeMe campaign, a movement which "celebrates disability in toys & calls on the toy industry & children's TV to better culturally represent 150 million disabled kids worldwide."

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