LEGO Braille Bricks was an initiative by the LEGO Foundation to make Braille more accessible to children around the world. You can read all about how the initiative came about and how the LEGO Foundation collaborated with organisations in LEGO Heroes or Issue 75 of Blocks, the monthly LEGO magazine.
So far, Braille Bricks have been made available to charitable organisations that support children. Ready for World Blind Awareness Month this October, the LEGO Group is making Braille Bricks available as a retail product in September. 40656 Play with Braille – English version (£79.99/$89.99) and 40655 Play with Braille – French version are aimed at children aged six and over.
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Each Braille Brick is based on a standard 2×4, but with studs removed in such a way that they represent Braille letters and numbers. The letter or number is printed on the brick, so that sighted people can engage with the bricks alongside people with vision impairments.
‘For blind and partially sighted children, and adults for that matter, it makes all the difference if they can share their journey of learning braille with the people they love the most,’ says World Blind Union President Martine Abel-Williamson. ‘For the blind community, braille is not just literacy, it’s our entry to independence and inclusion into this world, and to have LEGO Braille Bricks made available for the wider public is a massive step forward to ensuring more children will want to learn braille in the first place. And because it’s based on a product that so many families already know and love, this is really an invitation for all family members to have fun building tactile skills and getting familiar with braille using the same tool.’
‘Olivia first discovered LEGO Braille Bricks at school and they had such a big impact on her curiosity for Braille. Before then, she found it hard to get started with the symbols but now she’s improving all the time,’ says Lisa Taylor, mum to 7-year-old Olivia and 4-year-old Imogen. ‘To have a set at home changes everything. We can play with braille together as a family and she can introduce braille to her little sister in a way they both love. LEGO Braille Bricks are accessible for her without being really different for other kids, so she gets to play and learn just like every other child. That makes her feel included which is so important, not just to Olivia but any child.’
LEGO Braille Bricks – Play with Braille includes 287 bricks in five colours – white, yellow, green, red and blue. The set also includes two baseplates. Supporting material will be available on LEGO.com to suggest ways to play and games that can be tried with the bricks. ‘Play has the power to change lives; when children play, they learn vital life-long skills, so we were thrilled by the reception that LEGO Braille Bricks received in educational settings,’ says LEGO Braille Bricks Lead Designer Rasmus Løgstrup. ‘We’ve been inundated with thousands of requests to make them more widely available, so we just knew we had to make it happen!
‘It’s been a fantastic journey collaborating with children, families and experts from around the world to develop the product and online activity packs. Our partners have been instrumental also in advising on what colourways should be used for the bricks, product packaging and digital experiences to ensure this is optimised for individuals who experience low vision and vision loss. We know this is a strong platform for social inclusion and can’t wait to see families get creative and have fun playing with braille together.’
The LEGO Group has also confirmed that LEGO Audio & Braille Building Instructions will now become a permanent offering. You can learn more about that scheme in LEGO Heroes of Blocks, the monthly LEGO magazine, Issue 78. Inspired and co-developed by entrepreneur Matthew Shifrin who is blind, this experience gives builders the option of having select LEGO building instructions available as audio or text for Braille readers.
40656 Play with Braille – English version will be available in the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 40655 Play with Braille – French will be available in France, Canada, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium.