For blind and vision-impaired children, learning Braille can be a difficult task, since fewer teachers are qualified to teach Braille and many schools do not offer Braille as an option for blind students, according to the National Federation of the Blind.
The NFB reports that though there are 1.3 million legally blind people in the United States, less than 10 percent can read Braille, and only 10 percent of blind children are being taught Braille, resulting in a “Braille literacy crisis.”
This literacy crisis forces many blind people to rely solely on audiobooks, rather than reading something for themselves. This puts them at a disadvantage, as audiobooks are time-consuming and cannot be scanned quickly to find relevant information.
Blind children are often separated from their peers or are not given the same learning opportunities as sighted students simply because of the difficulty in accommodations. But blindness should not stop children from learning to read. To combat this, one company decided to take Braille literacy into their own hands.
On April 24, the LEGO Group announced a new project: Braille LEGO bricks to help blind and vision-impaired children learn Braille.
According to the LEGO website, the new bricks “will help blind and visually impaired children learn Braille in a playful and engaging way using Braille customised LEGO® bricks.”
The arrangement of studs on the bricks will determine the letter assigned to the brick, and additionally the letter will be printed on the side of the brick so sighted children can learn as well.
By using sensory toys to teach children Braille, LEGO could help bridge a gap between blind children and their sighted peers.
So often, people with disabilities are separated or disadvantaged by their disability. But the value of a person is not in their physical abilities. These children should have just as much of a chance to learn to read as sighted children, and these LEGOS can help.
One mother of a blind child interviewed by The New York Times said the LEGO bricks, which can be played with by both blind and sighted children, would help to take away the notion of “otherness” that disabilities so often bring.
The LEGO Group said in 2020 they will be distributing these LEGO kits free of charge to institutions that focus on teaching blind children.
Learning should not be limited to those who can learn from a standard curriculum. Integrating tools for learning like Braille LEGOS helps normalize disabilities and allows blind children to learn Braille naturally, giving them more tools to succeed later in life.