These Innovative LEGO Bricks Use Play To Teach Braille
Having been working on helping players find video games and board games with the accessibility and inclusive design they need, it was with some interest I recently discovered LEGO Braille Bricks. This is a play-based method to teach braille to children.
It’s a great idea, and one I was surprised I hadn’t heard of before as its been around since 2020. Each of the LEGO Braille Bricks looks like a classic two-by-four brick but the studs are arranged to correspond to numbers and letters in the Braille alphabet. The letter and number is also printed on the brick to enable sighted and blind children to play and learn together on equal terms.
The project is a partnership between The LEGO Foundation and LEGO Group. They have teamed up with blind associations to develop, test and launch the concept and now offer a range of activities and materials that supports professionals using the brick kit when teaching braille.
I had the chance to talk to Diana Ringe Krogh, Head of LEGO Collaboration & Social Ventures, at a recent celebration of LEGO’s 90th year. I asked her how the idea for the Braille bricks came about. “Back in 2017 and 2018, the social interest team handled a wide range of requests for The LEGO Foundation. LEGO Braille Bricks was the first project we took on. The idea came to us from a Brazilian organisation using two-by-three brick. We worked with them and decided to extend it to the two-by-four brick to include numbers and letters. It now exists in 11 languages and 20 countries and we are looking at how we expand beyond that.”
How important was it to work with other organisations to ensure the project was a success? “It’s a close collaboration between LEGO Group and blind associations in the countries where we have rolled this out,” Krogh replied. “Because we are not the experts here. We can bring expertise on learning from play but they have the expertise on visual impairment.”
It’s a project that has clearly gone from strength to strength. “Today we are donating the LEGO Braille Brick boxes and training community and teachers. We have developed a rang of learning through play activities. To offer a range of skills that fit into the curriculum. This is an area we will continue to invest in.”
The LEGO Braille Bricks are offered to schools and services catering to the education of blind and visually impaired children with distribution handled through participating partner networks.
I asked Krogh about other activities of the LEGO Foundation, which owns 25% of the LEGO Group and receives substantial dividends for this work each year. “Another partnership is one with the Play Included charity. This enable us to work with their LEGO based therapy. They use a regular LEGO set to get three children building together. One child reads instructions, one finds bricks and one builds. It’s a powerful way to train and develop their communication and social skills.”
Beyond this there is an incubator fund to find the next projects. “We are mapping other ideas and startups which led to our Play For All accelerator program. We have $20 million to invest and accelerate our impact to read many more families with the LEGO Foundation.”
This work of the LEGO Foundation was fascinating to hear about. It has made me feel quite differently about the price of the LEGO sets I buy my family. In fact, it really feels like there could be a sticker on the boxes that tells parents how a portion of the profits go towards these important and innovative causes.