Lego blocks spark children’s imagination. Now a new version of these toys is in the works. They’re called Lego Braille Bricks. They’re being tested around the world. Lego Braille Bricks can help people learn Braille. That’s a system of writing. In this system, raised dots stand for letters. People who are blind use their fingertips to read them.
Worldwide, there are 36 million blind people. That’s according to the World Health Organization. It’s estimated that in the United States, only 10% of blind children learn Braille. Lego Braille Bricks can help change that. The knobs on the bricks are arranged as Braille letters. Blind children can use these knobs to learn Braille. Lego plans to launch the bricks next year. For some schools, they will be free. Along with the alphabet, the bricks will feature numbers and math symbols.
Thorkild Olesen is blind. He’s president of the Danish Association of the Blind. His group was one of the first to think of using Legos to teach Braille. Olesen says many teachers don’t have the tools to teach Braille. So they use audio books instead.
“Audio is great,” Olesen told TIME for Kids. “But it can never replace Braille. Braille is the single most important tool for us in order to learn to spell correctly, write, and gain literacy like sighted people.”
Olesen’s group shared its idea for Braille Bricks with the Lego Foundation. That was in 2011. Olesen told the toy maker that the knobs on Legos are similar to Braille letters.
THE LEGO GROUP
Stine Storm is a project manager at the Lego Foundation. She liked the idea of making Legos a learning tool. “It was an obvious match for us,” she says. The bricks will also have letters printed on them. This way, sighted and blind kids can play with the Legos together. “We all have to commit to making inclusion a priority,” Storm says.