Children with low vision will now be able to enjoy the experience of LEGO® thanks to new LEGO® Braille Bricks, brought to Australia by blindness support organisation Vision Australia.
The educational tool designed by the LEGO® Foundation aims to support children with low vision and blindness by helping them build braille skills, while offering inclusive learning opportunities with their sighted peers.
The raised bumps on each LEGO® Braille Brick have been modified to correspond to a letter or character of the braille alphabet. Each brick also has a printed letter or character to allow children who are blind or have low vision to learn and play alongside sighted classmates, family members and educators.
“Most little kids start out playing with blocks with letters on them, but a child who is blind or has low vision can’t see those – so these LEGO® Braille Bricks allow them access to early literacy learning,” says Melissa Fanshawe, senior lecturer at University of Southern Queensland.
Ms Fanshawe, a LEGO® Braille education ambassador and mum to Ollie, 14, who has low vision, says the new toy normalises braille and allows sighted kids and those who are blind or have low vision to play together.
“It allows kids with vision impairment to learn while they play, and that is something that sighted kids take for granted,” she adds.
“Why would you want to learn braille on paper when you can learn it with LEGO®?”
Ms Fanshawe says that children who are sighted start to develop pre-literacy skills by looking at letters and words all around them from signs and menus, to learning blocks. For children who are blind or have low vision, they are denied that opportunity.
“If you don’t have sight and you are just listening to words via technology you can’t hear how things are spelled,” she explains.
“But it is important to be able to spell things properly because sighted people expect things in a well written, well punctuated format so these are key things, particularly homophones things that sound the same but are spelled differently.”
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Vision Australia Ron Hooton says the charity is proud to partner with LEGO® and become the only distributor of LEGO® Braille Bricks in Australia.
Mr Hooton says that high rates of braille literacy also tend to translate to better work outcomes for people who are blind or have low vision.
“Inclusive education is something Vision Australia advocates for and the LEGO® Foundation has provided us with a great example of how that can be achieved,” says Mr Hooton.
“Braille is vital in supporting children who are blind or have low vision to develop literacy skills, and LEGO® Braille Bricks is a great way to expose children to braille at an early age.
“We’re extremely excited to partner with the LEGO® Foundation to bring LEGO® Braille Bricks to Australia and we can’t wait to start getting it in the hands of children who are blind or have low vision across Australia.
“Not only will LEGO® Braille Bricks be a revolutionary educational tool for them, it’s also a great way for families and other children to learn more about braille and its importance.”
Vision Australia is the LEGO® Foundation’s official partner for the distribution of LEGO® Braille Bricks in Australia. LEGO® Braille Bricks will be provided to schools or other education institutions that have a student, or students, who are blind or have low vision and are learning braille.
LEGO® Braille Bricks are not available for sale to the general public. Schools, other institutions and educators will need to register with Vision Australia and undergo a one-hour webinar workshop training session developed under guidance from the LEGO® Foundation. After completing this they will be provided access to kits.
More information about accessing LEGO® Braille Bricks and training can be found on the Vision Australia website.