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LEGO rolls out bricks designed to help visually impaired kids learn braille

When considering literacy, LEGO doesn't typically spring to mind. But for blind and visually impaired kids, there's a direct connection. A few years ago, the toy manufacturer launched special bricks to help children aged 6+ learn braille. Instead of the usual patterns of bumps — or studs, in LEGO terminology — the studs on these bricks are arranged to correspond with letters, numbers and symbols in the braille system.

There was one catch: LEGO Braille Bricks were only available to educational institutes. But as Rasmus Løgstrup, LEGO Group Lead Designer for the concept, said: "We've been inundated with thousands of requests to make them more widely available, so we just knew we had to make it happen!" As of 1 September 2023, braille bricks will be available for purchase for the first time for anyone interested in learning to read with their fingers.

Accompanying the rollout is a new feature: LEGO is partnering with Be My Eyes. This free mobile app connects blind and partially sighted people with sighted volunteers or company representatives who can offer visual assistance on request; LEGO customer service agents will use the service to provide live support. A 287-piece 'Play with Braille' set is priced at USD 89.99 and can be pre-ordered in English and French now before launching on 1 September 2023. Italian, German and Spanish versions will follow early next year.

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Since all LEGO Braille Bricks are fully compatible with regular bricks, and each is printed with letters and numbers in visible type, they morph a 'specialized' learning method into a playtime activity that bridges the gap between the sighted and visually impaired world. Extending the product's availability beyond schools, LEGO is catering not just to blind children but their families and friends, too. The move aligns with consumers increasingly regarding inclusivity and accessibility as a norm, not an exception.

Lisa Taylor, mother of Olivia, 7, and Imogen, 4, beautifully captures the significance of inclusive products: "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. 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."

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Spotted by: Liesbeth den Toom