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Royal Blind pupils among first in world to try LEGO braille bricks to mark National Braille Week.
Pupils at the Royal Blind School in Edinburgh had an exclusive try out of a proto type set of braille LEGO bricks specially sent to the school by the LEGO foundation in Denmark. The Royal Blind pupils are the first children in Scotland to try out the bricks.
The bricks arrived in time to mark National Braille Week which aims to raise awareness of the importance of braille as a way of opening up the world to young people who are blind or have sight loss. National Braille Week runs from the 7th to the 13th October and is organised by the Royal Blind charity.
The LEGO Foundation have been working on developing the bricks since 2011 and the first handmade prototypes are now at the testing stage. LEGO hopes to launch the bricks fully for the start of the Autumn school year in 2020, meaning that children in Scotland can look forward to using the bricks in August of next year.
The bricks are fully compatible with all other LEGO which means they can be used to build anything you can imagine just like regular blocks. They will also feature a printed letter or character to ensure they are inclusive, allowing sighted teachers, students and family members to interact on equal terms.
There will be 250 bricks covering the alphabet and numbers 0-9 and maths symbols. The studs on the bricks represent dots in braille.
The hope is that the braille bricks can boost the level of interest in learning braille.
As the pupils tried out the bricks it was clear to see what a valuable learning tool they will be.
“I can spell DAD,” said 14 year old Aiden, within minutes of touching the bricks.
Nine year old Bo Cox from Glasgow said: “I think the LEGO was actually quite surprising, I’m impressed at how they managed to put the braille dots on them. It was difficult at first to work out the dots but now I’m getting better at using them. I’m going to put the whole alphabet on this tray now.”
18 year old Joe said: “It’s good because you can build stuff and learn at the same time.”
17 year old Conor said: I really like it because you can use it as a game, I really want to use them again.
Pam Young, a chartered teacher at the Royal Blind School said:
“When children are learning to read braille, it’s a complete mystery to the sighted kids that are alongside them. I think this is an opportunity for the children and their sighted peers to learn a little bit about braille in a fun way, now they can play together.”
Art Director at LEGO, Morten Bonde lives with a genetic eye condition that is gradually impairing his vision. Bonde is a consultant on the project. He said:
“Experiencing reactions from pupils and teachers to braille bricks has been hugely inspirational and reminded me that the only limitations I will meet in life are those I create in my own mind.”
Fewer children with a vision impairment are learning to read braille, but it is critical that they are offered the opportunity to learn it. We know that braille users are able to become more independent, have a higher level of education and better employment opportunities.
The bricks will be distributed free of charge to select organisations who support young people who are vision impaired.
Stine Storm, New Ventures Manager at the LEGO Foundation in Denmark said:
“The LEGO foundation is all about learning through play. This will be a tool that can help to teach braille to children, and it will enable a blind child to learn next to a sighted child.”
“We want to put children with a vision impairment on equal terms with a sighted child. We know that many children with a vision impairment are now in mainstream schools and we want those children to be able to have the tools to be fully included.”
“We want to be able to supply the teachers with lesson plans that they can do with the bricks. Braille LEGO can be a starting point for children who want to learn braille.”
“Many children are familiar with LEGO and may play with it at home. We see using the braille version in schools as a progression.”
“Testing of the prototype bricks is going really well. It’s being tested by children and teachers. We have been overwhelmed by the response. We are now mould making so that we can produce the bricks in different languages.”
“At the moment the bricks are handmade, when they go into production they will look different to the prototype as they will be machine made. It is not mass produced yet.”
“We aim to have it ready for children to use in Scotland at the beginning of the school year in August 2020.”
“The demand is huge, we want all pupils who need it to have access to it. It’s simply an early learning tool. It will be able to be used to help with maths, science, biology.”
“We really want it to give braille a boost, it’s still such an important tool for learning and at LEGO we hope that the braille bricks will help to bring braille to more young people.”