Vision Australia has partnered with the LEGO Foundation to help build braille skills in children, and offer inclusive learning with their sighted peers.
According to Vision Australia, the importance of braille for connection and communication for people who are blind or have low vision cannot be understated.
Why would you want to learn braille on paper when you can learn it with LEGO?
“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, a LEGO Braille education ambassador and mum to Ollie, 14, who has low vision.
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.
“This new toy normalises braille and allows sighted kids and those who are blind or have low vision to play together and it allows kids with vision impairment to learn while they play, and that is something that sighted kids take for granted,” Ms Fanshawe adds.
CEO of Vision Australia Ron Hooton said the charity is proud to partner with LEGO and become the only distributor of LEGO Braille Bricks in Australia.
“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,” Mr Hooton said. “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.”
Ms Fanshawe has worked with children who are blind or have low vision for the past 20 years and is trained as a teacher of the vision impaired. Her son Ollie was born with low vision and while he knows how important braille can be, like any kid learning to read and write can get a bit boring and challenging.
“Why would you want to learn braille on paper when you can learn it with LEGO?” said Ms Fanshawe. She pointed out 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 the aforementioned 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. 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.”
High rates of braille literacy also tend to translate in better work outcomes for people who are blind or have low vision.
Available to Education Institutes
Vision Australia is the LEGO Foundation’s official partner for the distribution of LEG 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 visit the Vision Australia website.