LOS ANGELES - LEGO has created an interactive new way to help blind and visually impaired children learn how to read Braille.
The project is called LEGO Braille Bricks, which are customized LEGO bricks molded with the same number of studs used for individual letters and numbers in the Braille alphabet. The bricks will also feature a printed letter or character to allow sighted teachers and kids to learn and play along.
LEGO Braille Bricks were unveiled Wednesday at the Sustainable Brands Conference in Paris by the LEGO Foundation and LEGO Group.
The idea first came about in 2011 when the Danish Association of the Blind proposed it to the LEGO Foundation. Then in 2017, the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind, which is based in Brazil, pitched it again.
The project was created in collaboration with blind associations from Denmark, Brazil, the United Kingdom and Norway. The first prototypes for the bricks are in Danish, Portuguese, English and Norwegian for concept testing, according to a LEGO press release.
Bricks in Spanish, German and French will be released during the third quarter of 2019.
The World Health Organization estimates that 19 million children around the world are visually impaired and that 1.4 million of those children are blind. In the U.S. alone, only 10 percent of blind children learn to read Braille compared to more than 50 percent in the 1950s, according to a 2017 report from the National Federation of the Blind.
The final LEGO Braille Bricks kits are expected to come out in 2020 and will be free to select institutions through participating partner networks in the markets where testing is being carried out.
Those kits will have 250 bricks in five different colors that cover the full alphabet, numbers zero through nine, certain math symbols and will include ideas for teaching and interactive games.
The LEGO Group was created in Billund, Denmark in 1932 and remains a family-owned company. The name LEGO is derived from two Danish words - leg godt, which means "play well." In 1986, the LEGO Foundation was formed. The organization focuses on making a difference for millions of children through new ways of playing and learning.