Building connections: Vision Australia brings LEGO® Braille Bricks to Australia

01 February 2021

The importance of braille for connection and communication for people who are blind or have low vision cannot be understated. Vision Australia’s partnership with the LEGO® Foundation can help build braille skills in kids, and offer inclusive learning with their sighted peers.

“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.

A young child holds a yellow LEGO Braille brick with raised bumps that correspond to the letter E
Caption: Each LEGO® Braille Brick has raised bumps that correspond to a letter of the alphabet.

“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,” Melissa adds.

CEO of Vision Australia Ron Hooton says that 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,” Ron 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.”

A young male VA client uses LEGO Braille with a VA staff member
Caption: LEGO® Braille Bricks are an educational aid for children who are blind or have low vision.

Melissa 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®?” Fanshawe said. She points 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,” Melissa said. “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.

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.

Ends.

For further media enquiries: Phil McCarroll, 0416 632 253

About Vision Australia

Vision Australia is a leading provider of blindness related services. We offer a wide range of services, equipment and training so people who are blind or have low vision can live the life they choose.

Whether it’s at home, work, school or in the community, our expert staff provide clients across all age groups with skills and tools to help lead active, safe and independent lives.

Visit our website at www.visionaustralia.org.