According to the latest statistics from the National Federation of the Blind, fewer than 10 percent of legally blind Americans know how to read Braille, the script that allows blind readers to feel the letters on a page. That's down from the more than 50 percent of blind Americans who were reading Braille in the 1950s. Yet while many agree that literacy is as important to a blind child as it is to one who can see, there are simply not many resources available to teach blind children to read.
Enter Braille Bricks, the Lego-style toy blocks that teach blind children (and their sighted peers) how to read Braille while they play. Together.
There are lots of reasons so many blind adults and children are failing to learn Braille, not the least of which is the haphazard and inconsistent Braille teaching services available in many schools. Oftentimes, young children with partial sight are encouraged to read very large print books. But this method generally only works with children's picture books. After that, or for children with no sight at all, many teachers recommend blind children go straight to audiobooks. But as one mom of a blind daughter points out in this interview with NBC News, if audiobooks are good enough for blind children, then why do we bother teaching any child to read?
The bottom line is while audiobooks are a convenient way to listen to a story, they are no replacement for reading words on a page. And that is as true for a sighted child as it is for a blind child.
Blind and sighted children can use Braille Bricks to build, play, read and learn. (Photo: Braille Bricks/YouTube)
Braille Bricks can help fill this need by teaching children to read Braille while they play. The bricks look just like any other Lego-style blocks, except the raised studs resemble various letters of the Braille alphabet. In this way, blind and sighted children can use them to build and to spell out words.
The blocks were created by the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind and the Lew'Lara\TBWA advertising agency. In all, 300 sets of Braille Bricks were created and distributed to various Braille literacy programs. But the partners also released the brick designs under a Creative Commons license which allows anyone, anywhere, for any purpose — even commercial — to create their own set of Braille Bricks as long as they are distributed under the same license as the original.
Check out the Braille Bricks story in this video: