Vision Australia announces LEGO Braille Bricks now available in Australia
Following an announcement earlier this year that LEGO Braille Bricks, designed to help children with vision impairment learn critical thinking, problem solving and collaboration through play, were heading to Australia, the official Australian supplier has been named as Vision Australia.
“This new toy normalises braille and allows sighted children and those who are blind or have low vision to play together, and it allows children with vision impairment to learn while they play…something that sighted children (can) take for granted,” said Melissa Fanshawe, senior lecturer at University of Southern Queensland, a LEGO ® Braille education ambassador and mum to Ollie, 14, who has low vision.
Braille is an important source of connection and communication for people who are blind or have low vision, and Vision Australia’s partnership with the LEGO® Foundation hopes to help build braille skills in children, and offer inclusive learning with their sighted peers.
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.
Vision Australia CEO 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,” he said, “and the LEGO® Foundation has provided us with a great example of how that can be achieved.”
“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.”
Mr Hooton hopes that the bricks will be a great way for families and other children to learn more about braille and its importance.
From a parent and educator perspective, Ms Fanshawe, who 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, knows that the bricks will be a valuable pre-literacy tool.
“Why would you want to learn braille on paper when you can learn it with LEGO®?” she asked, outlining the challenges for children who are blind or who have low vision in developing pre-literacy skills when they cannot look at letters and words all around them, from signs and menus, to gather an idea about how words are formed and spelt.
“If you don’t have sight and you are just listening to words via technology you can’t hear how things are spelled,” she explained.
“But it is important to be able to spell things properly because sighted people expect things in a well written, well punctuated format.”
High rates of braille literacy also tend to translate into 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.