Brilliant Products

These LEGO-Style Blocks Help Blind Children Learn Braille

Excited for the August 21 eclipse? Visit our Eclipse 2017 page to explore the science, history, and myths of the event. The Curiosity team will be viewing the eclipse alongside NASA in Carbondale, Illinois. Follow us on Facebook for live videos, trivia, and interviews on the big day.

Kids may have different hobbies and favorite toys, but one thing that most can agree on is that LEGO is awesome! Now, blind children can get a similar set of building blocks designed to help them learn Braille.

The Building Blocks of Education, Literally

Braille Blocks are the brainchild of a Brazilian non-profit called the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind and the Lew'Lara\TBWA ad agency. LEGO blocks already have their own style of "raised dots" - the pegs used to connect them to other blocks. The new toy has the Braille letters in place of the conventional peg formations. The "A" block merely has one peg, while the "B" block has two pegs in a column, and so on.

The creators hope the toy doesn't only appeal to children, but to anyone who would like to learn to read Braille. The blocks can be used for Braille basics and spelling or more advanced users could spell out entire sentences or short stories.

The Nowill Foundation has only been able to produce enough Braille Blocks for 300 children so far, but that's just the beginning. Best of all, they've released their design under a Creative Commons license, which means that anyone around the world could recreate them and spread the joy of reading to children in their community.

A System of Raised Dots

In 19th-century France, an 11-year-old student named Louis Braille, who had been blinded in an accident, wanted to create a communication system for himself and other blind and visually-impaired people. Braille was inspired by "night reading," a coding system used by some soldiers in Napoleon's army to receive written messages after dark without fearing that the glow of their lamps could give their location away to the enemy. So Braille he spent the next nine years refining an alphabet with letters consisting of one-to-six raised dots that can be read by touch.

Following Braille's death in 1853, his alphabet was adopted for widespread use in France in 1854. By 1860, it had been brought to the United States. Since those early days, Braille has become the transcribed into several languages, and has improved communication, education and work opportunities, and the overall quality of life of generations of blind people. The average speed of Braille reading is 125 words per minute, but some people have been known to read as fast as 200 words per minute.

Braille: Where did it come from?

If you liked this you'll love our podcast! Check it out on iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play Music, SoundCloud, search 'curiosity' on your favorite podcast app or add the RSS Feed URL.

Advertisement