Braille Bricks may be the key to helping raise literacy among those who are blind.
As a baby, Anny struggled to meet her mother's eyes as she breastfed — the first sign that something was amiss.
Janete, Anny's mother, came to learn that her daughter had a very strong nystagmus, a condition which results in uncontrolled movement of the eye. As a result, Anny would spend her life struggling to see, functionally blind.
Janete did all she could for Anny, even sending her to school with a braille typewriter. Unfortunately for both of them, Anny's teachers simply didn't know how to use it and therefore couldn't teach her how to teach to read.
According to the National Federation of the Blind, just 10% of blind children in the U.S. are learning braille.
Most of the time, as was the case for Anny, it's an issue of teachers not having the skills or resources to teach children with visual impairments to read. As the NFB writes, "America would never accept a 10% literacy rate among sighted children." So why is that rate acceptable for children with visual challenges?
There needs to be a better way to teach children to learn braille — and now there is. They're called Braille Bricks.
And at their core, Braille Bricks are basically modified Legos. Letters in the braille alphabet are represented in a series of dots across a 2x3 area, making the 2x3 Lego brick the perfect canvas for this project. The idea came from a Brazilian nonprofit called the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind.
As you can see, it's simply a matter of which dots of the bricks are left raised that determine the letter:
It's pretty simple, right? See, here's how you'd write "Upworthy" using Braille Bricks:
The best part is that Braille Bricks are not only educational — they're fun, too.
Whether students are blind or have low vision or not, Braille Bricks serve as an educational toy all children can have fun playing with...
...which is why teacher Camila Ferreria describes the impact these bricks have had on her students like this:
So no longer do students who are blind need to be separated from their classmates; it can be an inclusive learning experience for all.
As for Anny, she loves her Braille Bricks, and in a world so seemingly eager to ignore her needs, they are definitely a welcome development.
Finding new ways to accommodate individuals with disabilities is so important. Having empathy for others is such a key element in life, and this is just one example of how thinking creatively can produce simple, effective solutions that bring people with different life experiences and opportunities together through compassion.
Currently, Braille Bricks are available on a very small scale, with somewhere around 300 students having access to them.
That's why the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind is asking for help. Their hope is that someone in the toy industry will take interest in their project and produce these learning tools on a mass scale. (Hello, Lego?) What they're asking of people around the world is to raise awareness of the product by using the hashtag #BrailleBricksForAll.
Will it work? Only time will tell. But does this seem like a cool, fun, and simple solution to encouraging literacy and inclusion among blind students and their sighted friends? Absolutely.
It's awesome that Braille Bricks are working out for Anny and other students at the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind. Here's hoping that the helpers of the world continue to develop new ways to make our world a more accessible place.
For more information about Braille Bricks, check out this video below: