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How do people who are blind learn to read braille? Here's a cool new way.

Braille Bricks may be the key to helping raise literacy among those who are blind.

How do people who are blind learn to read braille? Here's a cool new way.

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.


"When Anny was first brought to be breastfed, I noticed her eyes wouldn't fix on mine." All images and GIFs via Braille Bricks.

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.

"When she went to school, I told the teacher she would bring the braille typewriter."

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.

"Small modifications to toy building bricks found at any kids store and voila: we have a full braille alphabet."

As you can see, it's simply a matter of which dots of the bricks are left raised that determine the letter:

"A, B, C, D... ." You get the idea.

It's pretty simple, right? See, here's how you'd write "Upworthy" using Braille Bricks:

You can make your own saying over at the Braille Bricks website.

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...


Children play with Braille Bricks.

...which is why teacher Camila Ferreria describes the impact these bricks have had on her students like this:

"It helps not only with braille literacy, but also aids in integration with the other kids."

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.

"The experience was great for me, because having another way to learn braille is much better."

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:

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
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Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.