A new tool for teaching kids the Braille alphabet is inspired by a simple fact: A Lego-like toy brick, with two rows of three dots, is arranged exactly like a Braille cell. Designers realized that by tweaking the toys and removing some of the bumps, they could create a full alphabet.
It's designed both for blind children and the kids around them. "It's a toy, and toys attracts kids no matter if they are blind or not," says Felipe Luchi, chief creative officer at Lew'Lara\TBWA, the Brazil-based creative agency that designed Braille Bricks. "So it's very inclusive. Blind kids can teach their families and friends the Braille language while playing."
It's also easier to use than traditional methods of learning Braille. "It's cheaper than Braille type machines, and if you make a mistake you can change the wrong letter for the right one instead of retyping it from the beginning," he says. "It's not a substitute for the machines but a playful learning accessory." For children in poorer countries whose families can't afford a Braille typewriter, it also could be an accessible option.
The designers made 300 full kits, with letters, numbers, and accents, for students at the Dorina Nowill Foundation for the Blind in São Paulo, Brazil. For the first batch, they just chopped up existing toys. "We produced it cutting and reshaping every single brick, one by one," says Luchi. "We are waiting for a brand to embrace and produce it on industrial scale."
Though they sent the idea to Lego, the company rejected it. So now they've released the design under a Creative Commons license, and they're hoping a manufacturer—or even someone who wants to run a Kickstarter campaign—will pick it up. "We decided to make it available to any toy brand interested in helping blind kids with no need to pay for the rights," he says. "Even Lego, if they change their minds ... Sometimes all a brand needs is some push from society."