Learning With: ‘Lego Is Making Braille Bricks. They May Give Blind Literacy a Needed Lift.’

Learning With: ‘Lego Is Making Braille Bricks. They May Give Blind Literacy a Needed Lift.’

4. What is the “Braille literacy crisis?” Why have Braille literacy rates been dropping since the 1970s? How are laws requiring public schools to offer equal education to children with disabilities connected to this decline?

5. How is the process of learning Braille isolating for some visually impaired children? Why do some learners give up before they’ve achieved literacy?

6. The article concludes:

Ms. Cook Walker’s daughter, Anna, is a senior in high school now. But both mother and daughter said having Braille Lego bricks during childhood could have made a huge difference.

Anna recalled an embarrassing episode in kindergarten, when she had her own special bucket of Braille books. “When my classmates wanted to feel them, the teacher ran across the room and said: ‘You can’t touch that. Those are Anna’s,” she said.

Including both Braille and the written alphabet on the bricks would remove the notion of “otherness,” her mother said. And they could also help include sighted siblings and parents, who are often intimidated by the process of learning, said Ms. Cook Walker, who works with other families as part of a national organization for parents of blind children.

“This would be the bridge they need,” she said.

Why do you think this episode was embarrassing for Anna? What does Ms. Cook Walker mean by otherness? Do you think the repurposed Legos can serve as the bridge she talks about?

Finally, tell us more about what you think:

— What’s your reaction to the story? Do you think Legos will be successful? Does the article affect how you understand the idea of literacy?

— Worldwide, there are over 200 million people with moderate to severe vision impairment and 36 million people who are blind. Braille illiteracy contributes to high unemployment rates for blind and visually impaired people, estimated to be 75 percent in Europe (according to the European Blind Union) and 70 percent in the United States (according to Cornell University’s Disability Statistics). Do you or anyone you know have a visual impairment? If yes, tell us more about your or their experiences and challenges — particularly around issues of literacy.

— If you were a parent of a visually impaired child, would you want your child to learn Braille? Why or why not? Would you want your child to use Lego Braille bricks?

— Have you ever used toys and games in school? If yes, how did they impact your learning? Do you believe that more schools should adopt a learning-through-play approach? Should toys and games be used more regularly as educational tools in classrooms? Why or why not?

Further Resources:

Braille for a New Digital Age

Learning From Legos

Building Bots and Confidence

How to Really See a Blind Person