Students in the US who are blind or visually impaired are getting an opportunity to enhance their learning experience during the COVID-19 crisis.
American Printing House (APH), a non-profit dedicated to empowering blind or visually impaired people, announced on Tuesday that it is helping the Lego Foundation distribute braille blocks to school districts across the country. Students in each school district will receive a set of braille Lego blocks free of charge.
Although some students will not be able to use the new Legos in the classroom due to the pandemic, APH recommends that teachers work them into remote learning curriculums.
The Lego Foundation first announced the braille block collection in a range of languages in 2019. Each Lego piece is molded with numbers and letters in the braille alphabet and is compatible with other Lego pieces.
The braille blocks aim to help students to learn through play and develop a range of life skills. They also boost confidence by inspiring blind or visually impaired students to develop interdependence and communication skills at an early age.
We’re excited to be distributing LEGO Braille Bricks to students in the U.S.! Learn about our partnership with @LEGOfoundation & celebrate with us August 17-21 for a week of LEGO Braille Bricks webinars about learning through play!https://t.co/gfsH75BPOD— APH (@APHfortheBlind) August 5, 2020
"Reading braille means literacy that connects students to lifelong learning and opportunity," APH President Craig Meador told CNN.
Students with disabilities have lower attendance rates and are more likely to be out of school or leave school before completing primary education, limiting their future employment opportunities and putting them at risk of living in poverty. In the US, 34.8% of children who are blind or visually impaired are identified as non-readers, according to APH.
For children with disabilities, literacy is critical for accessing the tools and resources to thrive.
Children who learn braille tend to reach higher educational levels and achieve greater career success. However, with the growing popularity of audiobooks, fewer children today are mastering braille.
Braille Legos are just one example of innovation that can improve literacy for blind and visually-impaired students. Disability advocates are hopeful that the COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity to reimagine education as both inclusive and accessible. To ensure students with disabilities don’t fall behind, they recommend enhancing distance learning, offering students psychosocial support, reallocating resources for social services, and collecting data on emergency response.