LEGO, a brand that’s known for inspiring creativity and learning, has always been out of reach for the blind children. Many of such children aspire to build things, to touch and to know how things look like – but the LEGO toys weren’t designed in such a way. Good news is, that’s about to change.
How a blind kid’s passion for LEGO changed the world
Let’s start with the story of Matthew Shifrin, a blind entrepreneur, whose ambition started when he was a child. In elementary school, he was very interested in LEGO toys. His schoolmates were so much into LEGO, they built things. He wanted so much to be a part of it, he wanted to feel the joy of building things. But instructions were graphical and he couldn’t access them. Little Matthew was left heartbroken.
For blind children, we don’t have access to what sighted kids are used to. Lego bricks enable us to learn about our environment, to see the world. It is so important because blind kids get left out of a lot of social stuff, especially in elementary school.
The idea of translating instructions into Braille
Fortunately, there exists an angel in this story. Lilya, a family friend of Matthew’s, stepped up to help. She learned braille, and then spent countless hours translating visual LEGO instructions into text-based braille. Matthew said in an interview given to Today:
She thought that I as a blind person should be able to do everything that sighted kids can do. She named every single Lego piece that was being used in the set and that really opened up the world to me.
Soon, he launched legofortheblind.com, where he and Lilya produced text-based braille instructions for a variety of Lego sets. First thing they produced was a set of instruction for London Bridge tower, which was a whopping 850 pages. Soon they started receiving hundreds of emails, people requesting instructions for more Lego sets.
LEGO has launched a pilot program with audio and braille instructions
Lilya passed away in 2017, and Matthew set out to honor her memory by making this dream accessible to blind children all over the world. He reached out to LEGO’s Creative Play Lab which uses AI to translate graphic instructions into audio and braille.
LEGO has launched a pilot program, consisting of instructions for LEGO Classic, LEGO City, LEGO Friends, LEGO Movie 2 – available at legoaudioinstructions.com where people can listen to the audio or read the instructions using a Braille reader.
This opens up the world to the blind children in a whole new way
“This helps the blind children understand the world around them since they can’t use photographs or pictures. If they are building the London Bridge Tower, or the Sydney Opera House – not only it helps them understand how those things look, but also gives them the satisfaction of building something of their own.” says Matthew.
This is extremely important for blind children because there aren’t a lot of places where we can say, ‘Look Mom and Dad! I built this on my own—I did this.’
“I also want them to feel that there’s no stopping them from achieving whatever they want to achieve” adds Matthew.
Featured Image Courtesy: MSN