The Braille Bricks project, co-founded by the Dorina Nowill Foundation For The Blind, was created with the goal of helping blind children learn to read through play. Each block can be used like a toy by blind and sighted children alike, although for the benefit of the blind children, each block features one Braille letter.

As a child’s vision and motor skills develop, a typical baby begins to incorporate more and more strategies for exploring objects with the hands. Many of these strategies are learned through watching others, but also are developed naturally by just interacting with everything around them: reaching and grasping, banging and batting, putting together and taking apart.

The active use of touch to “seek out and acquire information” has been called “haptic touch.” The “haptic system” has been defined as a distinctive perceptual system, oriented towards discriminating and recognizing objects by handling them as opposed to looking at them. (McLinden & McCall, 2002)

McLinden and McCall also include the following list to show the type of sensory information that can be found by various exploratory procedures we typically use on objects.

Exploratory Procedure (EP)

Lateral motion EP (Rubbing finger across surface of object)-Learn Texture

Pressure EP (squeezing, poking object)-Learn hardness 

Static Contact EP (Fingers resting on object surface).-Learn Temperature

Enclosure EP (holding/grasping object)-Learn Shape/Size/Volume

Unsupported holding EP (holding object in hand)-Learn Weights

Contour following EP (tracing along contours of object)-Learn Global shape/outline

When we think about children with blindness and deaf blindness, we can begin to see how important it is to develop haptic ability. Hand use and cognition are tied together. The more capable any child is in their exploration of objects with their hands, the better they are able to formulate concepts that are critical to learning

Developing the sense of touch and good hand use skills are important goals for any child who is blind. The tactile sense often is needed to confirm what the child is seeing or hearing.  We must think about the child’s experience of the world and find ways to enhance the use of the child’s tactile sense in all the activities we do.

So far, the São Paulo based organisation has only manufactured enough bricks for 300 students, but through the Creative Commons, they hope more will be made. 

The Creative Commons “Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International” license is the second-coolest part of this project. This license makes the design FREE to share (copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format), or adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material) for any purpose, even commercial, as long as you distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

More info:

McLinden, M. and McCall, S. (2002). Learning Through Touch: Supporting children with visual impairment and additional difficulties. London: David Fulton Publishers, Ltd. The Chiswick Centre, 414 Chiswick High Road, London W4 5TF.

Stilwel, J.M. and Cermak, S.A. (1995). On the Way to Literacy: early experiences for visually impaired children. Louisville, KY: American Printing for the Blind.

Rochat, P. (1989). “Object manipulation and exploration in 2- to 5-month-old infants”, Developmental Psychology 25, 871-4.