The pilot programme has been created using AI technology with the aim of encouraging children who are blind or have visual impairments to “enjoy the developmental benefits of creative Lego play experiences”.
The company was inspired to introduce the new free service thanks to the efforts of Matthew Shifrin, a blind entrepreneur who is a long-time fan of the construction toys.
Prior to his collaboration with Lego, Shifrin would upload building steps for Lego sets onto a system which allowed him to read them with braille, with the help of his friend, Lilya.
“She learned braille to engage with me and support my Lego passion, and then spent countless hours translating Lego instructions into braille,” Shifrin said.
The entrepreneur launched the website legofortheblind.com, where he and Lilya uploaded text-based instructions that they made for a variety of Lego sets.
Shifrin realised there was high demand for his product when he received “hundreds of emails” requesting that they upload more instructions in order to make Lego more “accessible”.
“The trouble was we had to turn these people down because it was just me and her, a two-person operation,” Shifrin said.
The creative then got in touch with the Lego Foundation to ask whether the company would be interested in creating their own text-based instructions for the masses.
The pilot programme launched by Lego includes four audio and braille building instructions, which are available to use for free at legoaudioinstructions.com.
The company states that “more building instructions are underway and will be added regularly”.
“Lego Audio and Braille Building Instructions allow blind and visually impaired children who appreciate hands-on, minds-on activities to experience the joy of building and pride of creation through their hands,” Lego states.
“We believe that the audio instructions may also be beneficial for sighted users contributing with an added value and clarification to the well-known building instructions.”
Several Twitter users praised Lego with regards to its innovative new launch.
“Kudos to @LEGO_Group for doing this. I can’t imagine it looks great on a balance sheet, but they’ve done it anyway because it’s the right thing to do. Accessibility and inclusion matters,” one person wrote.
“Awesome way to step up @LEGO_Group and making these simple pieces that spark the imagination of many over the years available to spark the imagination of those who see the world in different ways,” another added.
In April, Lego announced the launch of its first product – Lego Braille Bricks – created specifically for customers who are blind or visually impaired.
The bricks have been designed to be fully compatible with existing Lego toys, and are moulded with studs which match with Braille letters and numbers.