LEGO is currently testing its new LEGO Braille Bricks: special blocks designed to help visually impaired children learn braille. LEGO has repurposed the usual dots on each block to represent different letters, symbols and numbers; each block also has its meaning printed in type to enable sighted friends and family to also learn Braille at the same time. The Braille Bricks are set to be distributed to partner organizations for the blind in 2020.
Two important innovation insights for you:
Inclusive IRL. Braille Bricks is one of a growing number of brand initiatives making daily life better for disabled consumers: in China Alibaba empowered blind mobile shoppers by creating a silicone overlay for smartphone screens, while in Brazil Ford created a trunk mat that doubles as a wheelchair ramp. You should consider this trend for two reasons. First, it’s a powerful statement of your brand values and an opportunity to change lives in a profound way. That should be enough. If however your organization isn’t jumping on board, then try this: you will undoubtedly learn valuable lessons in making products more accessible for disabled people today. Could they help you win tomorrow, in a world where huge numbers of elderly people – who are less mobile and dextrous – will welcome easy-to-use products and services?
Go hack yourself. Like with so many innovations, LEGO wasn’t the first to think adapting its products in this way. The Dorina Nowill Foundation, based in Brazil, open sourced its version of the Braille Bricks back in 2016. After initially rejecting the concept, now LEGO is collaborating with the organization! IKEA famously threatened legal action against the IKEA Hackers website back in 2014; by 2018 it was partnering with Tom Dixon to create a sofa that is designed for people to hack – sorry, ‘co-design’ – themselves! Who is your team rejecting? Who is your legal department chasing? Could they be your next official partners?