Matthew is a high school student who is blind, and he and his sighted friend have have invented a system which enables people with visual impairments to build LEGO sets independently. He and his friend have created twenty sets of instructions so far.
Building the creations depicted on the LEGO box is usually thought to be something that is not accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. These sets are typically very elaborate, with intricate instructions to create designs ranging from X-wing starfighters from Star Wars to the Hogwarts Castle from Harry Potter. Because the instructions provided by LEGO are typically visual diagrams or blueprints, with very little text, they are not accessible to people who are blind. Matthew Shifrin set out to change that! He notes that building with LEGOs is a great way to improve spatial awareness and spatial reasoning--areas where people who are blind sometimes have trouble.
By writing out text-based instructions in sequence, Matthew and his friend individuals make building elaborate sets with LEGOs accessible using a screen reader. They have created accessible instructions for the following LEGO sets (set numbers are in parentheses):
- Grand Emporium (10211)
- Queen Anne's Revenge (4195)
- Hogwarts Castle (4842)
- Fire Brigade (10197)
- Pet Shop (10218)
- Town Hall (10224)
- Palace Cinema (10232)
- Parisian Restaurant (10243)
- Motorized Excavator (8043)
- Luke's Landspeeder (8082)
- Pop Star Recording Studio (41103)
- Speed Race vs. Snake Oiler (8175)
- Tow Truck (42031)
- Super-cyle Chase (70808)
- Arctic Snowmobile (60032)
- Detective's Office (10246)
- Volkeswagen T1 Camper Van (10220)
- Ferris Wheel (10247)
- Spider-trike vs. Electro (76014)
- Guardian of the Deep (8058)
- Prehistoric Hunters (6914)
- ARC-170 Starfighter (75072)
- Tower Bridge (10214)
Please note that all instructions can now be downloaded from: http://legofortheblind.com/instructions/
Two samples appear below.
Click to download a Word document of instructions to build a pop star recording studio. This design features a pop star singing into a mic, with a music stand, and holding a guitar, with step-by-step instructions to build a mixer, chair, couch, video camera, music stand, CD player, a wave-form display, and two music notes.
Click to download a Word document of instructions to build an Arctic snowmobile. The design features an Arctic explorer wearing a parka, with a heavy hood and goggles.
To learn more about this student and his Lego-building systems, see also A Love Affair with LEGO.