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YouTube // BrainCraft

How LEGO Helps Blind People See

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YouTube // BrainCraft

Matthew Shifrin works to make LEGO kits accessible to blind people. Along with help from his family friend Lilya Frinkel, Shifrin became an expert LEGO model builder, developing a scheme to translate visual LEGO assembly instructions into Braille. Shifrin wrote:

Lilya could make just about anything accessible for the blind. Making things accessible was a challenge she enjoyed, but LEGO was different. It was impossible to Braille the blueprints. The instruction manuals had no words, and they were too complicated to be turned into raised-line drawings. Building a model required so many steps that I couldn't copy them all. LEGO was the only thing that stubbornly resisted adaptation.

Or so I thought.

For my thirteenth birthday, Lilya had custom made instructions for the Battle of Almut, a Middle Eastern domed castle. How had she done it? Where did she find text-based instructions?

It turned out that she didn't find them--she created them! Lilya wrote out the instructions step by step, describing every blueprint, giving names to every kind of LEGO piece, figuring out the most logical sequence for a blind person to follow. She also sorted the LEGO pieces, putting the pieces necessary for each step into a Ziploc bag and labeling each bag in Braille.

Shifrin has begun posting these instructions on his website.

In this 13-minute documentary, Vanessa Hill visits Shifrin to explore his work. This is not just about LEGO, it's about spatial perception, which is fascinating stuff. If you're sighted, keep an eye out for the Braille display Shifrin uses—that device pops up one line of Braille at a time, and along with the attached keyboard, allows easy access to long sets of Braille instructions.

Enjoy:

If you liked that, you might enjoy this outtake video in which Shifrin's screen-reader reads out 10,000 digits of Pi from a YouTube comment. (Then he flips it into Russian mode and does it again.) This is a nice mini-demo of how screen-reader software works, even for silly stuff like YouTube comments.

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LEGO Ideas
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Fans of The Office, Rejoice: A Dunder Mifflin LEGO Set Could Someday Become a Reality
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LEGO Ideas

After nine seasons filled with pranks, gags, awkward jokes, and just a few too many “That’s what she said's,” the finale of NBC’s The Office aired on May 16, 2013. While the beloved show probably won’t be getting a reboot anytime soon, LEGO fans may someday be able to recreate the cast’s shenanigans with their very own Dunder Mifflin-inspired set.

Jaijai Lewis, a 36-year-old market researcher from New York City, has submitted a toy recreation of the fictional paper sales company’s Scranton branch to the LEGO Ideas website. It’s a miniature replica of the TV show's titular office, complete with the main shared space (cubicles and desk plants included), a conference room, and separate offices for Michael and Darryl. These rooms are designed to be modular, and can either be connected together or remain separate.

Of course, Lewis made sure to include mini-replicas of the whole gang, including Michael, Jim, Pam, Dwight, Angela, Meredith, and more. They come with tiny accessories, like Michael’s Golden Dundie, Meredith’s water bottle, and Pam’s ring. (The last one fits in Jim’s suitcase.)

If 10,000 different fans support a design on the LEGO Ideas blog, it will become eligible for review to become a real-life product. The LEGO Dunder Mifflin has already hit the coveted 10K number, so with any luck, you could eventually see it on the shelves of a toy store near you.

Check out some pictures of Lewis’s design below, or visit the LEGO Ideas site for more details.

LEGO fan Jaijai Lewis's design of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., a fictional paper company from NBC's TV show 'The Office.'
LEGO Ideas

LEGO fan Jaijai Lewis's design of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., a fictional paper company from NBC's TV show 'The Office.'
LEGO Ideas

LEGO fan Jaijai Lewis's design of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., a fictional paper company from NBC's TV show 'The Office.'
LEGO Ideas

LEGO fan Jaijai Lewis's design of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., a fictional paper company from NBC's TV show 'The Office.'
LEGO Ideas

LEGO fan Jaijai Lewis's design of the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Inc., a fictional paper company from NBC's TV show 'The Office.'
LEGO Ideas
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LEGO
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fun
2000-Piece Fishing Store Set From LEGO Ideas Is Now Available to Buy
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LEGO

Not every concept that fans submit to LEGO Ideas makes it to the production line. Many designs don’t receive the 10,000 online votes required to move on to the review stage, and even when they do, that’s no guarantee they won’t be shot down by LEGO bigwigs. But the Old Fishing Store, one of the most ambitious sets that’s appeared on the site, is now available for builders to purchase.

Designed by Dutch LEGO fan Robert Bontenbal, the seaside building consists of about 2000 pieces, making it the largest LEGO Ideas set to date. It includes four human minifigures as well as animals like seagulls and a cat hanging around the bait shop.

Bontenbal, who works as an architectural draftsman, originally designed the set for his own enjoyment. “I liked it myself, and it looked so good so I decided to submit it to LEGO Ideas to see how the rest of the LEGO community liked it," he said in an interview with LEGO Ideas.

When he uploaded the fishing store set in December 2015, it took just six weeks to attract the 10,000 supporters needed to advance. Customers can purchase the real thing today through the LEGO shop for $150.

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