Hi, my name is Matthew.

As a blind person, I have always enjoyed touching or manipulating things, to get an idea of my surroundings. For me, LEGO was the ultimate manipulative. I could sit for hours with a tray of LEGO pieces, building structures that were new, original, and always completely my own.

When my dad had free time, we’d sit down and build together. Dad would tell me which piece we needed, and I’d search until I found it. Then he would tell me where it was supposed to go. Little by little a structure would take shape. It was a fun process, but it was incredibly time-consuming. I knew I would not be able to build real LEGO sets by myself.

Or so I thought.

LEGO for the Blind

On the morning of my thirteenth birthday, my family friend Lilya showed up with custom made instructions for the Battle of Almut, a Middle Eastern domed castle. The instructions were written out step by step, describing every blueprint, giving names to every kind of LEGO piece, in the most logical sequence for a blind person to follow. Where had these instructions come from? It turned out Lilya had created them herself!

Over time, Lily realized that she could just type the instructions on the computer and e-mail them to me, and my screen-reader took care of the rest, so there was no need to braille anything. There were difficulties; sometimes Lilya made a mistake; sometimes I misuntertood the instructions. Over time, we transcribed over 20 LEGO sets, and continue to work on more.

Now, our jargon is clear and concise. The terms we use are similar to the piece names originally chosen by the LEGO Group. The instructions have grown shorter, and my fingers have grown more nimble.

As I build a set I develop a better sense of what a building looks like and how it is laid out and constructed. For blind people LEGO sets act as miniature 3D substitutes for real-life buildings in lieu of two-dimensional photographs. LEGO allows me to see things that are impossible to explore by touch, such as the arches of a Middle Eastern palace or the towers of the Tower Bridge.

I would like to get my instructions out to the blind community. I would like every blind person to be able to download the instructions, buy a set, have a sighted person sort the pieces, and feel on par with a sighted builder. I want every blind person to feel that the once impossible is now possible; that he or she can now build a miniature LEGO world.