About Us

Bricks for the Blind (BFTB) is a non-profit organization that brings the joy of building LEGO® sets to blind people.

By following BFTB’s free Text-based Building Instructions, people with visual impairments can enjoy the excitement and thrill of building amazing things that they couldn’t have built before. BFTB provides instructions for LEGO sets ranging from 100 to 4,000 pieces so visually impaired people of all ages and skill levels can enjoy hours of relaxation, independence, and empowerment.

People everywhere love building LEGO sets. Unfortunately, blind people can’t follow the pictorial instructions that come with each set. However, by using the assistive technologies they already use every day, such as magnifiers and screen readers, people with visual impairments can use BFTB’s Text-based Building Instructions to guide them through the building process. Now people with vision challenges can enjoy the fun, creativity, and relaxation of building LEGO sets, and the thrill of doing it all on their own.

As miniature 3D replicas of real-life and imaginary things, LEGO sets help visually impaired people “see” wonders that are impossible to explore by touch, such as the towers of the London Tower Bridge or Hogwarts Castle.  When a blind person builds these marvels with their own hands, they understand them in a new and enlightening way; there is an “aha” moment that they can’t get from just reading about them. Building LEGO sets helps blind people learn about the world while also having fun.

BFTB’s Text-based Building Instructions are created by sighted and blind people working together. Sighted people write the instructions and blind people test them to ensure they are clear. BFTB then posts the instructions on their website where visually impaired LEGO fans download them free of charge and use them to build marvelous creations.

BFTB has only one goal:  to bring the joy of building LEGO sets to as many visually impaired people as possible. BFTB is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization.

About Matthew Shifrin, founder and CEO of Bricks for the Blind

Matthew Shifrin is the founder and CEO of Bricks for the Blind. Although he was born blind and is only 26 years old, he has accomplished many things beyond the reach of most people — and he’s just getting started.

Matthew is an accomplished musician. He earned a Bachelor of Music in Contemporary Music Arts from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, specializing in singing and accordion. He earned the Chadwick Medal, the conservatory’s highest honor for an undergraduate. He also earned his Masters of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music, specializing in opera singing. He is an accordionist, yodeler, and countertenor (a guy who sings very high).

Matthew is a performer. He played a blind subway singer in Mark Turtletaub’s film “Puzzle,” which premiered at the Sundance Festival and is viewable on Amazon.

Matthew is a composer and author. He’s written musicals, and his one-man show “My Grandma’s Mind Is Like an Ocean,” won an award for Best Musical at NYC’s United Solo Theatre Festival on Theatre Row. He created the podcast “Blind Guy Travels,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival, and was on Spotify and the Atlantic’s list of the Best Podcasts of 2021. He’s given two TEDx talks.

Matthew is a lover of languages. He is fluent in English and Russian and proficient in Italian and French. He is learning Japanese and Yiddish. He created Yiddish Braille so he could write his aforementioned musical in both Yiddish and English.

Matthew is an entrepreneur. He created Bricks for the Blind, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt not-for-profit organization, inspired by a family friend’s love and compassion. When Matthew was 13 years old a dear friend, Lilya Finkel, wrote and gave him text-based instructions to build a LEGO set. Matthew was amazed and thrilled that he could build the set by himself. Matthew and Lilya created instructions for other LEGO sets. After Lilya died from cancer, Matthew made it his personal mission to immortalize Lilya’s love and compassion by continuing their work and bringing it to as many blind people as possible. He has spent years working with others to write, test, and provide text-based instructions for LEGO sets. He traveled to the LEGO Group’s headquarters in Denmark to discuss how to make LEGO sets more accessible for the blind, and he convinced them to start their Accessible Building Instructions Initiative.

Matthew is improving the world for blind people. He created an educational LEGO STEM curriculum for blind children, and he will be teaching blind children how to use LEGO bricks to rock-climb, make maps of their neighborhood, and notate music independently at the Perkins School for The Blind’s Outreach Summer Program. He has many ideas and visions beyond Bricks for the Blind.