2014

Putting Their Braille Skills to the Test: Nation's Top Blind Students Compete in Unique Academic Competition

LOS ANGELES, June 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- On Saturday, June 20, the top blind students from across the United States and Canada put their knowledge of the braille code to the test in the only national academic competition for blind students in the country -- The National Braille Challenge(R).

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Sponsored by Braille Institute of America(R), the competition serves to encourage blind children of all ages to fine-tune their braille skills, which are essential to their success in the sighted world. The 9th Annual National Braille Challenge(R) took place on Saturday, June 20, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Braille Institute's headquarters, located at 741 North Vermont Avenue, in Los Angeles. The participants, ages 6 to 19, competed in challenging categories that required them to transcribe, type and read braille using a device called a Perkins Brailler. Each category was designed to test their braille skills in several areas--reading comprehension, braille spelling, chart and graph reading, proofreading and braille speed and accuracy--all of which they need to master in order to keep up with their sighted peers.

"We know that employment numbers for blind people are significantly lower than those of sighted people in the same age group," said Nancy Niebrugge, director of the Braille Challenge(R). "But 90 percent of blind people who are gainfully employed are braille readers, and that's very telling. It's essential that blind children learn to read braille at an early age."

This year's competition featured a diverse group of high achievers -- from athletes to musicians to junior activists. Most were born blind, others lost their sight due to cancer or viral infections, but they all share a tenacity that drives them to succeed in spite of their disability. They are the top 60, chosen from among more than 650 students throughout the country during a round of preliminary testing. Following the competition an awards ceremony will be held at the Universal Hilton Hotel, from 6 to 9 p.m. The first- through third-place winners in each age group will receive a savings bond, ranging in value from $500 for the youngest group to $5,000 for the oldest. Legendary voice-over actor Jim Cummings, who has lent his voice to characters such as Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, will present the awards. In addition to these prizes, Freedom Scientific has donated the latest in adaptive equipment for the winners -- a pocket PC with a braille display called a PacMate, valued at nearly $4000. KNBC4-TV will also sponsor the Braille Superstar Award for Excellence in Reading Comprehension. Although the stakes are high, The National Braille Challenge(R) serves to bridge the gap between a unique group of students from across the country.

"The great thing about The Braille Challenge(R), is that it gives us the opportunity to celebrate braille literacy in a unique way," said Niebrugge. Most of the participants are the only blind students in their school. They go through their entire lives being the exception. This competition gives them the opportunity to build camaraderie among kids who have shared similar life experiences."

If you would like additional information on the National Braille Challenge(R), please contact Courtney Goines, director of Marketing and PR, at (323) 663-1111, Ext. 3176. The Braille Challenge(R) Finals Competition was made possible in part through the generosity of Freedom Scientific, Walter Lantz Foundation, dot.dat.inc, Dr. Allen and Charlotte Ginsburg, and Dot and Rick Nelson.

SOURCE Braille Institute of America




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