LOS ANGELES, June 21, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It has been nearly 200 years since Louis Braille created a system of raised dot reading that would change the lives of blind people the world over. Many people see the little dots as something of a novelty. But for thousands of blind and visually impaired children who use those dots to connect themselves to the world around them, braille literacy is their passport to success. This underrated literacy issue is finally making its way out of the shadows and into the public consciousness, thanks to a unique academic competition that has been likened to the National Spelling Bee. But on this stage, braille dots are the main attraction. On Saturday, June 23, the top blind students from across the United States and Canada will meet in Los Angeles to 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®.
Sponsored by Braille Institute of America®, 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 12th Annual National Braille Challenge® will take place on Saturday, June 23, from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., at Braille Institute's headquarters in Los Angeles, located at 741 North Vermont Avenue. The participants, ages 6 to 19, will compete in challenging categories requiring them to transcribe, type and read braille at a furious pace using a device called a Perkins Brailler.
"This competition is unique in that it tests a very specific skill. It gives us the opportunity to bring the issue of literacy for blind children to the attention of the public," said Nancy Niebrugge, director of The Braille Challenge. "Most of the participants who make it to the national competition are the only blind students in their school. They go through their entire lives being the exception. The Braille Challenge® gives them the opportunity to build camaraderie among kids who have shared similar life experiences."
This year's competition will feature a diverse group of high achievers from across the country. 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 challenges. They were chosen from among more than 900 blind students—representing 42 states and two Canadian provinces—during the preliminary round at Regional Braille Challenge events held across the country.
Each category of The National Braille Challenge® is designed to test participants' braille skills in several areas—reading comprehension, braille spelling, chart and graph reading, proofreading and braille speed and accuracy—all of which blind students need to master in order to keep up with their sighted peers. The first- through third-place winners in each age group will receive awards ranging in value from $500 for the youngest group to $5,000 for the oldest. In addition to these prizes, Freedom Scientific Corporation has donated the latest adaptive equipment for the winners—the Focus 40 Blue—an adaptive computer device with a refreshable braille display.
"There have been questions about whether braille can survive the digital age, but literacy will never become obsolete. We're seeing braille merge with new technology to give blind readers access to more information than ever before," said Niebrugge. "The kids who participate in this competition are going to be well placed to keep up with the challenges of living in the 21st century because they have mastered a form of literacy that has been around for nearly 200 years."
741 North Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, California 90029
Telephone (323) 663-1111 Fax (323) 663-1428, www.brailleinstitute.org
SOURCE Braille Institute of America