The Bumpy Road to Success

Nation's Top Blind Students To Compete In Unique Academic Competition

Jun 18, 2007, 01:00 ET from Braille Institute of America

    LOS ANGELES, June 18 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Of all the literacy
 issues in America, braille literacy is one of the most underrated. Most
 people see the little dots created by Louis Braille in 1824 as something of
 a novelty. They glance over them as they punch in their ATM passwords.
 Comedians make light of their use and ponder their placement in areas
 frequented by people with sight. But for thousands of blind and visually
 impaired children who use those dots to connect themselves to the darkened
 world around them, braille is their passport to success. On Saturday, June
 23, not because of their blindness, but because of their ability to succeed
 in spite of it, the top blind students from across the United States and
 Canada will get the opportunity 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(TM).
     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 7th Annual
 National Braille Challenge(TM) will take place on Saturday, June 23, 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, will
 compete in challenging categories requiring them to transcribe, type and
 read braille using a device called a Perkins Brailler. Each category is
 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(TM). "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 will feature 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 nearly 500 students throughout the
 country during a round of preliminary testing. Following the competition an
 awards ceremony will be held at the Sheraton Universal 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. In addition to these prizes, Freedom Scientific has donated
 the latest adaptive equipment for the winners -- a pocket PC with a braille
 display called a PacMate.
     Although the stakes are high, The National Braille Challenge(TM) also
 serves to bridge the gap between a unique group of students from across the
 country. "Most of the participants are the only blind students in their
 school," said Niebrugge. "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 or any of the participants, please contact Courtney Goines, media
 relations manager, at (323) 663-1111, Ext. 3176.

SOURCE Braille Institute of America