Putting Their Braille Skills To The Test

Jun 24, 2011, 13:05 ET from Braille Institute of America

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

LOS ANGELES, June 24, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It has been nearly 200 years since Louis Braille created a system of raised dot writing for blind people. 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 darkened world around them, braille is their passport to success. On Saturday, June 25, 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®. This year marks the 11th anniversary of this groundbreaking event.

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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 11th Annual National Braille Challenge® will take place on Saturday, June 25, from 9 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. 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 disability. They were chosen from among nearly 900 students during the preliminary round at Regional Braille Challenge events across the country.

Lanie Molinar, of Alvin, Texas is one of this year's Varsity level finalists. Lanie, who is totally blind due to Glaucoma in one eye and Optic Nerve Hypoplasia in the other, isn't letting her disability get in the way of her success. An avid braille reader and outstanding student at the Texas School for the Blind in Austin, she started learning to read braille when she was only two years old and hasn't slowed down since. She has excelled academically and uses several adaptive devices such as a Perkins Brailler, braille notetakers, and computers with speech output programs in her everyday life.

"If she didn't know how to read braille she would be at a huge disadvantage. Braille literacy is an essential part of her life and I know she wouldn't be as successful without it," said her mother Leah Molinar. "She's so excited to be going to Los Angeles to compete in a national competition that tests this unique skill."

A lover of science, Lanie has been accepted into the pre-med program at the University of Texas and will begin her studies to become a biological engineer in the fall. "People shouldn't underestimate someone just because they have a visual impairment," said her mother. "Lanie has an IQ of 138. She will be successful because she has high expectations of herself and she doesn't want to be treated different just because she's blind."

Each category of The National Braille Challenge® is designed to test 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 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 corporation has donated the latest adaptive equipment for the winners—a pocket PC with a braille display called a PacMate. If you would like additional information on The Braille Challenge® or any of the finalists or winners please contact Courtney Kassel, director of Marketing and Public Relations, at (323) 663-1111, Ext. 3176.

SOURCE Braille Institute of America