2017 Braille Challenge
By ISBVI Student, M.B. (M.B. is pictured second from the right in picture)
The Braille Challenge is an academic competition designed to motivate students who are blind in grades 1-12 to participate in a braille assessment of skills. There are annual regional state competitions throughout the U.S. from January to March. The Indiana School for the Blind and Visually Impaired (ISBVI) has been hosting Indiana’s regional competition for the past nine years. Braille students in five contest age categories exhibit their skills in reading comprehension, speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling, and reading tactile charts and graphs. The five contest age categories in the Braille Challenge consist of: Apprentice, Grades 1-2; Freshman, Grades 3-4; Sophomore, Grades 5-6; Junior Varsity, Grades 7-9; and Varsity, Grades 10-12. Each category is proctored and scored by volunteer teachers with final scoring completed by nationally certified braille transcribers. At the end of the all-day competition, students receive certificates and medals in braille and valuable feedback on their performances in each skill level. The top three contestants in each of the five age categories receive prizes. The top 50 contestants nationally are invited to the Braille Institute in Los Angeles, California in June, for a two day competition.
This past February, I participated in my eighth Braille Challenge here at ISBVI - the theme being, “Indiana Braille Challenge 2017: A Carnival of Fun.” Each year, the school does a fantastic job organizing not only the competitions, but workshops and activities for all family members to fill their day while they wait for us to finish our respective levels. We end the day with an awards banquet. One big difference in this year’s challenge was the move from EBAE (English Braille American Edition) to UEB (Unified English Braille, the official Braille code for the U.S.) for Apprentice and Freshman levels. Participants in the Sophomore Level had a choice of UEB or EBAE this year with the move to all UEB code next year.
I have been fortunate to have won the regional Braille Challenge five times now and have been selected to travel to California six times to compete with the best braille users in the nation.
In the national competition in California, the testing periods are longer and we have double the work. It requires practice, practice, and more practice! For me the best part of the Braille Challenge is meeting other braille users and seeing my “old” friends again whom I have met over the years. The most difficult part of the Braille Challenge for me has been the speed and accuracy category --the one you HAVE TO master. We have to braille quickly AND accurately at least seven pages of braille from listening to an audio recording and transcribing. The pressure is really on for this challenge!
Being braille literate is very important to me. Braille helps me to connect with the outside world and I love all the braille technology that enables me to produce my braille more efficiently (not to mention sharing it with others in braille, print, or electronic format). I enjoy writing and I am grateful that I have mastered the braille code to be able to write independently and communicate with the world.
The Indiana Blind Children's Foundation was a proud supporter of the 2017 Braille Challenge thanks to the support of the Junior League of Indianapolis.