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Top 60 Blind Students in North America to Compete in National Braille Challenge

On Saturday, June 21, Braille Institute of America will host 60 blind and visually impaired students from across the U.S. and Canada at its Los Angeles headquarters to participate in The Braille Challenge® – an annual, national competition for blind students to test their braille skills against their top peers from all over North America.

Of all the literacy issues in America, braille literacy is one of the most underrated and overlooked and advancements in technology have not replaced the need for blind children to learn to read using this vital medium. Instead, new technological tools have the potential to make braille infinitely more accessible and useful however, studies have shown that only 10 percent of people who are blind actually read braille. What’s more, only 30 percent of blind adults gain full-time employment but 90 percent of those who beat the odds are braille readers.

“The connection is evident – braille is a crucial tool for blind students to not only become literate, but also drive educational advancement and employment opportunities in the future,” said Nancy Niebrugge, associate vice president of national programs at Braille Institute of America and director of The Braille Challenge. “We continue to be more inspired each year by the passion and commitment of the students who compete in The Braille Challenge and we hope their achievements will empower others who are affected by blindness to develop their braille skills as well.”

Understanding how essential braille literacy is for success in the sighted world, Braille Institute developed the two-stage, annual competition as a way of encouraging blind children to fine-tune their braille skills and celebrate their accomplishments. As the first stage, Braille Institute’s 43 regional partners throughout North America hosted preliminary challenges earlier this year, open to any visually impaired student who reads braille. In total, 1,065 students from 41 states and four Canadian provinces participated in the regional challenges and completed a series of tests to determine the top 60 finalists advancing to the national challenge.

Finalists represent the 12 top-ranking scores from each of the five age groups spanning ages six to 19. At the national finals on June 21, University of Southern California’s Spirit of Troy marching band will herald the students’ arrival at a special opening ceremony for the 60 finalists and their families. The finalists will then embark on the daylong competition to showcase their skills at reading braille and typing braille, using a device called a Perkins Brailler®. Each category is designed to test braille skills in several areas – reading comprehension, braille spelling, chart and graph reading, proofreading and braille speed and accuracy.

Following the daylong event, the winners in each age group will be announced at an award ceremony that evening hosted by celebrity emcees Atticus Shaffer, who plays Brick Heck on the popular sitcom ‘The Middle’ and Scott Innes, the renowned voice of Scooby-Doo. The winners will receive prizes including monetary awards and the latest in adaptive mobile technology, thanks to major prize sponsor HumanWare – the global leader in assistive technologies for the print disabled. Robert Kovacik with media partner NBC4 will also help host the award ceremony and present one of the finalists with the additional ‘Braille Superstar Award for Excellence in Reading Comprehension.’

Braille Institute’s Los Angeles headquarters are located at 741 N Vermont Ave, Los Angeles, Calif. For additional information and a full list of this year’s finalists, please visit www.braillechallenge.org.

About Braille Institute of America

Braille Institute of America is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to eliminate barriers to a fulfilling life caused by blindness and severe sight loss. It serves more than 75,000 people of all ages each year through an array of integrated educational, social, and recreational programs and services designed to help people with vision loss lead enriched and fulfilling lives. Headquartered in Los Angeles, Braille Institute has five regional centers and 220 community partner locations throughout Southern California, as well as a number of programs across North America, such as The Braille Challenge – an annual academic competition for visually impaired students to test and showcase their braille literacy. Funded entirely by private donations, all services are completely free-of-charge. For more information, visit http://www.brailleinstitute.org/.

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