2013 Florida Braille Challenge

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2013 Florida Braille Challenge; “Red, White and Braille”

Oh yeah, it’s that time of year again! The Braille Challenge is back in the sunshine state for 2013! Students from all over the state are brushing-up on their braille reading & writing skills in preparation of competing in this unique, one-of-a-kind competition.

The Braille Challenge is a national program of the Braille Institute® that’s split into regional events all over the U.S. The regional events are hosted by schools and agencies that serve and work with children who are blind or visually impaired. It’s the only national braille literacy competition of its kind in the country, and is specifically designed to challenge and reward blind students for their study of braille, which is essential to their future academic and employment success.

Image of the 2013 Florida Braille Challenge logo

Florida will host four regional events this year in an effort to keep students from having to travel too far from their homes. The first one was held in Tallahassee, the state capital, back on January 25th. It was a huge success for competitors, teachers and parents alike!

The remaining three events will take place:

  1. Orlando, FL: February 8, 2013 – Registration Form (Download the latest version of Adobe Reader)
  2. Ft. Lauderdale: February 22, 2013 – Registration Form (Download the latest version of Adobe Reader)
  3. Tampa: March 1, 2013 – Registration Form (Download the latest version of Adobe Reader)

A few Braille Works representatives and I are attending the event in Tampa again this year to help give encouragement and support to the kids. What we’re the most excited about is getting the chance to be “sighted guides” this year! It’s going to give us a great opportunity to really get to know the children who are competing by walking with them to-and-from the different activities that are scheduled.

In past years, the kids really enjoyed speaking to our Vice-President, Lou Fioritto and asking him all kinds of questions about his life experience while being blind. Some find his story fascinating and most look up to him as a perfect example of how to achieve ones’ goals in life despite ones’ “disability”. We’re proud of any encouragement we can give to the next generation of braille readers & elated to have the opportunity to attend The Braille Challenge again this year.

Image of Lou Fioritto, Vice President of Braille Works

Braille Challenge competitors are inspired by Lou Fioritto’s success in business despite his so-called “disability”.

Many of the competing students are the only braille reader or visually impaired student in their respective schools. That can be a pretty lonely place to be if you ask me. Fortunately The Braille Challenge gives these students a real sense of community.

Whether a person is sighted or not, the more we read and write, the better we become at it, and the more we want to read. Increased reading and writing is the catalyst for better language skills, which we all know is the basis of becoming more “life-literate”. The importance of “life-literacy” skills are immeasurable to students with visual impairments because they help boost self-esteem, confidence, and self-determination. The Florida Braille Challenge brings students together in an encouraging atmosphere with their peers.

The Challenge was originally designed to include five ability levels determined on the competitor’s age. However, after the first year of the Florida Braille Challenge, organizers realized it was very awkward having 5th and 6th graders testing alongside 1st and 2nd graders, even though they were all on the same reading level. From then on they decided it would be best if students registered for categories based on their reading level, not their age.

Regional students who score among the top 60 nationally are invited to the Braille Institute in Los Angeles for a final competition on June 21st & 22nd!

If you or a friend is interested in participating in The Braille Challenge in your state or right here in Florida; here’s a few additional resources and info on how to register:

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This post was written by Jeff Frcho

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