Children across North Carolina participate in the National Braille Challenge regionals

You could feel the excitement in the air. They could not wait to catch up with old friends from previous events, and make new friendships.

Twelve students from across the region traveled to Camp Dogwood in Sherrills Ford to participate in the seventh annual Western North Carolina Braille Challenge on Feb. 20. More than 1,000 school-age children from across the U.S. and Canada were expected to compete in the preliminary round, with 60 winners advancing to the National Braille Challenge in Los Angeles in June. The Eastern North Carolina Braille Challenge was held a week later at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Raleigh.

The Braille Challenge is a two-stage contest designed to motivate blind students to emphasize their study of Braille, while rewarding their success with fun-filled but challenging local and national events.

Contestants of all academic and braille reading levels can take the preliminary test any time during the first two months of the year. Once all the tests are scored and ranked, the top eligible students are invited to Los Angeles, where they match skills against the top Braille readers from across the nation.

The National Braille Challenge, governed and sponsored by the National Braille Institute in California, is the only national reading and writing contest in Braille for blind and visually impaired students. Former Department of Services for the Blind director Debbie Jackson is credited with bringing the event to North Carolina.

Entries from participants in the regional competitions are sent to the Braille Institute to be scored. The 60 highest scoring participants will be announced after all tests are evaluated.

At the Western North Carolina Braille Challenge, the day began with students separating into age groups. Each student competed in reading comprehension, speed and accuracy, spelling, proofreading and math (mostly graphs and charts).

While the participants competed in the challenge, approximately 50 of their family and friends listened to a variety of speakers. Susan King, director of Camp Dogwood, shared information about the Lions Club service programs and invited participants to attend summer camp. Claire Hakin and William Tubilleja from Camp Abilities shared information about their sports camp held at Camp Dogwood.

Ian Smith, an orientation and mobility specialist, held a seminar for family members where they played games and learned to use a mobility cane while blindfolded. Jack Mitchell, a technology specialist from Humanware, shared information about adaptive technology and aides useful to blind and visually impaired people.

NC Lions, Inc., and Camp Dogwood partner with Western North Carolina Braille Challenge organizers Angela Biggerstaff and Penny Dagenhart to support and host this national event.

For More Information…

Braille Challenge:
Contact your local teacher for the visually impaired (TVI), representative of a Blind service agency, or the Governor Morehead School for Blind and Visually Impaired Children in Raleigh.

Camp Dogwood: NCLionsCampDogwood.com
Camp Abilities: RaisingCane.org
National Braille Institute: BrailleInstitute.org