By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK – Hosted by the Oklahoma School for the Blind (OSB), the 19th annual Oklahoma Regional Braille Challenge recently tested the Braille speed and accuracy of 28 contestants at the NewView Oklahoma Center for Low Vision and Blindness in Oklahoma City.
Braille literacy is an essential part of education for students who are blind and visually impaired.
Four Oklahoma City students took home medals during the challenge. Lilith Pederson (grade 6) and Ben Middleton (grade 10) took home bronze medals in their categories. Elbin Carillo (grade 9) took home silver in the Junior Varsity category. And Julio Valdez (grade 9) won gold in Junior Varsity and the overall high school for all upper categories
“We were very excited to host this year’s Braille Challenge,” said Andrea Hamen, NewView programs director and certified teacher of the visually impaired. “This is a fun and challenging event for students, and the competition is a great motivator for kids to improve their braille skills throughout the year.”
Regional Braille Challenges operate as a part of the Braille Institute of America’s national program based in Los Angeles. Competitors who score in the top 60 across the nation will advance to the finals in Los Angeles on June 26.
“It’s so important for our braille-using students to be challenged and celebrated,” said Faye Miller, Braille Challenge coordinator and OSB teacher. “It’s also essential that we increase braille literacy across the board, so that students who are blind can further their education and eventually secure fulfilling employment.”
Participants were tested in multiple skills areas, including reading comprehension, speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling and tactile graphs and charts. Tests are proctored by teachers of the visually impaired and scored locally by volunteer transcribers.
Each contestant received a custom brailled certificate and commemorative t-shirt.
The high school graduation rate for students who are visually impaired is only 32 percent, and the unemployment rate for adults who are blind is more than 70 percent, according to the National Federation of the Blind. In contrast, OSB has maintained a 100 percent graduation rate for five years.
Braille literacy is one key to empowering and equipping students for successful futures in society. In additional to braille training, NewView Oklahoma provides comprehensive rehabilitative services for children and adults who are blind.
Oklahoma School for the Blind (OSB) is the statewide resource for the education of blind and visually impaired students. Residential and commuter students meet all state-mandated education requirements and receive specialized instruction in braille, orientation and mobility, optimum use of low vision, adaptive equipment technology and tactile graphic skills not readily available at other public schools in the state.
OSB also provides hundreds of hours of free evaluations and other direct services each year for students attending local public schools, their families and local school staff. OSB is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS).
Founded in 1949, NewView Oklahoma is a private, not-for-profit organization, with a mission to empower people who are blind and visually impaired to achieve their maximum level of independence through employment, low vision rehabilitation, and community outreach.
NewView Oklahoma is the leading employer of the blind and visually impaired individuals in Oklahoma and offers the only comprehensive Low Vision clinics in the state.
For more information about NewView Oklahoma, visit newviewoklahoma.org. To learn more about the Braille Challenge, contact Faye Miller at 918-781-8200.
This story was updated on March 19, 2020.