What is the Braille Challenge?
The Braille Challenge is the only academic competition of its kind in North America for students who are blind or visually impaired. Any blind or visually impaired student in grades 1 – 12 who can read and write braille is eligible to participate.
All Contestants are divided into five categories and tested on fundamental braille skills such as reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, proofreading, and charts and graphs.
Registration is open for the 1st Annual New Jersey Regional Braille Challenge! Email firstname.lastname@example.org more information or to register.
For more information about the Braille Challenge, visit the Braille Institute.
Reflections and Tips from Kaleigh Brendle, National Braille Challenge Winner
Monique interviewed Kaleigh Brendle, a 15-year-old high school student from New Jersey. Kaleigh is a seasoned Braille Challenge contestant who won 1st place at the JV Level of the 2018 National Braille Challenge. In this interview, Kaleigh talks about her experiences with preparing for and taking the Braille Challenge. She also provides some great tips and encouragement for kids who will be taking the upcoming NJ Regional Braille Challenge.
Monique: Let’s start with an easy question, how long have you been doing the Braille Challenge?
Kaleigh: Ten years. I started when I was six years old.
Monique: And was last year your first year winning at Nationals?
Kaleigh: It was my first time winning 1stplace. But I placed in the top 4 multiple years.
Monique: Besides the encouragement that you must have received from your parents and TVI, what motivated you to do the Braille Challenge?
Kaleigh: I always loved reading braille, and I liked that the Braille Challenge gave me an opportunity to be around and socialize with other braille readers.
Monique: You’re obviously an excellent braille reader and writer. How has the Braille Challenge helped you to become such a good braille reader/writer?
Kaleigh: Thank you! Honestly, the day of the challenge itself is not as important for that as all the preparation for the Braille Challenge. About a month before the Challenge I spend a few hours every weekend preparing. I try to do a practice test every day.
Monique: It sounds like you really have to practice intensively to be able to reach and do well at the national level.
Kaleigh: I know some kids who do really well and make it to the National Competition who don’t do as much practice as I do. I guess everyone has their own way of preparing that suits their needs. I am the kind of person that likes to plan and be prepared for whatever may happen during the Challenge. So, I feel like I need to spend a lot of time preparing. This past year I actually did not get to practice as much.
Monique: What are some strategies you have learned over the years that may be helpful to other students taking the Braille Challenge?
Kaleigh: To prepare for the challenge, use the Braille Challenge practice tests provided on the Braille Institute website. There are old tests from previous years for all categories. You can have your TVI download and emboss them for you.
Also, time your practice tests so you can get comfortable with the times given for each challenge contest.
During the Braille Challenge, it’s important to have extra braillers handy! We have to type so much and so fast, so sometimes braille writers get jammed or otherwise malfunction. I went through four different braillers at the last National Challenge!
Don’t compare the material you finish with that of others, because it’s not an accurate reflection of your performance compared to theirs. They may have finished more, but that doesn’t mean what they got to is accurate. Everyone’s working pace is different.
(Additional, contest-specific tips are listed at the end of the interview transcript.)
Monique: What is the most challenging contest for you?
Kaleigh: Probably Reading Comprehension, and maybe Charts and Graphs would be a close second. A lot of people may think the Speed and Accuracy contest is the hardest, but it’s actually my favorite. It feels like a sport! I love how it’s like a race against the clock.
Monique: What message do you want to give students who may be taking the Challenge for the first time?
Kaleigh: Have fun with it! Scores are just a number on the page. They don’t actually encapsulate your braille ability. Just fact that you are taking the Braille Challenge is an accomplishment and recognition of the fact that you already are a capable braille reader.
Use the opportunity to make new friends. Get telephone numbers of the new friends that you make so you can keep in touch. Some of my best friends are kids that I met though the National Braille Challenge.
The choral group that I started was formed at Nationals where I connected with different kids all around the country who also had an interest in music.
The Braille Challenge is something special and unique for visually impaired people, and it is something that sighted people don’t have!
A Few More Contest Tips from Kaleigh:
*Always practice your spelling skills. Even though the Spelling contest goes away after the Sophomore level, kids at the JV/V level should still keep up with their spelling skills. They will encounter some long, difficult words in the Reading Comprehension test.
Speed & Accuracy:
*Slow down the rate of speech on your Victor Reader Stream or Book Port to help you keep up with the dictation without having to stop it so much.
*Don’t worry if you don’t finish everything. It is okay if you have to work at a slower pace, accuracy is important too. That’s why it’s called Speed and Accuracy.
*Some kids read the questions and then read the passage. Other kids skim through the passage and then reread it.
Charts & Graphs:
*You will have to read maps and charts that you may not be used to reading. Practice using maps and charts from textbooks. Don’t just scan the maps first; be sure to get to know the content well before going to the questions.
Mr. Ray set to perform at the NJ Regional Braille Challenge
The NJ Regional Braille Challenge will feature a live music performance by Mr. Ray!! Mr. Ray is a Highland Park native known for his uplifting children’s music who also has played with many famous musicians over the span of his 20+ year career.
Mr. Ray will perform a range of popular tunes and children’s songs, and he will be joined by guitarst, John Ferdinand. As a blind person himself, Mr. Ferdinand is looking forward to meeting and talking with Braille Challenge contestants and their families.