Blind students compete in Braille Challenge

01/14 2016 | | By Carolyn Blackburne

ROMNEY, W.Va. -It is tough enough trying to fit in at 13 years old, but for Katie Morgan, it’s a different kind of feeling. “Sometimes it can be awkward to be social,” she said.

Morgan is the only legally blind student in her entire public school, and she will be the first to tell you the importance of self-confidence. “The only advice I really have for other blind students is to be yourself and don’t worry what others think of you,” she said.

Morgan is just one out of a handful of students participating in Thursday’s Braille Challenge at the West Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind. Students were tested on their reading, writing and spelling in Braille.

“Braille takes a long time to learn, it’s not something that you can learn in a matter of a year or two years,” said Jamie McBride, principal of the West Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind said.

Braille was not readily picked up by many of these students because most were not born blind, instead they slowly lost their sight.

“It’s oftentimes met with resistance to say the least among other things because these children are going through a lot,” McBride said.

However, the challenge is about a lot more than test scores. Teachers said learning Braille builds a special type of self-assurance for these students.

“When you know that somebody else is going through the same thing you’re going through, it certainly helps you get through, to build your confidence and get through it yourself,” Janie Blome, director of Field Services with the American Printing House for the Blind said.

Technology is also opening up doors that were once closed to these students. “Technology gives us better access to that information and lets students compete on the same level as their peers who are sighted,” Blome said.

The West Virginia School for the Deaf and the Blind has sent finalists to the national Braille Challenge in previous years. They hope this year they may be able to send a few more.