Local girl is a Braille Challenge winner

By Sharon P. Schultz, Correspondent | April 16, 2015 | Capital Gazette

Kayla Harris, 12, of Severn is one of six regional winners in the 2015 Regional Braille Challenge.

The Maryland State Department of Education and The Maryland School for the Blind in Baltimore sponsor the competition for visually impaired and blind students, ages 6 to 19.

“This was a great accomplishment for me,” said Harris. “It was surreal. It felt great to win after my second year attending the Braille challenge.”
Harris was diagnosed with hypo-optic dysplasia, a visually impaired condition, when she was six months old. In February, she competed in the challenge against other students from Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania demonstrating her skills in Braille reading, spelling, speed, proof-reading and accuracy.

Only the top winners of the Maryland Braille Challenge will qualify for one of the 60 spots available in the national competition. After reviewing all of the individual contestant scores from the first phase of the competition, qualifying finalists will be announced by Braille Institute program organizers in May. The 12 top-ranking contestants from each of five age groups with the highest scores will be invited to compete in the second phase: national finals at the Los Angeles headquarters of the Braille Institute in June.

“I would love the chance to compete in the national competition, but I have not heard who will be attending yet.”

Harris credits her parents and her vision teacher for helping her to get this far. Her goals are to remain on the honor roll and if she doesn’t make it to the national competition this year, she said she will work harder and try again next year.

“I would like to say to all visually impaired students, you can reach your goals no matter what. Don’t let blindness stop you,” Harris said.