Local student heads to Braille finals

Sean Caballero from Otay Ranch High School is off to compete in the 2016 Braille Challenge finals

May 18, 2016 | sandiegouniontribune.com | By Allison Sampite-Montecalvo

CHULA VISTA — A local high school student is heading to Los Angeles next month to compete in the finals for the 16th annual national Braille Challenge reading and writing contest.

The Braille Challenge is the only national contest in braille for students who are blind and visually impaired.

Sean Caballero, 15, will compete June 18 at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles.

The ninth grader, who attends Otay Ranch High School, has been reading Braille for 11 years.

He’s participated in the Braille Challenge for eight years and has since been a national finalist twice.

Sean has earned first and second places with the Regional Braille Challenge and Cane Quest contests.

Jay Hatfield, executive director for the San Diego Braille Institute, said that more than 50 organizations host 50 regional Braille challenges across the U.S. and Canada with the top three finishers of each making it to the finals.

The Braille Institute is the organization that puts on the Braille Challenge each year.

Hatfield said the Braille Challenge parallels the importance and educational purpose of an academic decathalon.

“Reading braille is paramount to literacy for VI students,” Hatfield said. “If they don’t learn it they can’t really communicate.”

Hatfield explained the Braille Challenge as a series of five categories including, reading comprehension, proof reading, braille spelling, charts and grafts reading and braille speed and accuracy.

“It’s like a spelling bee for VI (visually impaired) students,” he said. “It’s really fun to watch.”

The Braille Institute has a variety of programs for visually impaired students in San Diego, including after school programs for kids between 6 and 19.

“Sean has got a real adventurous spirit, he participates in a lot of our activities,” Hatfield said.

One of those activities includes what’s called Quest. It focuses on how students can demonstrate navigation skills using routes, using mobility skills.

“He’s very supportive of other students in the program. He roots other contestants on. He’s just a great kid,” Hatfield said.