50 Visually Impaired Children From Throughout the U.S. and Canada Competed in the Only Academic Competition of Its Kind

Los Angeles — June 24, 2019 — Celebrating 100 years of positively transforming the lives of those with vision loss, Braille Institute announced the winners of the 2019 Braille Challenge. Braille Challenge is the only academic competition of its kind in North America for students who are blind or visually impaired.

The finals consisted of a fun-filled competition held on June 21 and 22 at the University of Southern California. The top 50 students took part in the Braille Challenge finals from the more than 1,100 students who participated in one of 53 regional competitions throughout the US and Canada.

Braille Institute developed the Braille Challenge to motivate students to practice and hone their braille literacy skills, which are essential to academic and employment success. According to the National Federation for the Blind, in 2016 less than 16% of adults with a visual disability have a bachelor’s degree or higher. Over 70 percent of them are not employed full-time, with 27.7 percent living below the poverty line.

“Braille offers the visually impaired a gateway to independence,” said Peter A. Mindnich, president, Braille Institute. “We hold the Braille Challenge finals at a college campus to demystify higher education and to help identify resources available to them. These students are an inspiration to us all; they don’t see boundaries but imagine possibilities.”

Contestants competed at five levels (Apprentice through Varsity) in five different categories of braille literacy, including reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, proofreading, and tactile charts and graphs.

The 2019 Braille Challenge Winners are:


Apprentice: Salome Cummins, Blue Springs, Mo.

Freshman: Carmynn Blakely, Owensboro, Ky.

Sophomore: Brooke Petro, Leawood, Kan.

Junior Varsity: Audrey Bethay, Prairie Village, Kan.

Varsity: Mitchell Bridwell, Pittsboro, Ind.


Apprentice: Clara Scelsi, Pell City, Ala.

Freshman: Noa Hottin, Alexandria, Va.

Sophomore: Margot Wehrle, Victoria, BC

Junior Varsity: Julia LaGrand, Grand Rapids, Mich.

Varsity: Christopher Abel, Acworth, Ga.


Apprentice: Caleigh Caston, Douglasville, Ga.

Freshman: Miles Lima, Manteca, Calif.

Sophomore: Braeden Robinson, Cameron, N.C.

Junior Varsity: Joey Parra, Tucson, Ariz.

Varsity: Griffin Miller, Valencia, Pa.

TEACHER OF THE YEAR: Kateri Gullifor, Huntley Community School District, Algonquin, Ill.

EXCELLENCE IN SPELLING: Carmynn Blakely, Owensboro, Ky.



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About Braille Challenge

Braille Challenge, sponsored by Braille Institute, is an annual academic competition designed with two stages to motivate students who are blind or visually impaired to emphasize their study of braille while rewarding their success with fun-filled, challenging local and national events. Any blind or visually impaired school age student can participate in a regional event (held January – March) in communities around the US and Canada. Top participants are invited to the National Braille Challenge Finals Competition (hosted this year on June 21 – 22 by Braille Institute in Los Angeles). Celebrating its 19th year, #BrailleChallenge offered more than 1100 students (this year alone) a chance to compete in five categories: reading comprehension, braille spelling, chart and graph reading, proofreading, and braille speed and accuracy.

About Braille Institute of America

Braille Institute of America is a nonprofit organization that has been positively transforming the lives of those with vision loss for 100 years. It serves thousands of people of all ages each year through an array of educational, social and recreational programs and services designed to help people with vision loss lead enriched and fulfilling lives. Funded by private donations, all services are completely free-of-charge. Braille Institute’s Los Angeles headquarters are located at 741 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles. For additional information, please visit www.braillechallenge.org or www.brailleinstitute.org. Follow on Facebook @Brailleinstitute and on twitter @BrailleInst.

Media Contact

Leigh Needham