How did the Braille Challenge originate?

The Braille Challenge was conceived and designed by a committee of professionals at Braille Institute of America as a way to encourage students to improve their braille reading and writing skills.

The first Braille Challenge event was hosted by Braille Institute’s regional center in Anaheim in 2000. The local, daylong contest was open to kids in first through twelfth grade who attended our Southern California youth programs. Bolstered by our success, we repeated the local event in Orange County the following year and hosted 75 local contestants.

In 2001 The Carroll Center for the Blind in Massachusetts was the first agency to accept “The Challenge,” and hosted their own local Braille Challenge for braille readers from throughout New England. Their winners joined the winners from our own 2001 regional competition and together they participated in Braille Institute’s first National Braille Challenge in San Diego. In 2002, The Peninsula Center in Northern California hosted a preliminary as well, sending their winners to our three-way final round in June in Los Angeles.

Why is the event so long?

Braille Institute designed The Braille Challenge event to include 5 ability levels with the younger groups taking 3 contests and the older groups taking 4 contests. Specific guidelines are outlined for the length of time of each contest, break time for the students in between, lunch, and of course scoring time.

Why can’t students use an electronic notetaker?

In order to make the contests standardized, all students compete with the same equipment. There are no spell check options on a Perkins Brailler! Not all students have access to an electronic notetaker, so some would be at an advantage over their peers. Since Perkins braillers are available on quota from APH, all students can have access to them. There may be a transition in the next few years to move towards notetakers (at least for the older levels), but for now, everyone uses the Perkins.

How can I help my students prepare for The Challenge?

Braille Institute has sample contests posted for students to practice. Teachers and students can access sample spelling lists, reading comprehension passages/questions, speed and accuracy audio files, proofreading passages, and tactile chart and graph files to emboss at all 5 category levels. Teachers should also review these sample contests to help determine what level their students should register for.

Who goes to The National Braille Challenge in California?

Only students who take the contest in contracted Braille are eligible for the Finals. Students who take the Apprentice test in uncontracted are not eligible. Of all the students competing around the US and Canada, the top 10 scorers from each level advance to the Finals, for a total of 50 contestants.