oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services

School for the Blind Hosts March 1 Braille Challenge® Competition and Workshop for Teachers of Visually Impaired

A boy reading braille

Oklahoma School for the Blind sixth-grader Nicholas Jackson from Muskogee uses braille to complete an assignment in class.

MUSKOGEE, Okla. – More than 25 students who are blind or visually impaired will compete March 1 in the Oklahoma Regional Braille Challenge® sponsored by the Oklahoma School for the Blind (OSB) in Muskogee.

The Braille Challenge® is a national program of Braille Institute of America and the only national academic competition for blind students in the United States.

OSB students and those who attend local schools are invited to register and participate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the OSB campus at 3300 Gibson Street.

During the competition, participants, ages six to 19, will compete in five categories requiring them to transcribe, type and read braille using a device called a Perkins Brailler.

Each category is designed to test braille skills in several areas—reading comprehension, braille spelling, chart and graph reading, proofreading and braille speed and accuracy.

Students from the U.S. and Canada are completing preliminary testing this winter in hopes of qualifying for the 60 spots available in the national competition, which will be held in June at the Braille Institute’s headquarters in Los Angeles.

Prize sponsors for the regional competition include Humanware, National Braille Press and Seedlings Braille Books for Children, Oklahoma School for the Blind, the Oklahoma Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of Blind and Visually Impaired (AERBVI), Oklahoma Council for the Blind, C-21 First Choice Realty-Robert Goolsby, Liberty Braille, LLC, Muskogee County Lions Club, Muskogee Noon Lions Club, NanoPac, Inc., OKvision, Precision Optical, Inc. and Ruth Kelly Studio.

Teachers of students with visual impairments will also convene in Muskogee on March 1 for professional education and networking opportunities.

Workshop topics include demonstrations of assistive technology, independent living skills training, popular games adapted for children with visual impairments and vocational rehabilitation services that help students transition successfully to education and employment after high school.

OSB, which is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services (DRS), will offer updates on the school’s programs and projects and summer camp, as well as other DRS services, including Visual Services and the Oklahoma Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped.

In addition, OSB and Oklahoma Able Tech will present a four-hour workshop, "Demystifying Devices," that covers accessible instructional materials, audio books and readers, braille displays, voiceover technology and products, such as Zoom and Bookshare.

“Holding the Braille Challenge® at the same time as professional development workshops for teachers allows us and the school districts to efficiently use time and maximize our resources,” OSB Superintendent James C. Adams explained. “Teachers from the local schools will see the curriculum and adaptations that we’ve customized for individual OSB students so they can adapt those ideas to help children with visual impairments in their own local schools.

“Of all the literacy issues in America, braille literacy is the most underrated and overlooked,” Adams said. “Advances in technology have not replaced the need for blind children to learn to read using this vital medium, which was created by Louis Braille in 1824.”

Braille is internationally recognized as the foundation of literacy when students’ visual impairments prevent efficient use of print. It enables them to learn and practice spelling, punctuation, composition styles, and research and study skills.

Studies show that only 30 percent of blind adults are employed full-time , while 90 percent of those who beat the odds are braille readers.

Approximately 18,000 Oklahomans are legally blind, while more than 111,000 have vision difficulties, according to 2010 U.S. Census data.

The Oklahoma School for the Blind is fully accredited and teaches specialized skills that help students live independently, as well as all state-mandated education requirements. During the average school year, nearly 100 residential and commuter students attend OSB and approximately 60 participate in summer school programs. Qualified staff provided thousands of outreach service hours and evaluations for students attending local schools, in-service teacher training and recommendations for classroom modifications and special equipment that helps local students reach their full potential, all free of charge. The graduation rate is 100 percent.

For more information about the Oklahoma School for the Blind, call 918-781-8200 or 877-229-7136 toll free.

For more information about the Braille Challenge® or the Braille Institute, 323-663-1111, extension 3176.