A Look Back and Forward at KSSB’s Role in Braille Challenge

A Look Back And Forward At KSSB’s Role In Braille Challenge

Don’t miss out on 2019’s competition!

Just like any competition among students, the Braille Challenge regional events here in Kansas offer students a chance for friendly competition with other kids across the country as they all vie for the top 50 scores in the country. One difference: Every student is either blind or visually impaired.

Those top 50 contestants will earn a chance to travel to Los Angeles in June 2019 for the national Braille Challenge final round.

This year’s regional events in Kansas City and Wichita take place on Feb. 15 and March 2, respectively. About 75 students typically come together in those two locations to compete each year. The regional events are open to students in grades first through 12th.

“The Braille Challenge is a competition unlike any other,” said Aundrayah Shermer, regional coordinator for the two Kansas locations and director of field services at Kansas State School for the Blind. “This year the Braille Challenge is being held at 49 different sites throughout the United States and Canada, including Kansas City and Wichita, Kansas.”

A Signature Event

This event is not only a fun way to engage students across the state, but is an important activity because the promotion of Braille literature touches on part of the core mission of why KSSB was started.

“The Braille Challenge is one of KSSB’s ‘signature events’ that allows our school the opportunity to celebrate braille literacy for students who are blind and visually impaired,” said Jon Harding, superintendent for the Kansas State School for the Blind. “Promoting the use of braille is at the heart of what KSSB was established to do because it empowers students, increases their knowledge and promotes their independence. The ‘Kansans Can’ Vision is for Kansas to Lead the World in the Success of Each Student. In order for that to happen, our students need access to braille.”

That same idea is what motivated the national Braille Institute to develop the Braille Challenge, which motivates “students to practice and hone their braille literacy skills, which are essential to academic and employment success,” according to its website.

How Braille Challenge Works

At each event, contestants compete in five areas of Braille skills, including reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, proofreading, and charts and graphs. Volunteer TSVIs and paraprofessionals with Braille knowledge proctor the contests, and transcribers score the students, using national guidelines.

Both the Kansas City and Wichita the Braille Challenge regional event features an ABCs group that focuses on the youngest and newest Braille readers.

“In Kansas, this event is a celebration of Braille literacy,” Shermer said. “While this is a competition, our emphasis is on Braille literacy. We celebrate all participants as well as our young visitors who hope to participate in the future.”

Nothing Can Replace Braille

Promoting Braille literacy among the blind and visually impaired children that KSSB services both on campus and across the state continues to be a top priority despite all the technology available.

“Listening to text is not equal to reading text and no technology can presently replace braille completely,” Harding said. “Students who use braille are better prepared to succeed as adults. Braille users have more freedom and independence and are viewed by others as competent and capable individuals. KSSB knows that no technology can replace braille and students who learn the braille code and become proficient users will have more opportunities to work and become full participants in their community.”

2019 Events Details

Kansas City

  • Date: Friday, Feb. 15
  • Where: Kansas State School for the Blind
  • Snow Make-up Date: Feb. 25


  • When: Saturday, March 2
  • Where: Derby Middle School in Derby, KS
  • Snow Make-up Date: March 9

Watch the 2016 Regional Braille Challenge

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