The Braille Challenge is the only academic competition of its kind in North America for students who are blind or partially sighted. Contestants compete in regional preliminary Braille Challenge events from January through March. They are divided into five categories and tested on fundamental braille skills. The top 50 students (10 in each category) with the highest scores are invited to compete in the finals.
In 2021, four Canadian students made it to the finals! We caught up with two Freshman finalists from Ontario – Janna and Keaton – to see what they had to say about their experience participating in the Braille Challenge!
How old are you?
Janna: I am 10 years old.
Keaton: I am 10 years old.
When did you start to learn braille?
Janna: When I was in Junior Kindergarten.
Keaton: I was about two years old when I was introduced to letters in both print and braille.
What’s your favourite thing about braille?
Janna: I can use braille to write stories and classwork.
Keaton: Braille feels cool on my fingers.
How did you hear first hear about the Braille Challenge, and why did you want to participate?
Janna: I heard about the Braille Challenge from my mom, and I wanted to do it because I wanted to give it a try.
Keaton: I heard about it online. The CNIB Braille Carnival (in 2020) was enticing, and my friend was also participating. *Editor’s note: Keaton was also a finalist in the 2020 Braille Challenge competition.
What do you like most about the competition?
Janna: I like the reading comprehension part of the contest because it challenges me to read faster.
Keaton: I liked the intensity of the atmosphere at the 2020 challenge in Toronto.
How did you prepare for the regional competition?
Janna: I prepared for the regional competition by doing the previous years’ contests for practice.
Keaton: Archives. I practice with old exams on the Braille Challenge website.
How do you feel when you’re participating in the challenge?
Janna: I feel focused when I participate in the braille challenge.
Keaton: I feel a good kind of stress.
How are you preparing for the final round of the competition?
Janna: I am preparing for the final round of the competition by practicing reading so that I can improve on my proofreading and spelling skills.
Keaton: Same, archives.
What would you tell someone who is considering signing up for the competition next year? Any words of wisdom or encouragement?
Janna: I would tell them that they should join the Braille Challenge because then you get a challenge and can improve your braille skills. You should practice a lot, so it won’t seem so difficult when you do the Braille Challenge.
Keaton: Focus on accuracy, not speed.
These remarkable finalists will continue in the competition, with final testing taking place remotely from June 28-July 11. Winners will be announced at a live virtual awards ceremony on Friday, July 30. To learn more about the Braille Challenge, visit brailleinstitute.org/braille-challenge.