Blind Students Put Skills to the Test

Smart and quick: They are among the brightest students in the country despite their inability to see the words on this screen. They are blind.

Sixty competitors from a field of 650 have been selected to compete in the 9th Annual National Braille Challenge. The students -- ages 6 to 19 -- will go head to head in contests that put their Braille skills to the test. They will be judged on reading comprehension, Braille spelling, speed and accuracy, among other things.

The competition works to encourage blind children to improve their Braille skills. Organizers believe by improving braille literacy, the blind can become more successful in the sighted world.

The competition begins at 9:30 a.m. and runs through 3 p.m. on Saturday June 20 at the Braille Institute's headquarters at 741 North Vermont Ave. in Los Angeles.

That evening, there will an awards ceremony held at the Universal Hilton Hotel from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. NBC4 is a sponsor of the Braille Superstar Award for Excellence in Reading Comprehension. NBC4's Patrick Healy will present the honor to the top student reader. Other prizes include savings bonds worth up to $5,000 and a pocket PC with a Braille display worth $4,000.

Most of the students are the only blind person in their school. Braille Challenge Director Nancy Niebrugge says "They go through their entire lives being the exception. This competition gives them the opportunity to build camaraderie among kids who have shared similar life experiences."

For more information the Braille Institute website or call 323-663-1111.

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