MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

April 4, 2013

Oklahoma School for Blind students strong in braille challenge


— Sophomore Richelle Zampella of Muskogee earned first place in junior varsity and grand prize overall in the sophomore, junior varsity and varsity categories at the Oklahoma Regional Braille Challenge, a media release states.

Three other Muskogee winners include first-grader Katelyn Zampella, who won second place; junior Miranda Young, second place; and eighth-grader Brittany Bales, third place.

Braille Challenge is a national program sponsored by the Braille Institute, a nonprofit organization that eliminates barriers caused by blindness and severe sight loss. Twenty-four Oklahoma students competed in the academic contest, which measured students’ proficiency in braille reading and comprehension, speed and accuracy, spelling, proofreading and tactile graphics. The competition was hosted by the Oklahoma School for the Blind in Muskogee. OSB is a division of the Oklahoma Department of Rehabilitation Services.

Zampella won a Victor Reader Stream DAISY MP3 player valued at $360 for winning the competition. The player was donated by Humanware, an assistive technology company that produces products for people who are blind and visually impaired.

OSB teacher Faye Miller directed braille experts in scoring competitors’ braille tests.

“We expect to find out in early May whether Richelle Zampella and our other competitors qualify for the national competition in Los Angeles,” Miller said.

The basic braille unit is an arrangement of six raised dots, two across and three down that resembles the number six domino. Each dot or combination of dots represents letters of the print alphabet. Braille dots are designed to be read with the fingertips, but can be written by hand, on computers or portable electronic note takers.

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.

In 2012, 143 students lived at the school during the week, commuted from home or attended summer school. The graduation rate from the residential and commuter program was 100 percent. OSB also provides thousands of free outreach services each year for students attending local public schools, their families and educators.

Information: Oklahoma School for the Blind, (918) 781-8200 or (877) 229-7136.