MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

March 2, 2013

Braille users compete, pressing on to victory

Annual contest fosters literacy skills

— Minco High School junior Blake Tracy was timed, primed and ready to clack away at the Braille writer Friday morning.

She had a goal of winning this year’s Braille Challenge on Friday at Oklahoma School for the Blind.

“I’m not going to be surprised this year,” Blake said, adding that she took silver, or second place, in her division at last year’s challenge.

Blake was among a couple of dozen students from across Oklahoma who entered the Braille Challenge. OSB Superintendent Jim Adams said the Challenge is part of an international competition that focuses on literacy skills for blind and vision-impaired students.

Hailey Baskeyfield of Norman won First Overall in first through fourth grade.

Richelle Zampella of Muskogee won First Overall in fifth through 12th grade.

Blake took first in the Varsity Division.

Before the competition, she explained how she prepared differently for this year’s Challenge.

“Last year, I just practiced typing,” she said. “This year it was easier to practice. I actually had my grandma set the 25-minute timer on me.”

The Challenge tests students on proofreading and reading comprehension. Younger students are tested on spelling. Older students compete in graph and chart reading, plus speed and accuracy. Each test lasts 25 minutes.

Contestants use a Braille writer, a nine-key device that embosses paper with the dotted Braille letters. Instead of a “QWERTY” typewriter set-up, the Braille writer uses six keys to create the letters. Braille letters are made of dotted patterns on a six-space grid.

Hailey, a second-grader, said she prefers to call the device a typewriter rather than a Braille writer.

Jeanne Meyer, who oversaw the varsity competition, said the Challenge helps blind and vision-impaired people become better Braille readers and writers.

“Literacy is as important to these students as it is for sighted students,” said Meyer, who spent 31 years teaching at OSB before she retired in 1998.

Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or cspaulding@muskogeephoenix.com.

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