24 kids compete in Braille Challenge

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Twenty-four school children from across South Florida are competing in the Braille Challenge. Winners get prizes and awards but all the kids who participate are developing life and job skills that will come in handy later.

J.P. Paniagua took a speed and accuracy test in preparation. He listened to a story, then typed out what he heard on a Braille writer. 

"It all involves practice and a certain spark to want to practice, I guess," he said.

"It's allowing them to be proud of the fact that as Braille readers, they have literacy," said Braille Challenge organizer Amanda Gordon. "Something they can go back to their fellow classmates and say I won this prize."

Elementary through high school students from all across South Florida who are blind or visually impaired are competing in the challenge to see who has the best Braille skills. Teachers say sharper skills make school work easier. 

"It takes longer to move your fingers across a line, to track back and down. You're talking about a more difficult process because your hands are involved, so there is a longer process not just in reading but in everything they do," said Gordon.

Spelling, reading, writing and comprehension are all being tested with top students winning prizes. 

"You can win the iPod or something or money. I'm looking forward to the money," said Khyree Federick.  

"I want people to know from this Braille Challenge, especially sighted people, that no matter their disabilities, they can still compete or they could still win," said Annette Lamas.

Winners here go on to compete at the national finals in Los Angeles.

"Some of our kids get tutoring outside of school to practice just for the Braille Challenge because they want to go to the national event. They want to be proud of the fact they competed in something that's specifically for them," said Gordon.

South Florida participants will find out in May if they are going to the finals. If they win in California, they can get scholarships, savings bonds, and Braille electronic devices.