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Braille Challange: A good feel for reading and writing

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The demanding test of braille skills includes sections on comprehension, proofreading and charts and graphs. Milo, a freshman, was the first-place finisher in his age group.
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Jody Lembo, a city teacher of the visually imparied students and an organizer of the challenge, proctors the test for the sophomore group.
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The braille machine consists of six letter keys, a space bar and keys on each side to the move the carriage forward and back. One through six translates to A through F. Typing the rest of the alphabet requires pressing two or more keys in unison.
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Wiht a quick swipe of her finger, Julia doublechecks the answer she just typed on the braille machine.
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Julia keeps her collapsible cane under her desk chair.
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Fifteen students from all five boroughs competed in this year's New York City Braille Challange, a national competition. The goal is to make it all the way to the finals in Calfornia in June.
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Maya, who says charts and graphs are her favorite part of the test, loads machine with paper.
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Students listen to instructions from the proctor before the test begins.
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From the proofreading section of the test, the teacher's sheet is written in plain text, with the braille version appearing on the right.
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Reading braille is a two-handed job. One hand is used to hold the line on the page and the other to scan the sentence. Jared, the only boy in his group, looks to complete the reading comprehension section.

At the John F. Kennedy Jr. School — just off Junction Boulvard in Elmhurst — on a rainy Saturday morning, 15 kids give up a perfectly good Saturday to take a test.

The test is the annual Braille Challenge, a national skills competition for blind and visually impaired kids, ranging from third-graders to 12th-graders. It is a long and tense day for the students and their families, not unlike the SATs or the national spelling bee. The competition is a test of focus and skill on the machines, called Perkins Braillers.

The competition is divided into several categories, including the testing reading comprehension, the ability to create charts in braille and to proofread for errors, all under the tyranny of a strict time limit.

The winners get the chance to move on to the championships in California, where the top 50 young braillers compete for the national title in June.

Updated 7:59 am, February 18, 2018
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