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Blind Students Test Skills in Unique Competition
(Toms River)— Braille students from throughout the state will vie for prizes and eligibility to compete on a national level during the New Jersey Braille Challenge to be held Saturday, January 28th in Toms River. The event is sponsored by the Department of Human Services’ (DHS) Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired (CBVI), and the Braille Institute Auxillary.The first-through 12th - graders compete in five categories requiring them to transcribe, type and read Braille using a device called a Perkins Brailler. Each category is designed to test their Braille skills in several areas—reading comprehension, Braille spelling, chart and graph reading, proofreading and Braille speed and accuracy.
“This event is a great opportunity for students to showcase their Braille skills and interact with their peers,” said DHS Commissioner Jennifer Velez. “It also is a great source of pride, knowing that the Commission’s Braille instruction has empowered the students to compete at this level.”
The Braille Challenge® is the only national academic competition for blind students in the United States. It is a program supported by the Braille Institute of America that serves to encourage blind children of all ages to hone their Braille skills, which are essential to their academic and employment success in a sighted world.
“I don’t think you’ll find anyone more proud of these kids than we are – with the exception of their parents, of course,” said Vito DeSantis, Executive Director of CBVI. “The competition is an incentive but the Braille skills they’ve mastered are life-lasting.”
This year about half a dozen New Jersey students are participating in hopes of qualifying for one of sixty spots available in the national competition. The top scorers in the preliminary round will advance to the Finals and get the opportunity to compete against the top blind students from across the United States and Canada.
In 2011, two of CBVI’s Braille students, Kaleigh Brendle and Mihir Doshi, made the final round out of more than 850 preliminary round contestants in North America. 
Braille literacy often is underrated and overlooked. Despite many advances in technology, nothing has replaced the need for blind children to learn to read using this method. Studies show that 90 percent of blind adults in full-time employment are Braille readers.

CBVI students in this year’s Braille Challenge include:
1. Kaleigh Brendle              Freehold                West Freehold Elementary School
2. Sami Ishaq                      Princeton                      Franklin Park Elementary        3. Natasha Ishaq                 Princeton                 Sampson G Smith Middle School
4. Andrew “Andy” Smith      Edison                          Edison High School    
5. Mihir Doshi                    Belle Mead           Montgomery Lower Middle School
6. Romy Lopez                  Flemington                Hunterdon Central Regional HS
7. Anthony “AJ” Moncman  Center Valley, PA     Hopewell Elementary School

For more information on the event or any of the participants, please contact Sharon Wnorowski at (732) 255-0931 or email at
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