On Saturday, June 22, 10-year-old Christopher Abel of Acworth represented Georgia in an academic competition unlike any other. Christopher, an avid braille reader and outstanding student at Chalker Elementary, started learning to read Braille when he was 3 years old and hasn’t slowed down since. He was chosen from among more than 900 of the top blind and visually impaired students from across the United States and Canada to travel to Los Angeles to test his braille skills at the 12th Annual National Braille Challenge®.
The National Braille Challenge®, sponsored by Braille Institute of America®, is the only national academic competition for blind students in the nation. It is specifically designed to challenge and motivate students, while encouraging them to continue their study of braille.
When he’s not busy reading his favorite books in braille, Christopher enjoys playing chess, boogie boarding, swimming, Karate and Jiu Jitsu. He has also earned a second degree black belt in taekwondo karate and a yellow belt in Jiu Jitsu. He was awarded 1st place in last year’s Braille Challenge in Los Angeles and 2nd and 3rd prizes in previous years.
In this year’s Braille Challenge®, Christopher along with 60 other blind students, ages 6 to 19, competed in categories that required 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. Every participant received a trophy for their efforts, but the first- through third-place winners in each age group also received awards ranging in value from $250 for the youngest group to $2,500 for the oldest. In addition to these prizes, Freedom Scientific Corporation donated the latest adaptive equipment for the winners—the Focus 40 Blue—an adaptive computer device with a refreshable braille display. And all first place winners received an iPad, sponsored by Palmer Langdon, to help them stay connected to the digital world.