More than 60 students—most dressed in Harry Potter garb—along with hundreds of chaperones and parents attended the 2015 North Florida Regional Braille Challenge held for the first time at the Main Library on Jan. 22. Students from Northeast Florida in kindergarten through high school participated in the event which is in its 15th year. The competition drew the largest number of participants than any previous challenge of its kind, with students from Duval and Clay counties, as well as the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind in St. Augustine.
Contest categories included reading comprehension, braille speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling, and reading tactile charts and graphs. In keeping with the theme, “The Wizarding World of Braille,” activities and crafts included turning white canes into broomsticks and making magic wands. A Sensory Storytime was led by library staff and Adamec Harley Davidson sponsored a motorcycle (simulating Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) for photo ops.
The closing drum circle led by Giving Tree Music engaged all of the students in a rousing good time before the awards ceremony. Awards were generously donated by the City of Jacksonville Disabled Services Division. Students enjoyed a full day of activities, competitions, and lunch provided by Winn-Dixie.
Awards were also donated by the Jacksonville Council of the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind-Jacksonville chapter, the JPL Foundation and FIMC-VI (Florida Instructional Materials Center of the Visually Impaired/FAER (Florida Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired) and the EONE company. Various vendors demonstrated accessible devices and technology. Florida State College at Jacksonville and the University of North Florida offered information about college services.
The Braille Challenge is a national program of the Braille Institute® hosted by regional schools and agencies that serve blind and visually impaired children. It is the only national braille literacy competition of its kind in the country, and is specifically designed to challenge and reward blind students for their study of braille, which is essential to their future academic and employment success. Regional students who score among the top 60 participants nationally are invited to Braille Institute in Los Angeles for a final competition.
Librarians Chris Eaton and Scott Adams of the Talking Books/Special Needs Library, which is located at the Main Library, were instrumental in getting the event hosted at the library. They look forward to holding future events, to bring awareness to Jacksonville’s Talking Books/Special Needs Library as well as other resources.
The Talking Books/Special Needs Library is part of the network of libraries administered by the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS), a branch of the Library of Congress. Customers can borrow recorded books and magazines, braille materials, and descriptive DVDs. Persons with visual, physical or reading disabilities have access to thousands of titles. For information call 630-1999.