2019 Northeast Florida Braille Challenge

FSDB blind students holding their certificates on stage at the Braille Challenge.

On February 21, 2019, a group of FSDB students from the Blind Department boarded buses headed to the Jacksonville Public Library for an annual competition known as the Braille Challenge. This year’s theme, “Braille Fit,” was publicized as the first-ever Braille-a-thon.

Competitors and staff wore sporty t-shirts with fitness pants in keeping with the theme. According to organizer April Wallace, “Sue Glaser from FIMC chose the theme to incorporate life-long skills such as good sportsmanship, health, and fitness. One of the parent workshops even included a Paralympian guest speaker who had won a medal in Rio!”

Attendees received a nutritious breakfast and lunch, as well as morning and afternoon refreshments. Students filed into library rooms designated for their particular competition level—rookie, apprentice, freshman, sophomore, junior varsity, or varsity. Braille devices were set up on tables in each of the rooms for students to type their competition passages. Proctors administered test passages, which were later scored by the judges in a separate room within the library. Officiating FSDB scorers this year included Leah Belger, Nancy Berger, Teresa Buffolino, Marcella Cavallaro, and Kathy Michaelson.

At the “starting gate,” vendors with merchandise and staff with games to promote personal fitness and health awareness, awaited competitors. Students, especially the young ones, were entranced by a large anatomy exhibit featuring the organs of the body with brief summaries in English along with braille transcriptions. There was a magnetic body labeling game, and a kinesthetic animal prints exhibit. Students wandered through the exhibits before and after breakfast. Then came the opening ceremony, which doubled as a pep rally. After the morning competition, students had lunch and participated in a Braille Book Exchange. They went through four sessions of testing in all, while their parents/guardians attended Parent Workshops on healthy lifestyles, assistive technology, and fitness.

After the testing was complete, an “after-challenge party” ensued in one of the testing rooms. Sue Glaser blew up an enormous basketball and released it for the kids to chase and bounce into the air; more sedate board games were set up at the tables for less energetic competitors. A drum circle and awards ceremony capped off a vibrant and vigorous day of activities.

Student winners received various prizes including talking watches and gift cards. Kudos to first-time organizer April Wallace for a successful event in which FSDB students excelled!


1st place – Brooke Witherington

2nd place – Kaylee Peterson

3rd place – Camren Lee

4th place – Malcolm Rosebud