NEWTON -- Ava Sheriff of Ayer competed in the 13th annual NE Regional Braille Challenge reading, writing and spelling contest held earlier this month at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton.

Ava, 7, a visually impaired second-grade student, was one of 25 students from across New England who participated on March 2 in the Braille Challenge at the Carroll Center, an education and rehabilitation facility that provides blind and visually-impaired people of all ages with the skills they need to live and work independently. More than 40 volunteers and Carroll Center teachers of the visually impaired proctored and scored the tests. Awards were presented to the top two scorers in each age group at a ceremony at the end of the daylong event.

The Braille Challenge, which is celebrating its 13th anniversary, was developed by the Braille Institute of America in Los Angeles in 2001. The challenge is a national event, with 40 regionals and more than 800 students participating throughout the United States and Canada. According to Dr. Karen Ross, director of education services at the Carroll Center for the Blind, the Braille Challenge "is a wonderful way to motivate blind and visually-impaired students to take pride in their literacy skills."

On March 2 at the Carroll Center, students from grades 1 through 12 tested their skills in reading comprehension, Braille speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling and reading tactile charts and graphs.


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Sixty-five of the top-scoring students from across the country will be invited to the National Braille Challenge two-day final competition in Los Angeles in June.

"This event has evolved into a real phenomenon," Dr. Ross explained. "The excitement of competition and the friendships formed throughout the day are truly inspirational. After the tests are completed and lunch has been served, the students gather together for the award ceremony. They support and applaud each other as each result is announced. The Carroll Center has been involved in the Braille Challenge since the beginning and the staff and volunteers eagerly await each year's competition with the same level of anticipation as the students. It's an amazing experience for the students, their teachers and families, and the entire staff of the Carroll Center."

For information about the Carroll Center and the annual NE regional Braille Challenge, call Dr. Karen Ross at 617-969-6200 or visit www.carroll.org.