Keep calm and braille on! Participants in the sixth annual Michigan Regional Braille Challenge competition did just that, not allowing a pandemic to get in their way of showcasing their braille skills.

The regional competition is one of 51 regional Braille Challenge events that take place across North America each year, drawing more than 1,100 participants. During the competition, students are tested in five categories, including reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, charts and graphs, and proofreading. The Michigan Department of Education – Low Incidence Outreach (MDE-LIO) coordinates the Michigan Regional Braille Challenge.

This year, 17 students in Michigan once again showed their ability to persevere in a year filled with its own challenges. On February 20, ten students participated in the virtual Michigan Regional Braille Challenge event, with seven additional students across the state competing throughout the month of February, proctored by their teacher for the visually impaired.

A few special features helped everyone feel connected and ready to participate in this year’s virtual event. Prior to the competition, students received a Braille Challenge gift bag filled with goodies such as a water bottle, face mask, hand sanitizer, and Uno cards. Audio devices and braille writers were also sent to families who requested them for their student’s participation.

Although the Michigan Regional Braille Challenge was held virtually this year, each contestant brought the same level of enthusiasm and love for reading and writing as they would during an in-person Braille Challenge. Braille writers hummed, and fingers flew across pages as participants demonstrated their understanding of braille.

Contestants who receive a score in the top ten within their age group nationally will be invited to compete in the 2021 Braille Challenge Finals. Finalists will be announced in May. The format for the national competition is yet to be determined, but it will be held in summer 2021.