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Braillle is literacy

Celebrating International Literacy Day

Proud sponsor for the Braille Challenge

On the occasion of International Literacy Day, HumanWare shares the following inspiring success story on the importance of awareness and support for Braille Literacy among children and adults who are blind.

The Braille Challenge has been a milestone every year since first grade for Tiffany Zhao. She has loved the challenge of the competition itself, the thrill of preparation and the friends she has made from around the country. But this year, the stakes were particularly high. And the story was one with a very happy ending!

Since fifth grade, Tiffany, now a first-year student at University of California – Berkeley, says that a BrailleNote has been her permanent educational tool. First using a BrailleNote mPower and later a BrailleNote Apex, Tiffany prepared her homework assignments for emailing to her teachers, rapidly typed her own class notes, read many exams from her Apex display, and read books for school and pleasure.

Student reading with a BrailleNote
Buy online now and save $500 on the Brailliant BI 32

But those BrailleNote units were all the property of her public school district in Los Angeles, on loan to her as a student. Upon graduation, the BrailleNote she had used throughout her senior year had to return to school inventory.

Things couldn’t have worked out more perfectly, in Tiffany’s view. On Thursday, she returned the Apex to the school.

On Friday, she left for the Braille Challenge, spending Friday evening re-connecting with old friends and making new ones, all lovers of braille like herself.

Through the day-long intensity of the four segments of the Braille Challenge – measuring a student’s competency in reading comprehension, proofreading, interpreting charts and graphs, and the speed and accuracy used to type braille notes from an audio passage – Tiffany did what she always does: her best. And all those personal hours devoted to training for the event paid off: She won first place!

The prize, of course, was a BrailleNote Apex – a brand-new one that would belong exclusively to Tiffany. There was also the $2500 cash prize that went directly to her tuition as a first year student at UC Berkeley.

Just one month into college, Tiffany’s confidence and delight are soaring. She loves living in the dorm, laughing that while she misses her parents, they don’t really need to call her every day!

The energy she once burned in a soccer team for kids with disabilities, she now uses to navigating the Berkeley campus with her black Labrador, Helene, with whom she trained at Guide Dogs for the Blind a year ago.

She loves braille and loves her Apex, which is integral in everything she does. Her textbooks, class notes, emails, and assignments in progress are all on her Apex. For Tiffany, the speech is usually turned off because, she says, “I would much rather read than listen to audio.”

And, being a typical 18-year-old, she is not using her Apex solely for academic achievement.

“I’ve become addicted to the game Tetris,” she says, which has been cleverly adapted to Apex use by using various symbols to represent shapes in the game which are then moved from place to place by judicious use of the apex thumb keys.

Her highest score to date was 13,000 and, when asked if there was an maximum possible score in the game, she answered in her typically infectious self-assurance: “I don’t know because I haven’t reached it yet!”

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