On Monday, 37 Kentucky students will participate in one of several regional Braille competitions happening around the country; it’s the last year students will use the current Braille code before the U.S. aligns its code with all other English speaking countries.
“Braille is not a language. Braille is a code,” said Janie Blome, director of Field Services for the American Printing House for the Blind.
There are many different Braille codes used throughout the world, she said. At this year’s regional Braille competition, Kentucky students will be using the English Braille American Edition that’s been around for many years, said Blome.
“That is a form of the code that has been unique to the United States,” she said.
The code includes contractions that shorten the language so that each letter doesn’t have to be represented on its own, said Blome. This saves books and other literature from being thick or cumbersome.
In January, the U.S. is moving to a code called the Unified English Braille Code that is expected to be adopted by all English speaking countries, and which some countries have already moved to, she said.
“We are becoming more global,” said Blome.
While technology has also played a role in improving the lives for many blind people, “there’s no replacement to be able to read and write Braille. It’s just like a person who reads print,” said Kenny Jones who works in outreach for the Kentucky School for the Blind.
On Monday, students will be divided by age group and will compete in reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, and reading tactile charts, he said.
Students who score high enough at the event co-hosted by the American Printing House for the Blind and the Kentucky School for the Blind will have the chance to compete at the national competition in Los Angeles.
“Last year, we had a student in Kentucky that actually was invited to Los Angeles,” said Jones.