Jan 27, 2021
January is Braille Literacy Month!
Grant Wood Area Education Agency celebrates the work of our staff throughout the year, and this month is spotlighting our work with blind and low vision students as part of National Braille Literacy month. January is set aside in honor of Louis Braille, French educator and inventor of the system of reading for the blind or visually impared.
One of the best ways to understand our support for students who are blind and visually impaired is by celebrating the accomplishments of a student supported by our AEA team. Williamsburg freshman Nathan Deeds recently earned second place in the North Central Association of Schools for the Blind (NCASCB) virtual forensics competition where he prepared and performed an 8-minute humorous prose piece by Mark Twain. After all points were tallied Nathan, along with seven of his teammates, earned first place among the 10 schools entered.
Over the last three years, Nathan has worked with Lori Baños, a teacher of the visually impaired at Iowa Educational Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Lori is contracted by Grant Wood AEA and works with students on skills in the expanded core curriculum which include compensatory skills such as braille literacy, Nemeth code (braille math code) and use of assistive technology.
According to Lori, there is a significant relationship between braille literacy skills and academic success, higher income and employment. “90 percent of people who are blind and employed use braille as their primary medium” Lori explains. “This is one of the most important reasons for preparing our students for independent life after high school.”
Nathan was one of 50 preliminary Braille Challenge winners across the country last spring. He was awarded special recognition for his performance in the tables and graphs category in the event. This February, Nathan will compete in the 2021 Iowa Braille Challenge. In this competition, students transcribe and read braille using a device called a Perkins Brailler. Their speed and accuracy, comprehension, ability to decode charts and graphs (tactile graphics) in braille, and spelling are all tested. “I expect he will also do well this year and go on to compete nationally, as he has exceptional Braille reading and writing skills.” states Lori, with pride.
A special thanks to Lori and the vision staff contracted to work with Grant Wood AEA, including James Judd, Shelly Howsare, Wendy Miller, Susan Brennan, Todd Frank and Carla Long.