San Benito student first in Braille challenge

SAN BENITO — Using a combination of keys to type out a single letter, student Paul Saavedra is learning his way around the Perkins Brailler, a typewriter specific to Braille.

The San Benito freshman used the Brailler during his competition this past weekend where he took home first place in the Rookie and Apprentice division for students reading Braille.

The Texas Region 1 Braille Challenge was hosted by Edinburg CISD’s program for visual impairments and tested students’ abilities to read and comprehend the tactile language.

To help motivate visually impaired students to study Braille, the Braille Institute created the literacy competition in 2000.

Students are tested on their Braille speed and accuracy, proofreading, spelling and comprehension.

According to his case manager, Celia Anzaldua, Paul competed using uncontracted Braille and is currently learning to read contracted Braille, a form of Braille that is shorter and quicker to read.

Paul has only been using the Brailler for a year and is tutored 45 minutes, three times a week on Braille.

Anzaldua said on top of all his regular school work, he also is working on learning Braille and Nameth Braille, a Braille specific to mathematics.

“He has a lot to learn,” Anzaldua said.

Anzaldua said Paul was anxious before competing.

“He was very nervous,” Anzaldua said. “He couldn’t eat his breakfast.”

Paul is the only San Benito student that competing and began at the insistence of one of his teachers.

“I was nervous because I thought I was going to lose because I never competed before,” Paul said.

This was the second time Paul has competed.

Last year he came in third place in the same division.

“After he won first place, he was so excited,” Anzaldua said. “Hearing his name over the intercom really boosted his confidence.”

Paul was one of 14 students from grades three to 12th competing in the challenge.

Paul also competes in the Special Olympics and has been bowling for the past three years.

He hopes to one day become a dispatcher for the fire department.

“I’d like to save lives,” he said.

Grades of Braille

• Grade 1: A beginners Braille where an arrangement of dots on a six dot scale correspond to each letter of the alphabet and a type of punctuation.

• Grade 2: Most common form of Braille found on menus and public signs. Uses contractions to shorten words to a few letters.

• Grade 3: Used in personal letters. It is a type of shorthand.