Mason Bigelow

From left are Mason Bigelow's aunt Ashley, Mason, and his mom Allison.

ASHLAND – Mason Bigelow of Ashland won his age group competition in the fourth annual Ohio Regional Braille Challenge at Clovernook Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Cincinnati on Feb. 27.

This was Mason’s second year attending Braille Challenge and his first year competing at grade level. Mason won first place in the Freshman class, earning $100. 

Braille Challenge is the only academic competition which tests students in their Braille reading and writing skills. The competition was created by the National Braille Institute in 2000 to challenge students in grades 1 through 12 to develop strong Braille reading and writing skills to help with future employability.

The participants are divided into five classes: Apprentice, Freshman, Sophomore, Junior Varsity, and Varsity. They are tested on Braille skills including reading comprehension, spelling, speed and accuracy, proofreading, and charts and graphs.

The top 50 contestants, the 10 highest scoring students from each class from across the United States and Canada will be invited to compete in the National Braille Challenge Competition in Los Angeles, California in June.

Although Mason did not qualify for the national competition, he said he still had fun. Mason said his favorite part of the competition was “Getting to make new friends and spending the day with my Mom (Alison), Aunt (Ashley), Ms. Kallie (Teacher for the Visually Impaired), and Ms. Christie (Orientation and Mobility Specialist).”

Mason receives Braille instruction weekly from Kallie Poast, Teacher for the Blind and Visually impaired with Mid-Ohio Educational Service Center.

“Mason is a remarkable student! It has been so much fun to see him grow not only as a Braille user, but as a person,” Poast said.

McElfresh works with Mason on his travel skills within the Ashland community. She also works on tactile graphics and map reading which is a key component to Braille Challenge.

“Mason’s tactile discrimination skills have improved so much over the last year. His energy for learning is contagious – he is such a pleasure to teach,” McElfresh said.

In addition to competing in the Braille Challenge, students were given free time to make friends, share stories, and play the blind and low-vision game “Show Down.”

“I cannot wait to do the Braille Challenge again next year," Mason said.

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