Briarwood student to compete in National Braille Challenge in Los Angeles

Audrey Bethay poses with her cat, Calvin. Audrey will be a third-grader at Briarwood Elementary next year.

By Chris Heady

Incoming Briarwood third grader Audrey Bethay is heading to Los Angeles to face off against the best in the country and beyond. Again.

Next week, Bethay, who is blind, will for the second year in a row head to the National Braille Challenge to compete against other visually impaired students from around the country.

“And two provinces in Canada,” Bethay is sure to add.

The competition hosts the top 60 blind and visually impaired students, ages 6 to 19, and is held to put their knowledge of the braille code to the ultimate test. Students compete in categories that require them to transcribe, type and read braille. The purpose of this event is to promote braille literacy and proficiency, as well as to raise awareness of the importance of literacy for all children—sighted or blind.

And Bethay couldn’t be more excited to compete again.

“When I found out I was like ‘I get to try and win again?'” she said in an interview Monday, almost jumping out of her seat.

She’ll compete in reading comprehension, braille spelling and proofreading. The competition is formatted like a standardized test, with the highest score taking first place.

“It really is pretty intense,” said Audrey’s mother, Kris. “We can’t go in there. We can’t see them do it. It’s all pretty insane.”

Audrey, who studies mostly at school for the competitions, got involved in when a teacher at Briarwood told her she may want to look into it.

“She is pretty advanced for her age,” Kris said.

The family will leave town Wednesday and visit friends until the competition on Saturday. That night, the results will be revealed at the Braille Institute of America, where the competitors are treated to a black-tie event and usually visited by a famous voice actor.

“Last year she hardly touched her food at the dinner,” Kris said.

“I did too eat!” Audrey fired back.

If she places in the top three, Audrey could receive prizes ranging from $250 to $2,500 in cash, or a Focus Blue 40 refreshable Braille display.

Kris hopes Audrey can win so Audrey can expand her knowledge on the Focus Blue 40.

Last year Audrey placed second in her age group, and is vowing for revenge. Her mother is just happy she’s able to go back and compete again.

“It really is such a great thing for kids like her to do,” Kris said. “They can’t exactly play sports and compete otherwise so this is a great way for them to compete.”