International Braille Contest Prague 2013

Third International Braille Contest in Prague

The third edition of the International Braille Contest was held on November 10th, 2013 at Hotel Alpin Avion in Prague. The competition consisting of national qualifying rounds and the final event was traditionally organized by the committee including representatives from:

Participants from Poland and the Czech Republic competed in writing, reading and formatting in Braille using EasyLink 12 and BraillePen 12 devices connected to Apple iOS devices.

We hope to meet you during the next editions of the International Braille Contest! Details on the next events will be published on this site. We are planning to involve participants from other EU countries so go on practising your Braille skills as the competition may get tougher!

In the meanwhile please read an exciting report on the 2013 edition, written by one of the contestants – Alicja Nyziak.

With Braille across Europe by Alicja Nyziak

Making Braille more popular, persuading the community that it is still useful and worth learning to be able to use it in everyday life – these were the goals set by the organizing committee of the international contest for promoting and improving skills of using the tactile writing system. The event was organized again by Spektra – the supplier of special equipment for disabled persons from Czech Republic and the “De Facto” Association promoting employment of blind people from Płock.

The challenge turned out to be intriguing in many aspects. The ones who decided to participate had to overcome the jitters, give it all and prove that they are well acquainted with Braille. The contest consisted traditionally of two phases – a national and an international one. In the Polish edition you had to write a review on a book that you had read or on an audiodescripted movie that you had seen. The Braille-written works were sent to “De Facto” as the national stage leading organization.

I decided to prove myself in the contest again. I wanted to see for myself, if this time I would cope easier with the challenge, which seemed identical as in previous years.

I chose to write a review of a book that I had just “closed”. It was a novel by Maria Nurowska entitled “The Hothead”. So I sent my work and waited for results. One October day it turned out that I was qualified to the international stage. The final event – EASYLINK12 INTERNATIONAL CONTEST 2013 was to be held in Prague.

But before the winners of the national stage, meaning myself – Alicja Nyziak and Maciej Kapczyński, set out on a journey to the capital city of the Czech Republic – firstly the training. I have to admit that I found the need to participate in the training once again useless, but a must is a must. Once more, life showed that you shouldn't be too self-confident. The presented Easylink12 offered much broader possibilities, although while seeing by touch I would say that EasyLink12 itself was not modified. But an iPod was attached to the set and the device functions were extended. Now I could for example freely receive and send my e-mails. By exploring the EasyLink12 new possibilities, for the first time I tried to operate it by touch and I realised that as a blind person I can do it easily. I have to admit that touching gently the iPhone screen with my fingertips and then tapping it to accept a commend was very appealing. Not only is the verbal information received by a blind user vital here, but also sound signals confirming completion of a task.

You can say that the contestants were “modernized” - they prepared themselves morally and technically for the next trial against their opponents. So the time came to set off to the Czech land. We bowed to the Wełtawa situated city on November the 9th, after checking-in at the hotel, a few minutes of rest and final preparations for the contest. In the evening: a long walk along the charming streets of Prague. November the 10th was a hot and emotion-full day. The competition was carried out in two separate language groups: three persons in the Czech group and two in the Polish one. Both groups could use a set consisting of EasyLink12, iPod/iPhone and headphones optionally.

To start with, loud reading of a Braille text, displayed on the 12-sign monitor Easylink12. A toss-up so that all was fair – I bet on heads, Maciej had no choice – he bet on tails. My heads was a winner and I started reading aloud the prepared text while Maciej went outside. During this task headphones were not allowed.

The second task was a dictation. We had to write down a short text (about 300 signs) dictated by a jury member. Here the headphones were really helpful, because they both improved the work comfort and let us hide our doubts about the spelling. You have to admit that Polish language offers many opportunities to misspell. Despite the extra time for double-checking – I missed one spelling error. I noticed it only when the time was up – too late, penalty points on their way!

The third task was editing. You had to focus on that, because any accidental pressing of a button could ruin the whole task. We had to put in correct order 16 randomly mixed phrases of a poem. After that you also had to erase the numbering. Organizers planned 30 minutes for this task. It's hard to say whether it was enough or not. I completed the task earlier so I would say the time limit was OK, as I had some spare time to check the whole text again.

Finally, the last task, which was a new one on the competition agenda – sending via e-mail. During this task you had to send your results electronically to the jury PC. The results were from two previous tasks – the dictation and editing. I approached the last task with fear but also with self-confidence. The fear was about misspelling in the e-mail address. I would have lost valuable points if I hadn't managed to send my results. On the other hand my self-confidence was based on a feeling that I was prepared for this task as well. People are so contradictory sometimes, aren't they? I made it – the files were sent and I did it within the 10 minutes limit.

Now, all I could do was to be patient and wait for the evening meeting of both teams, when the jury would announce the EasyLink12 2013 Contest results. The moment came and again the Czechs were better – congratulations! Without any question they took the first and the second place, I was third.

As I participated in the competition for the third time, and for the third time I was third, I stated that it was time for a change. Of course I don't mean lowering my rank, on the contrary – maybe it's high time the leader changed? But to achieve it, I need to work on some aspects of using Braille in my everyday life.