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St. Augustine teens are finalists in international Braille Challenge Finals

The visually impaired teens competed against 1,000 people on Braille reading and comprehension.

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. — They are some of the best in the world at reading and writing, and not the way most of us do it. Two St. Augustine teens are finalists in an international Braille competition.

The 2021 Braille Challenge Finals will announce the winners Friday evening virtually. They competed against more than 1,000 people on Braille reading, comprehension, proofreading and understanding graphs and charts.

For these 15-year-olds, Braille is a necessity, but they love it.

Taylore Sherman is a self-described book worm. "I get yelled at for reading too much at my house.”

“I really just like learning and reading was my way of learning so I was like I’m down with this," said her best friend and competition Savannah Lindberg.

They are both blind or visually impaired.

Lindberg was born with sight and a condition that would slowly take that away from her.

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“I actually started preschool and kindergarten reading print and learning like the print alphabet, but when I started losing my vision a lot more drastically in first grade they transitioned me into reading Braille," she said. 

“I completely went dark probably more like 7th or 8th grade," Lindberg said.

She said when you lose your vision, your brain doesn’t know how to handle not having that sensory input. Your brain then attempts to create the sensory input because it thinks it needs it. That's why some visually impaired people have light perception.

Sherman had nearly the exact opposite experience of Lindberg. She was born without vision and slowly gained light perception.

“It never got good, but it did get better," Sherman said. "If I look around, I can kind of see all around this pavilion, except I just can’t see the details.”

They both can feel the details with their fingers using Braille.

“Now that I think about it, it sounds really complicated, but again it comes second nature," Lindberg explains. 

You read Braille by running your fingers over the raised dots on the page that make up letters of the alphabet. Lindberg says you read by processing the patterns. 

“It’s just reading like any other person would, but it’s in a different format," Sherman said nonchalantly. 

The girls said they fell in love with Braille in the same way many fall in love with traveling. It’s their way to access the world around them.

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