Just because Ricardo Herrera is blind doesn’t mean he can’t see his competition.
Ricardo,13, participated at the 13th annual National Braille Challenge last weekend in Los Angeles, competing against blind students from 39 different states and British Columbia.
Ricardo said although his competitors are blind, the competition at the event is pretty stiff. He said he himself is a competitive guy.
The seventh grader who will be attending Rancho del Rey Middle School this coming school year, competed in the junior varsity category against seventh- and ninth-graders. He used an old sports adage to sum up his performance,
“There’s always next year,” Ricardo said.
Ricardo said he geared up for the annual competition by practicing his Braille with sample files from the National Braille Challenge’s website and doing tons of schoolwork.
The national competition tested Braille editing skills, spelling and reading comprehension in a 50-minute time frame.
While the competition gets heated, Ricardo said, it’s fun to be out and socialize with other blind people.
Blind before his first birthday because of an eye infection, Ricardo said living life blind wasn’t too difficult because he learned how to read Braille at such a young age.
“It wasn’t too hard (living blind), all you have to do is just learn the Braille code, if you’ve got that you’ve got everything,” Ricardo said.
His mother Monica Stuhler she said she had difficulty raising him at first, but now it’s easier.
“For me its normal now, because it is who he is,” she said. “It was a little difficult when he was a baby because I didn’t know how to raise him.”
Before the weekend challenge, Ricardo said it would mean a lot to him if he were to win.
“It would be one more medal I get to hang on my wall.
Next year he hopes to get another shot.
Ricardo has three first-place regional medals on his wall. He is still missing the one for nationals.
Ricardo said the National Braille Challenge is the best Braille competition out there, and to place in the top three is worth boasting about.
“I think it gives an opportunity for people to show off,” he said. “If you get a place and you’re in the nationals, what better thing could you do?”
This was the second time Ricardo competed at the event and failed to place in the top three.