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Braille writer Lewis wins $1000 essay competition

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By Fiona Reid
Annan and Eskdale
Braille writer Lewis wins $1000 essay competition

A BLIND teenager from Annan has scooped $1000 in a global competition for his essay on the importance of braille.

Lewis Shaw’s entry was one of five shortlisted entries from the UK for the 2015 Onkyo World Braille Essay Contest, and European judges awarded it the Excellent Works prize in the junior category.

The 16-year-old Annan Academy pupil said: “I was really surprised when I heard I’d won.” He added: “I didn’t even think I would get past the UK round of the competition and was very happy being one of the five UK finalists.”

Lewis, who also enjoys carriage driving at Boreland’s Chariots of Fire, has the sight loss condition Leber’s Amaurosis.

Now in S5, Lewis first learned to use braille — the system of raised dots that people with sight loss feel with their fingertips — at primary school.

Lewis said: “I use a lot of braille when cramming for exams as the physical touch seems to help the information or certain difficult words or formulae to sink in.

“Also, there is nothing better for me than to read and re-read a personal note to me that has been brailed. It can be brilliantly private.”

His initial reluctance to read braille was overcome with the help of an ingenious P3 teacher who left messages around class for Lewis to find from ‘The Maths Mischief’.

Lewis said: “This was a wee monster who broke into schools at night time to leave rude, cheeky and very silly messages around the class. “But the trick was each one was brailed. This had me interested as I like silly things.”

Lewis went on to start up a lunchtime braille club for his fellow primary pupils. And he said: “In all, I managed to get about 140 children brailing.”

The Onkyo World Braille Essay Contest is an initiative giving participants the chance to express the importance of braille in their lives. Lewis’ school support worker Ruth Delaney said: “Lewis worked on this essay off and on over a year and tweaked it right up until the day it was submitted.”

With a total of 44 essays submitted from 14 countries, she added: “A win like this is a real boost for him, as being the only braille user for miles around can seem rather isolating for him. “To know there are other people out there brailing is quite encouraging.”

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