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Blind students compete in Technology Olympics (w/video)

By Carolina Astrain
Jan. 31, 2014 at 11:01 p.m.
Updated Jan. 30, 2014 at 7:31 p.m.

Paden McDonald, 12, holds a Bop it! Tetris game close to his face so he can see the lights and colors at the Victoria Karate Academy on Thursday. Paden has optic nerve hypoplasia, meaning that his optic nerve never fully developed. He can see lights, colors and shapes.

His eyes shifted left to right as Paden McDonald's fingers tapped the Braille keyboard inside the Region III Education Service Center.

McDonald was one of 19 competitors at the service center's first Technology Olympic Games for blind and visually impaired students from the 11 counties that Region III covers.

"It's awesome," said Paden, 12. "I've always been interested in technology."

The event began Friday morning to the beat of the Howell Middle School drum line and hoots from Howell cheerleaders.

Paden listened as Victoria Mayor Paul Polasek welcomed the participants and proclaimed Friday as Technology Olympics Day.

The state's Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services Division for Blind Services, H-E-B, Wal-Mart, Papa Johns, the city of Victoria and Bad Boy Graphics of Corpus Christi donated resources to Region III to have the event, said Dina Rogers, Region III education specialist.

"It's been an exciting process, and we hope to do it again," said Rogers, whose department works with about 120 visually impaired and blind students. "We hope to see a bigger turnout next year."

Paden's face lit up when he realized one of his friends was also competing in the games.

"Hey, you doing all right?" Paden asked. "You still using your Apex?"

Socializing, along with being able to demonstrate skills using assistive technology devices, is one of the many perks of hosting an event for blind students in the Crossroads, Rogers said.

"This is like a UIL event for them," Rogers said. "They'll get awards at the end."

Paden inched his ear close to his keyboard, listening for an automated voice message. A black-and-white watch wrapped around his wrist.

At the click of a button, a voice from his watch reads Paden the time and date.

Paden said he hopes to become an inventor of new Braille technology after graduating high school.

"I've already started writing the instruction manual for what I'm going to make," Paden said. "I want to make a watch with a refreshable Braille display."



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