The Braille Challenge Mobile App (BCMA) is a powerful literacy assessment and instructional tool that supports braille reading and writing of students who are visually impaired. It is a collaborative project between California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) and Braille Institute of America (BIA).

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The main goal of the project is to create and disseminate a mobile app that incorporates evidence-based instructional strategies to support development of literacy skills of students who read braille. A secondary goal is to increase technology skills of students and teachers who use the app.  Specifically, to access the app, teachers and students must learn to use iPads with Voice Over (VO – a screen reading accessibility option built into the operating system for individuals with visual impairments) and refreshable braille displays (a portable periphery device that pairs with the iPad and provides braille output of the screen).

The BCMA app is designed to support braille literacy development in the areas of Reading and Writing for all grade levels 1st-12th grades. The app supports both Unified English Braille (UEB) and English Braille American Edition (EBAE). Each area of reading and writing has a section for assessment and activities. The assessment portion of the app has a placement test (designed to identify the student’s performance level) and progress monitoring (designed to provide ongoing student performance data and includes 8 sets of content).

In the reading portion of the assessment, students read passages and answer comprehension questions. The assessment contains a fluency measure, which requires that the student read the passage aloud while the app records the student’s voice. When the student begins reading, a timer starts and records how long it takes the student to read the passage. When the student is finished, he responds to several comprehension questions. The reading comprehension questions are aligned with the Reading Literature and Reading Information Text of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Progress monitoring assessments also have measures for three of the Language standards of the CCSS. After the comprehension questions are answered, the teacher is given the iPad and allowed to score the passage by marking the words read incorrectly (miscues), and types of miscues (e.g. substitution of a word, omission of a word, change in the meaning of the sentence, or braille error). Once the passage is scored by the teacher, an overall score report is generated that indicates the student’s fluency in correct words per minute (CWPM), comprehension score with a detailed list of CCSS met, and a list of miscues and types of miscues.

In the writing portion of the assessment, there are two sections. In the first section, students respond to multiple choice questions that are written to test student’s knowledge of grammar, spelling, braille code (contractions, punctuation, and formatting), and writing conventions (aligned with the Writing CCSS). In the second section, students listen to an audio clip and braille what they hear – either words, phrases, or sentences. Similar to the reading section, a score report is generated that details the CCSS met and types of writing errors that the student made.

The activities section of the app has several activities that are designed to focus on subskills such as reading fluency, comprehension, braille symbol recognition, spelling, and word retrieval. A description of each activity is found in Appendix B. To accommodate for differences within grade levels, the app is structured to include five age groupings and several levels as follows (See Appendix C).


iBC supports both reading and writing in grades 1st-12th, with an initial assessment, activities, and ongoing progress monitoring. The initial assessment, or Placement, is used to identify the age group and level of material that is best for the student. The age groups and levels are organized as follows:

Apprentice – Grades 1 & 2*

Level 1 – approximately early 1st grade

Level 2 – approximately late 1st grade

Level 3 – approximately early 2nd grade

Level 4 – approximately late 2nd grade

Freshman – Grades 3 & 4*

Level 1 – approximately early 3rd grade

Level 2 – approximately late 3rd grade

Level 3 – approximately early 4th grade

Level 4 – approximately late 4th grade

Sophomore – Grades 5 & 6*

Level 1 – approximately early 5th grade

Level 2 – approximately late 5th grade

Level 3 – approximately early 6th grade

Level 4 – approximately late 6th grade

Junior Varsity – Grades 7, 8, & 9*

Level 1 – approximately 7th grade

Level 2 – approximately 8th grade

Level 3 – approximately 9th grade

Varsity – Grades 10, 11 & 12*

Level 1 – approximately 10th grade

Level 2 – approximately 11th grade

Level 3 – approximately 12th grade

* Please note that these are approximate levels.