Krishna Malhotra stands in a large room holding a sign with his picture and the words 2024 Finalist, sophomore on it.

Krishna Malhotra, a student going into the 7th grade at the Kentucky School for the Blind, participated in the 2024 Braille Challenge in Los Angeles on June 21-23. Photo courtesy Virren Malhotra

Krishna Malhotra was among the top 50 students selected to participate in the 2024 Braille Challenge Finals. The event hosted by the Braille Institute in Los Angeles on June 21-23, included competitors from across the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom.

“It was really cool to me to meet kids from other states like Missouri and stuff like that,” said Krishna. “It was a cool experience because I’ll have these friends forever and it was really fun.”

Krishna, a 13-year-old going into 7th grade at the Kentucky School for the Blind (KSB), participated in the sophomore division. The competition was conducted in a way similar to the Regional Braille Challenge hosted by KSB in February that Krishna won: students were graded on charts and graphs, proofreading, reading comprehension, speed and accuracy, and spelling.

“Saturday (the day of the contest) was a little scary because you were competing against some really experienced kids,” he said.

Krishna said the time each student had to complete the challenges was longer than the regional, so it was a little bit less stressful. He also said it felt good to be among the best at the Braille Challenge.

“Every kid in that group was nice,” he said. “I didn’t really get to talk to them as much because we were testing, but it felt good to be with other people in a group with them.”

Krishna previously qualified for the Braille Challenge Final in 2020, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everything was virtual and he competed from home.

“It wasn’t as fun (in 2020),” he said. “It was still fun, but everything was on Zoom and there were different sessions that we did, but this was more fun.”

Virren Malhotra, Krishna’s father and a member of the KSB Advisory Council, said there were plenty of events for the parents to connect and learn more about emerging technology to help the blind and visually impaired.

“It’s a great way to network with parents that are probably in a similar position as we are – where we are wanting to encourage Krishna to explore his possibilities after high school, to challenge himself to not set these societal boundaries as to what he is or is not capable of,” he said.

Krishna Malhotra stands outside in front of a University of Southern California drummer, holding onto drumsticks and getting ready to play the student's drum.

The 2024 Braille Challenge, presented by the Braille Institute, was hosted by the University of Southern California. Krishna Malhotra, a student at the Kentucky School for the Blind, got the chance to interact with the university’s marching band while he wasn’t competing. Photo courtesy Virren Malhotra

Virren Malhotra said it was a unique opportunity to watch his child perform in a competition that was specifically designed for blind and visually impaired children, as opposed to events that are adapted for them, like sports.

“To see Krishna put on his game face for something that was not adapted, that was purely for blind people, was something I don’t think I’ve seen before,” he said.

And he said he’s proud his son got the chance to compete.

“We’ve been following the arc of Krishna’s life since he was born, and these kids that make the national competition, they’re the best of the best,” he said. “Some of the older kids had already written down that they were on their way to Stanford University or Caltech (California Institute of Technology). … It’s inspiring when you sit across from a blind person that you know is studying biochemistry at the high school already and on their way to college.”

Despite not placing among the winners of the competition, Krishna said he’s happy with his performance.

“I’m just happy I got to this level, especially since I got to go to Los Angeles,” he said. “I understand that there are other kids that did a little better than I did, but I’m proud that I made it to the national stage.”