Shot in the dark: Blind teens feel like themselves on stage, at range

Two blind teens competing in Braille competition

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - At first glance, Joey Parra, seems like a regular teenager.

At the shooting range, he can handle a gun like everyone on the firing line. Shooting is one of his favorite past-times.

“You’ve got the loud bang, the pop, the smell of the smoke,” said Parra. “Because I don’t ever have to aim, I’ve kind of liked recoil just because it’s more to feel.”

Parra is not aiming for the target yards away, he’s aiming for the feel in his hands.

Source: (KOLD)
Source: (KOLD)

“Obviously, I can’t really aim for anything,” said Parra.

That’s because he’s blind. He was born with a condition and has known nothing else his entire life. He has learned Braille to get by in school, but now he also competes with it. The Braille Writing Nationals is a competition for kids and teens around the US to show off how fast and accurately they can type in Braille. Parra started competing at a young age.

“It was pretty much just because the teacher urged me to do it,” said Parra.

Now, he is one of the fastest. But, he’s not the only one from Tucson ready to compete, so is Ciara Peterson.

“I’ll turn on a song, and I’ll try to type the song,” said Peterson.

Her favorites to type are songs from Hamilton.

“I’d say I’m a pretty competitive person,” said Peterson.

At 13, she’s younger than Parra, but knows he is her biggest competition. That is, except on the stage. During her summers, she performs with the Rose Theater in Tucson.

“I like acting,” said Peterson. “Sometimes I feel nervous.”

Her nerves, if there are any, do not show on stage. Her voice carries through the auditorium, hitting every note perfectly. On the stage, she can be anyone of her characters she plays, and better yet, she can be herself. She can feel the way she is supposed to.

“I just feel good I guess,” said Peterson.

At the shooting range, Parra said the same thing. As different as their outlets are, they bring the same feeling to both - a sense of normalcy and of themselves. At the competition, it might be tough, but it’s all friendly. It’s another place they can be themselves and meet kids just like them, all while learning a valuable skill.

Parra placed third in the Braille Writing Nationals, while Peterson did not place, but made plenty of memories.

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