Braille Authority of the United Kingdom


Meeting held at 1.30 pm on 2 July 2008 at RNIB, 105 Judd Street, London WC1H 9NE.


1. Rollcall: David Boden, Richard West, Jane Sellers, Jim McCafferty, Sarah Home, Stephen Phippen, John Savage, Maggy Grubb, Lisa Jones, Sheila Armstrong, Peter Osborne, Bill Poole, Anne Donnelly, Marion Ripley, Hans Cohn, Sharon Williams.

Apologies: David McKerral, Steve McCall, Iain Millard, Janet Bartholomew, Michael Townsend.

2. Minutes of the last meetings. For the meeting on 26 March 2008, in para. 4 (c) it should say that the £15,000 transfer from RNIB for the UEB consultation would be received (i.e. it hadn't been received at the time of the meeting). For the meeting on 23 April, Lisa Jones should be registered as being present.

3. Matters arising from the minutes. With regard to pharmaceutical labels, Marion Ripley reminded the meeting that we said there were still some conventions in the proposed braille code that BAUK needed to approve - we shouldn't forget this item.

4. Officers' reports.

    (a) Chair. There was nothing to report.

    (b) Secretary. There was nothing to report.

    (c) Treasurer.

The annual BAUK accounts were circulated to members prior to the meeting. Iain Millard was not present at the meeting but asked for the following to be reported: Subscriptions to BAUK were all in apart from AVIOS, and the National League of the Blind and Disabled. He noted that if a decision is made to go ahead with the proposed merger of BAUK with COTIS (Confederation of Transcribed Information Services) and UKABP (United Kingdom Association of Braille Producers), then the existing standing order to ICEB (International Council on English Braille) would need to be transferred to the new organization.

Bill Poole said he would like more details on the £10,000 donation listed in the accounts. Peter Osborne replied that this money was from RNIB to fund BAUK's presence at the ICEB General Assembly - it would be useful to record this. There will also be £15,000 from RNIB to support the UEB (Unified English Braille) evaluation process, which will again show up as a donation, though both of these are really ear-marked funds rather than donations.

With these explanations the annual accounts were approved.

    (d) Public Relations Officer. No report was made, but it was noted that Mike Townsend had made a broadcast on UEB on the "In Touch" programme, on 1 July.

5. Merger discussion and votes.

Bill Poole said that a lot of documents about the proposed merger of BAUK with UKABP and COTIS had been sent out to members for consideration. Richard West added that we now also have the formal memorandum for the new organization, UKAAF (United Kingdom Association for Accessible Formats), from the solicitor - this is a legal document. He went on to say that the merger group is at one, and can't see any pitfalls in going ahead with the merger. The new organization will take over BAUK's role for setting braille rules for the UK. A provisional board has been nominated by the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the separate organisations. At the first AGM of UKAAF a new board will be elected. All members of BAUK, UKABP and COTIS will be eligible to be members of UKAAF, though there will be a check on the numbers of members to make sure there weren't too many from an individual organization. The recommendation is that all existing members will not pay fees until the fees are set by the new organization: the AGM will fix fees retrospectively for 2009 and forward. Sarah Morley-Wilkins added that end-user representation is key to the new organization, as well as producers, etc. Such end-users are not active members, but have an interest and can take part in trials, etc. Richard West continued to say that the new organization will have subject areas and task groups. Activity groups would come and go as needed, but there would be permanent subject area leaders.

Bill Poole asked the meeting if there were any further questions or comments on the merger. Peter Osborne offered his thanks to the merger working group for putting the process together - they had been very thorough. John Savage asked if associate members and task groups were linked. In reply it was explained that associate members belong to the User Advisory Group, which is of an undetermined size, and people could be asked to belong to this group. The Chair of the User Advisory Group would link into the Board. On the other hand task groups are set up for a particular activity. E.g. if it was wanted to update a braille code a task group would be started up for that purpose, whose members could be from UKAAF membership, or our advisory group, or from outside, in order to get the job done.

Coming to the vote, Bill Poole advised the meeting that in order for the proposal to pass, a two thirds majority was needed for all elements of the resolution as circulated, i.e. in order to enable a dissolution of BAUK. Votes were then held on the elements separately, and all passed unanimously.

Bill Poole then announced the names of the provisional board of UKAAF that had been selected by the Chairs and Vice Chairs of the existing organisations: Chair: Peter Osborne, Vice Chair: Sarah Morley-Wilkins, Treasurer: Sharon Williams, Secretary: Sheila Armstrong, Public Relations Officer: Alan Matthews, Chair of User Advisory Group: Lisa Jones, Other members: Marion Ripley, Richard West, Sarah Home, David Taylor, Mike Parr, Bill Poole.

Bill Poole thanked other BAUK members who had shown an interest in posts: they would be able to apply for other responsibilities within UKAAF.

Hans Cohn queried whether it would be possible for one representative from an organization to UKAAF to cover all subject areas, to which Bill Poole replied that individual representatives didn't need to, though the board would. Representatives can be active in any areas they are interested in.

Peter Osborne mentioned that a number of people have questioned him about how much time he will have to chair UKAAF, but he has replied that he will make time for this task, e.g. by devolving some of his other duties.

Richard West asked if a President had been arranged for the new organization, to which Bill Poole replied that Sir John Wall had been asked and has agreed to do it. He is currently Chair of COTIS, and is a lawyer. Richard West said that the new board will take over the task of the merger working group as soon as possible, and thanked everyone for their vote of support. Bill Poole added that this merger had proceeded with a drive he had not experienced before, mainly due to Sarah Morley-Wilkins - and he thanked her for it.

Hans Cohn said he had questions about the immediate future. UKABP has individual members who will need to know when the first AGM of the new organization will be, and how information will be distributed. In response it was said that the first AGM was expected to be held between April and June 2009, and that there would be a newsletter for UKAAF members.

6. Elections.

Bill Poole said that BAUK would continue until 1 January 2009, so we will need BAUK elections to cover the period up to then. It was agreed that a block vote could be held to re-elect the existing post-holders, and this block re-election passed unanimously. Hence the post-holders are: Chair: Bill Poole, Vice Chair: Peter Osborne, Secretary: Stephen Phippen, Treasurer: Iain Millard, Public Relations Officer: Mike Townsend, Trustees: Richard West and David Boden.

Hans Cohn mentioned that the 200th anniversary of Louis Braille's birth would take place next year, and asked if this event could be borne in mind by UKAAF. Bill Poole replied that RNIB is taking the lead in this, but UKAAF could liaise with RNIB. Peter Osborne said he would send out the most up-to-date document he has on this to BAUK members.

7. Update on UEB consultation.

Peter Osborne reported that the UEB consultation booklet had been dispatched to about 4000 people, and we have received about 100 extra requests for it. As regards promotion, an item on the consultation was included in an In Touch broadcast, and an insert advertising the consultation will be included in the Sight Village bag in both print and braille. Richard West reported that completed questionnaires are currently being received through all methods. Lisa Jones suggested that a UEB flyer be sent to the RNIB email list, but Peter Osborne replied that there were 18,000 such people, only a fraction of whom were braille users, so it was decided not to do that. However, magazines have also carried an advert, and even if people don't receive the booklet automatically they can request it. Anne Donnelly asked if RNIB Customer Services were briefed as to what to do with requests for the booklet, to which Peter Osborne replied that they were.

8. Report on the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet) braille code.

Bill Poole said that a new version of the IPA braille code had been prepared within ICEB, and BAUK needed to decide if this new code should be endorsed by BAUK to replace the existing UK code. The new code's main author, Robert Englebretson (a linguistics expert at Rice University, Texas) has brought the code up-to-date in line with the current print IPA. It was based on the UK code (rather than the BANA code, which has been withdrawn). A working group consisting of Bill Poole, Stephen Phippen, Peter Osborne and Alison Markham (RNIB), had met and were minded to accept it, but with one or two issues to sort out, i.e. the interface with Standard English Braille, and the provision of examples in the code document. Richard West asked if the code were accepted would it then be an international standard, to which Bill Poole replied that ICEB would recommend it as a standard for English-speaking countries, but other countries could accept it too. It was agreed that the decision and implementation of this code could be left to the working group as assigned.

9. Report on the ICEB General Assembly.

A report by Peter Osborne originally written for the RNIB International Forum had been circulated to BAUK members as a summary of the ICEB GA held in Melbourne this year. Peter said that it was meant to highlight the strategic points coming from the main meetings, as well as issues relating to the World Braille Council (WBC), but it did not go into detailed braille points. He pointed out that he had been elected as ICEB Public Relations Officer, and Bill Poole had also been elected as a member of the ICEB Executive. His emphasis had been on promoting braille, developing braille codes such as music, and tactile graphics; the UK is well represented in leading in these activities. There were substantial country reports at the GA, and lots of plans for the Louis Braille bicentenary.

Aubrey Webson is chairing the discussion on the World Braille Council within the WBU (World Blind Union), but it hasn't got very far over the last 5 to 6 years, and there is some discussion as to whether it is really needed. Peter Osborne said he thought there was a need, but he is not clear how it would work. It is not so much envisaged as a braille authority, but as a braille focus, and as such it would be concerned with the interoperability of braille, raising awareness and braille heritage. He doesn't think much will happen until after the next WBU meeting.

Bill Poole commented that the stated objects of the Council have a high level of abstraction, and it was desirable to make it more concrete. He hoped the next WBU President will be more interested in the project.

Marion Ripley raised the issue of our current concern in replacing our technical braille codes by UEB, and asked if there had been feedback from countries such as Australia and New Zealand who were already using or trialling it. Stephen Phippen replied that Australia has been using UEB for maths, but the feedback is mainly from an elementary level, where UEB is quite efficient. This feedback has been taken into account in making some adjustments to UEB which he has participated in. UEB certainly works, but there could be questions over its efficiency as a code and in its tactile acceptability, e.g. compared to the current UK codes. Richard West reminded the meeting that we needed to call a meeting of our Joint Technical Committee to discuss this issue.

10. Report on committee activities.

Hans Cohn commented that shouldn't officers of BAUK be bound to be active? Bill Poole agreed; however, in relation to the Braille Promotion Committee, he said that this work is often done through other channels, and that we should consider whether we need to push such work if others are already doing it.

Peter Osborne proposed that BAUK officers hold a conference call to discuss what should be on the list of items to carry forward to UKAAF; Sarah Morley-Wilkins added that this needs to be done fairly quickly.

Stephen Phippen said that he had collected some corrections/modifications for British Braille. A meeting of the Literary Code Committee would be needed to process these and then implement them as an update to British Braille. He added that he was not sure how UKAAF will organize itself for this activity. It was proposed that BAUK should try to do this in an Autumn meeting of the LCC while BAUK still existed.

11. Any Other Business.

Hans Cohn asked about progress in producing the English translation of the German braille code. Stephen Phippen said he couldn't report on it since he didn't know, but will enquire about it and report back at the next meeting.

Jane Sellers asked if a simple alphabetic list of braille signs was available. Stephen Phippen said that his area in RNIB had something like this, and could send it to her if suitable. However, Sarah Home said she thought that the list Jane had in mind was one she had in her area, and would follow this up with her.

Marion Ripley brought attention to the tactile book competition being run by the Book Advancement Group. The competition is open to everyone, and there are prizes for different categories, including for publishers, and for visually impaired designed books. A flyer for the competition is available, which could perhaps be circulated to ICEB.

Sarah Morley-Wilkins mentioned that the 4th International Tactile Conference and Exhibition will take place on 3-5 December. Details are on the website, and booking is taken place now.

12. Date of next meeting.

Stephen Phippen reported that he had looked for room availability for the next (and last) meeting: the earliest was 1 December, so he had booked it - there didn't seem to be many options. Items for the agenda were briefly discussed; Richard West said that the UEB analysis should be ready for the meeting. Peter Osborne suggested that BAUK officers should have an earlier meeting to make sure the meeting is well prepared for, e.g. as regards the UEB results and the merger. He suggested that the meeting start at 1 pm, and RNIB would supply lunch from 12.30.

The meeting closed.