Unified English Braille (UEB) FAQ

Contents

  1. Why change the UK braille code when it is working very well?
  2. Who created the UEB code?
  3. What are the main differences between UEB and the code we are currently using in the UK?
  4. Why has UEB been designed in such a way as to make braille materials longer?
  5. Why can’t we just change the technical braille codes?
  6. Why can’t we have UEB without the capital letter indicators?
  7. Will UEB be cheaper to produce, will it mean you can produce more braille?
  8. What kind of training will be available in UEB, who will teach it and what reference materials will be produced?
  9. Who is this change for? – it feels like it is just for the braille producers and transcribers
  10. Will we be able to choose whether we get material produced in the new code or the old code?
  11. What happens to all the braille that we have in the old code?
  12. Will UEB be available through refreshable braille displays? How will they be updated?
  13. Are there any examples of transcription software using UEB that I could try out?
  14. Can I try UEB to see what it is like?
  15. How will computer braille work in UEB?
  16. How does UEB deal with accents in foreign languages?

1. Why change the UK braille code when it is working very well?

There are 3 main reasons why the Braille Authorities across the English-speaking world decided to look at the braille code and see if it could be improved:

  • The first was a desire to unite the different literary, technical and language codes into a single comprehensive braille code to make learning braille easier.  Children learning braille had to learn a range of new codes when studying at anything other than basic level. In the current system, for example, numbers are written in three different ways depending on context (computer code, maths and chemistry or general literary code).  UEB simplifies this and numbers (and brackets, at signs and superscripts etc) are written in only one way.
  • Secondly there was a will to unify the braille code being used across the English-speaking world. Over time many countries had developed their own “flavour” of braille and were spending time and money on maintaining their own braille code and producing resources specific to their country. A unified braille code would lead to the possibility of sharing braille books and teaching resources. It would also, importantly, mean that the cost of maintaining one code (translation software, code books etc) could be shared with other countries for all to benefit.
  • And finally, the major change over the past 30 years in education, work and home lives has been the advent of the computer.  The UEB code, stripped of its ambiguities, should simplify print to braille translation (potentially reducing production costs and increasing the availability of braille materials) and improve the reliability of braille to text translation (which should assist the situation in education and elsewhere).

 

2. Who created the UEB code?

UEB was first conceived in 1992 by the Braille Authority of North America (BANA).  In 1993 other English-speaking countries became interested in the project and it became internationalised under the auspices of the International Council on English Braille (ICEB). The ICEB has representatives from all the major English-speaking countries. UEB was refined and developed by ICEB over the next decade and in 2004 it was agreed that the code should be recognised as an international standard which member countries could choose to adopt as their national braille code.

 

3. What are the main differences between UEB and the code we are currently using in the UK?

With respect to the literary code, there are relatively few differences:

  • The removal of sequencing (you cannot write ‘and’, ‘for’, ‘of’, ‘the’ ‘with’, ‘a’, un-spaced from one another or ‘to’, ‘into’ and ‘by’ directly next to the following word)
  • Nine contractions, are no longer used (‘ble’, ‘com’, ‘dd’, ‘ally’, ‘ation’, ‘o’clock’, ‘to’, ‘into’ and ‘by’)
  • The potential inclusion of type form indicators (e.g. font changes, bold and underlining have been introduced).
  • The revision of some punctuation signs (e.g. there are now different symbols for open brackets, close brackets, the ellipsis and dash).
  • There are braille signs for more print symbols eg. up and down arrows, tilde, backslash, underscore; and shapes eg square and circle.

For a comprehensive list of the differences between UEB and the current code please see the UKAAF website (www.ukaaf.org/formats-and-guidance/braille/ueb/176).

 

4. Why has UEB been designed in such a way as to make braille materials longer?

The changes made to UEB, to reduce ambiguities and to incorporate literary and technical braille into a single code, do mean that UEB takes up slightly more space than the braille we are using now. This increase is minimal for literary materials (around 2% or 5.5% if you include the effect of capitals), and more for technical materials.

More specifically:

  • The reason sequencing has been removed is because the rules of UEB symbol construction require that where there is blank space between words in print, there should be a blank space in braille
  • The nine contractions (‘ble’, ‘com’, ‘dd’, ‘ally’, ‘ation’, ‘o’clock’, ‘to’, ‘into’ and ‘by’) have mostly been dropped because each sign should have one unambiguous meaning eg, ‘ble’ is already used as the numeric indicator, ‘com’ is used as the hyphen and ‘ation’ is capital n etc.
  • Type form indicators (e.g. font changes and bold) can now be represented in braille, to take account of the fact that braille users may find themselves working in a print environment where it is important to know the format of the printed text.  Braille producers should however take care to include these indicators only where they are relevant.
  • Some punctuation signs now take up two cells whereas previously they only took one. This is to remove ambiguity eg, in the case of brackets there is now a different symbol for open brackets and close brackets.

It is interesting to note that the vast majority of decisions regarding the development of the UEB code favoured the current UK rules

 

5. Why can’t we just change the technical braille codes?

The technical codes have changed quite considerably to bring them into line with the UEB literary code. However in order to synchronise the codes fully and maximise the opportunity to remove ambiguities, it has been necessary to amend the literary code in some places.

 

6. Why can’t we have UEB without the capital letter indicators?

In theory it is possible to have UEB without capital letter indicators, though this would necessitate creating extra rules.  However it would breach the UEB principle that significant print features such as capitalisation should be represented in braille. In addition, pupils in the UK who have learnt braille over the past 15 years are already well used to reading and writing capitalised braille.

 

7. Will UEB be cheaper to produce, will it mean you can produce more braille?

UEB has been designed to reduce ambiguity in the braille code, so one braille symbol will only have one meaning in UEB. Automated translation software will be more accurate, so the need for detailed proofreading should be reduced. Less time spent on proofreading should in theory mean more time and effort can be put into producing more braille materials.

 

8. What kind of training will be available in UEB, who will teach it and what reference materials will be produced?

The important issues around training for teachers and individuals and the availability of reference materials and teaching courses in UEB will be addressed during the development of the UK’s UEB implementation plan.  We are lucky in that we can learn from other countries who have already implemented the code and we will have access to a wealth of resources that have already been developed and are in use by those countries.  The UEB rule book and Symbols lists are available on the ICEB website www.iceb.org

 

9. Who is this change for? – it feels like it is just for the braille producers and transcribers

Whilst there is no doubt that the introduction of UEB in the UK will benefit producers and transcribers by reducing the costs and time taken to proofread braille materials, UEB will also make it easier for people to learn braille and study technical subjects.

 

10. Will we be able to choose whether we get material produced in the new code or the old code?

There will be a period of transition whilst UEB is being implemented, so both UEB and the braille code you are familiar with in the UK will be available. When we start working on the implementation plan we will ensure that the transition to UEB will be as smooth as possible for all stakeholders.

 

11. What happens to all the braille that we have in the old code?

Braille in the old code, especially literary braille, will continue to be available for all those who wish to read it. New titles will be published in UEB from the agreed date that will be established in the implementation plan.

The provision of educational material will need careful planning to ensure that there is a smooth transition and that all resources necessary will be ready for when we make the switch to UEB.

 

12. Will UEB be available through refreshable braille displays? How will they be updated?

UEB is not a new issue for Braille display manufacturers so there is no good reason why this should not be possible.  However you should contact the manufacturers direct to confirm what may or may not be available.  Our current information is that UEB is available for use with

  • Braillenote Mpower
  • Apex
  • Braillesense

 

13. Are there any examples of transcription software using UEB that I could try out?

The following have confirmed full UEB support, but you should contact the producers to enquire whether or not an upgrade is required.  This also applies to applications such as screen readers which support braille displays.

  • BrailleMaker.
  • Dolphin Easy Converter and Supernova.
  • Duxbury Braille Translator.

 

14. Can I try UEB to see what it is like?

If you contact the RNIB National Library Service (NLS), they should be able to borrow books for you by organising an inter-library loan with one of the countries that is already producing literary material in UEB. You should email Robert.manchester@rnib.org.uk or phone 0161 355 2058

If you would prefer to receive a sample of the code we can send you a compilation of winning essays about braille produced in UEB which we used for one of our research reports.  You should email Stacey.temperley@rnib.org.uk or phone 01733 375102

 

15. How will computer braille work in UEB?

UEB Computer braille code, as such, does not exist.  UEB is a single unified code which is used for all technical subjects.  Having said that ICEB currently has a project to develop a unified 8-dot braille code (please see www.iceb.org for further details)

 

16. How does UEB deal with accents in foreign languages?

UEB has no general accent sign like the dot 4 in SEB but instead UEB defines some two cell symbols which show each type of accent.  There are braille signs for ‘cedilla below the letter’, ‘grave accent above the letter’ etc. These signs always precede the letter they modify. eg. the letter e acute is written dots 45-34-15

For more examples please see the comprehensive listing on the differences in the UEB code, available from the UKAAF website (www.ukaaf.org/formats-and-guidance/braille/ueb/176)