The Evolution of Braille: BANA Update

A BANA Update
Prepared for APH Annual Meeting, Oct. 2012
1. To gain increased familiarity with the Braille
Authority of North America (BANA) and its
purpose and current activities.
2. To increase familiarity with a) the complexities
of braille translation being brought about by the
changing nature of print, and b) the implications
of the decreasing boundaries between braille and
print brought about by the application of
3. To gain increased awareness of the need for
change in braille codes and learn about the
challenges of managing such change.
The BANA Board consists of representatives
from organizations of blind people,
educators, and transcribers
International: 15 member organizations, plus
3 associate members
7 technical committees; 7 ad hoc committees;
general committees such as publications, and
board committees such as bylaws
All committees include at least one braille
reader, one transcriber, one educator, one
Board meets in person twice a year and by
teleconference as well
Work done by Board and committees all year long
BANA is indebted to its hard-working volunteers
Numerous projects ongoing:
Tactile Graphics guidelines
Formats Guidelines
Foreign Language Guidelines
Knit & crochet guidelines
Standardized test guidelines
 and many others!
Drastic changes in the appearance and
production methods of print: new characters,
icons, layouts, and fonts
Print is increasingly read from screens;
schools are increasingly providing textbooks
digitally rather than on paper.
The boundaries between "technical" materials
and everyday materials increasingly blurred
(e.g. web sites and email addresses in general
Digital text provides the capability for braille
users to read the material in braille instantly,
via refreshable braille.
Braille is more widely available than ever
before in history because of braille
embossers, translation software, and
refreshable braille.
Because of ambiguities in current codes,
accurate translation of text into braille
remains far from perfect.
While technology enables braille users to type
their material in braille and have it converted
to print instantly, (backtranslation), the
current code introduces many errors.
Even the most basic mathematics material is
not displayed correctly in braille generated by
computers and mobile devices, and therefore
the material is not reliable in this medium.
Evolution of print and braille
◦ Three part article on BANA’s website
Concern about braille complexity since CBC
introduced in late 1980s.
◦ multiple braille symbols for same print symbol
◦ increased contextuality of braille
Increasing difficulty in constructing new code
symbols to reflect current print usage.
In 1991, Drs. Abraham Nemeth and Tim Cranmer
presented a paper to BANA about the urgent need to
unify the various braille codes used in North America.
Started as BANA research project, became
international in early 1990s.
Developed primarily by braille readers in
seven countries.
ICEB endorsed in 2004 as an official code
All other ICEB members have now adopted it:
◦ Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Nigeria,
Canada, United Kingdom
BANA’s position: monitoring adoption and
implementation around the world.
A revision and extension of current literary code
including new symbols for things not currently in
EBAE. In that way, it unifies existing codes
(except music).
Eliminates 9 contractions from the current
literary code to reduce ambiguity; adds
mathematics symbols.
Numbers in the upper part of cell as they are
currently in literary materials.
Designed to be extensible (easy to add new
symbols as needed) and unambiguous. Because
of this, UEB is more computable and better for
Designed to be flexible, consistent, and
UEB Rulebook and some training materials
available on line.
Translation software for UEB already exists
and is accessible.
UEB compatible with existing braille devices
(such as the BrailleNote) and is supported by
Apple products.
Research conducted in US and Canada
published in JVIB.
Research articles and links listed on BANA
website from various countries:
 readability studies conducted indicate no significant
differences in the readability of the code, reading
speed, or number of miscues while reading
 study in UK indicates that the majority of readers
were able to read the material produced in UEB
without difficulty
 transition period to UEB was brief in countries that
adopted it
The decision to use "upper numbers" in UEB
led Dr. Abraham Nemeth to develop his own
unified code, called the Nemeth Uniform
Braille System (NUBS).
The code essentially completed, BANA was
asked to evaluate it. Results are on the BANA
Not currently being considered by BANA.
Recent updates:
 ICEB Meeting in South Africa
 Ireland now joining ICEB; India interested
• Canada and UK: Beginning implementation of UEB
 NBA passed resolution against UEB adoption
 AER board voted in favor of UEB adoption
 Consumer Conventions: both ACB and NFB passed
resolutions supporting UEB as long as Nemeth is
Vote on code change at fall BANA meeting,
November 2-4, 2012, in Los Angeles
Current wording of motion would be to adopt
UEB to replace English Braille American
Edition and adding it to Nemeth, Music, and
IPA as official codes
Development of an implementation plan that
would include constituents and stakeholders
of consumers, educators, and transcribers
Formats and Tactile Graphics Guidelines
would remain in place
Choices we face:
◦ 1. We can continue to tinker with the current codes we
have, potentially making them less easy to use and more
◦ 2. We can adopt UEB, as have all of the other ICEB
◦ 3. We can adopt UEB and continue to use Nemeth as well;
◦ 4. We can do nothing at all to change braille, realizing
this might cause braille to become obsolete.
Current motion is to adopt UEB, maintain
Nemeth, and develop implementation plan with
all stakeholders.
Braille Authority of North America
Frances Mary D’Andrea, Chair
 [email protected]
BANA welcomes your comments and feedback!
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