UEB: Don’t let “new” scare you

In November, NBP tweeted a link to the press release issued by the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) about adopting Unified English Braille (UEB) in the United States.  There was considerable interest and a fair bit of angst detected in the responses to that tweet.  Even though the transition to UEB will not be immediate, it is already causing consternation for those who use and teach braille in the U.S.

While UEB is based on the current literary braille code, some are thinking that UEB is a new code.  In fact, UEB was created in the early 1990s with the intent to unify English-speaking countries under the same braille system and was designed to retain a significant portion of what is the current literary code.

For those of us who love braille and are determined to keep it vibrant in the digital age, if UEB helps promotes the use of braille, we are all for it.  Here is an overview of what UEB will mean for you:

  • Letters and numbers will be the same as those used now, and only nine of the 189 current contractions will not be used: ally, ation, ble, by, com, dd, into, o’clock, to.
  • Some contraction rules will be modified, and the words “and”, “the”, “of”, “for”, and “with” will no longer be joined together in braille.
  • Most punctuation will stay the same. The period will be used no matter where the character appears in print – at the end of a sentence, in a website address, or as a decimal point. Other punctuation, like the parenthesis, will change to reflect what is seen in print (two different symbols for open and closing parentheses).
  • Rules around emphasis will be more like print. For example, emphasis indicators for underlining will be unique from italics.
  • Current formatting guidelines will be modified slightly to accommodate new braille symbols, but any regarding placement or spacing of a page will not be effected.

We know change can be difficult and it is often met with misinformation and confusion.   Let’s get through this transition together.

An FAQ on the BANA website provides more details about the changes: www.brailleauthority.org

1 thought on “UEB: Don’t let “new” scare you

  1. I’m currently taking a braille transcribing certification and I can’t wait to learn about these changes and understand the reasons for them. I think the change of the use of the period sign is wonderful and simple; it’s hard trying to remember which braille contraction to use for the same print punctuation.


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