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Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired

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Presentation on theme: "Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired"— Presentation transcript:

1 Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired
Unified Braille: A Closer Look at NUBS and UEB

2 Presented by: Maylene Bird, TVI and COMS, Certified Secondary Mathematics and Biology Teacher at TSBVI Susan Osterhaus, TVI, Certified Secondary Mathematics and English Teacher, State Wide Mathematics Consultant at TSBVI

3 Presenters (continued):
Jeri Cleveland, TVI, Certified Elementary, Secondary English, and Master Reading Teacher, Curriculum Teacher at TSBVI Sue Mattson, Certified Braille Transcriber/ Adapted Materials Specialist at TSBVI

4 Literary Jeri and Sue

5 Definitions EBAE – English Braille American Edition –Our current braille code. A set of rules that govern the transcription of literary braille. An explanation of the rules for the use of contractions, composition signs and directions for formatting literary and general materials. Braille Formats: Principles of Print-to-Braille Translation – rules applied to the transcription of textbooks and instructional material.

6 Definitions BANA – Braille Authority of North America – Their mission is to assure literacy for tactile readers through standardization of braille and/or tactile graphics. Established in 1976, this group includes national consumer organizations, braille producers, the Library of Congress, transcribing organizations, and others. ICEB – International Council on English Braille - Their purpose is to coordinate and improve standards for braille usage for all English- speaking users of braille.

7 Definitions UEB – Unified English Braille – a unified code, developed by ICEB, under consideration by BANA to replace our currently used literary, Nemeth and Computer Braille Code, uses upper cell numbers NUBS – Nemeth Uniform Braille System – a unified braille system, developed by Dr. Abraham Nemeth, under consideration by BANA to replace our currently used literary, Nemeth and Computer Braille Code, uses lower cell numbers and retains most of the currently used contractions

8 The Call for Unification
Started in 1991 with a memo written to BANA by Drs. T.V. Cranmer and Abraham Nemeth BANA recently published three articles outlining their reasons for supporting a unified braille code The Evolution of Braille: Can the Past Help the Future (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3)

9 One Unified Code from Three
Literary braille Nemeth & Chemical notation Computer braille (Braille Music is not included)

10 The Evolution of Technology
Print and Braille

11 Impact of Technology on Print
The use of color Varieties of emphasis: bold, italics, underline, fonts, size and color Formatting Extension of symbols and their meanings Non-linear – superscripts and subscripts

12 Continued Office and home computers, laptops and printers have allowed everyone to be a publisher Print no longer confined to paper; it’s electronic: we blog, text, tweet and Skype Computers E-readers: Kindle, Nook, iPad, etc. Smart phones

13 Continued Technology has impacted braille production positively
Computer assisted translation Embossers Improvements in scanners and OCR software Refreshable braille displays

14 The 1991 Article to BANA Written by Dr. T. V. Cranmer and Dr. Abraham Nemeth Thesis: The complexity of braille led to an erosion of braille usage.

15 1. Complexity of Braille Creates Conflict
Multiple braille codes Multiple meanings for symbols Multiple symbols with the same meaning

16 Multiple Braille Codes
As the braille codes were developed independently of each other they resulted in numerous conflicts.

17 Multiple Print Codes Prose Computer programming languages
Accounting ledgers Chemical formulas

18 Multiple Meanings - Print Examples
! Exclamation point Factorial sign in Mathematics . Period Decimal point Multiplication

19 @ Continued The “at sign” in an email address:
An accounting or a business invoice abbreviation meaning “at the rate of”

20 More Examples < and > “Less than” and “greater than” in math
Used to denote quotations in Angle brackets

21 Symbols Out of Context BANA recently used the following example as the reason for pointing out that there are 3 symbols for a dollar sign in braille: Ke$ha Isn’t this symbol also out of context for a print reader?

22 2. Fewer Braille Readers The article states: Professionals resist teaching braille because: It is too complex Down-play usefulness of braille in favor of electronic devices

23 Other Contributing Factors
Complexity of braille confused with tactile skill Not enough time devoted to actual braille reading in school – braille under the fingertips Lack of professional training and support for teachers, transcribers and parents Inadequate Nemeth code instructional materials Four conflicting sets of braille rules

24 Stated Goals for a Unified Braille Code
Reduce complexity of braille. Reduce conflicts in braille. Accurately represent printed materials in braille.

25 Considering a Unified Code
A unified braille code must have the following balance of characteristics: Read-ability Write-ability Think-ability Translate-ability

26 Read-ability Reading should become quick and automatic
Interpretation of characters with multiple meanings can be quickly inferred from context Express mathematics and technical material as well as literary

27 Write-ability Writing should be quick and automatic
Code should not get in the way of the meaning

28 Think-ability Cognitive Load
“Think of the cognitive load. I must physically touch each one of those characters keeping in mind how the placement of one might affect the meaning of another. Meanwhile the problem must be held in my very limited short-term memory space.” –Amanda Lacy How many modes and indicators are too many?

29 Translate-ability Flows back and forth between print and braille Easy
Accurate Supports independence

30 Limitations of a Unified Code
Can’t solve all the problems Won’t eliminate all ambiguity Only as good as the supporting documents Won’t eliminate the need for well-trained transcribers Won’t eliminate the need for more training and support for teachers

31 Can We Learn From The Past
The War of the Dots In 1911, Miss L. Pearl Howard and Mrs. Elwyn H. Fowler, representing the Uniform Type Committee traveled the country and conducted tests in 36 states; they tested 1200 readers.

32 Literary Examples A joke Recipe ingredients Text styles
Dictionary entry Personal data

33 Technical Susan and Maylene

34 Definitions STEM fields - an acronym for the fields of study in the categories of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. XML - Extensible Markup Language - defines a set of rules for encoding documents in a format that is both human-readable and machine-readable. MathML – Mathematical Markup Language - an application of XML for describing mathematical notations and capturing both its structure and content. It aims at integrating mathematical formulas into World Wide Web pages and other documents. MathML = Math Accessibility

35 The Way it Was Before the 1960s, blind children were usually educated in residential schools for the blind. All their teachers knew how to read braille, could create braille materials, and read the students’ materials. Transcribers could only produce braille by hand, either using a Perkins braillewriter or a slate and stylus. Multiple copies could be produced only using a thermoform machine.

36 Beginning of Change Much changed in the 1970s. Public Law provided that blind children should be educated in the “least restrictive environment.” This law accelerated the trend toward blind children being educated in the public schools. This lead to an increased need for braille transcribers. Braille code for mathematics changed several times during the first half of the twentieth century, but by 1972, the Nemeth Code for Science and Mathematics Notation was the standard.

37 What’s In Place Today
Nemeth Code for Science and Mathematics Notation, 1972 Braille Code for Chemical Notation, 1997 Computer Braille Code (CBC), 2000 EBAE – English Braille American Edition, 2002 Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010 Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription, 2011

38 Where are We Going? Now with various combinations of Internet media, speech output, braille displays, scanning and OCR, braille translation software, and braille embossers, blind people can read, in a matter of moments, virtually anything created by anyone, with the exception of the STEM fields. However, Expanding Audio Access to Mathematics Expressions by Students with Visual Impairments via MathML is coming. Nevertheless, braille under the fingertips is still a requirement for the majority of blind individuals working in the STEM fields.

39 Comments from a teacher who has lived some of this history
Comparing Nemeth, UEB, and NUBS from the perspective of a math and vi teacher

40 Prior to the Nemeth Code, the Taylor Code was used, but it did not support higher mathematics.
The Nemeth Code is logical and supports print mathematics quite successfully. In 1978, the highest level of mathematics taught at the Texas School for the Blind was a two-year pre-algebra class. In 2011, a female braille student at the school scored a 5 on the AP Calculus exam – highest score possible! Math requirements have continued to grow more rigorous, and we expect that trend to persist. At present in Texas, graduation requirements for a general education high school diploma are 4 credits in both upper level math and science. 4

41 We are now seeing the first generation of adult braille users that were educated by TVIs who only learned Nemeth Code, as opposed to the Taylor Code. These young adults learned Nemeth Code from the beginning and many are showing great success in college, graduate school, and specifically in the STEM fields. Losing the Nemeth Code could set math education for the blind back 40 years. If and when the time is right, NUBS (Nemeth Uniform Braille System) may be the better Unified Braille Code.

42 The Learning of Mathematics
Highest level of math achieved in high school was shown to be linked with successful completion of a college degree in any field of study (Adelman, 1999 and Hill, 2006) higher level of high school math = higher likelihood of completing college degree

43 Working memory is acknowledged to hold 7± 2 items or bits of information at a time (Kalet, 2005).
Working memory can only hold this information for about seconds (McGee & Wilson, 1984). Automaticity: the ability to perform a skill automatically or unconsciously Fluency in reading is affected by automaticity; if reading more symbols is required to distinguish numbers from letters, fluency can suffer.

44 Upper Cell Numbers The fundamental shortcoming in the development of UEB is the use of upper cell numbers which creates conflict with many other symbols in both literary and mathematical notation. Use of numbers in the upper part of the braille cell greatly adds to the length of mathematical expressions, especially in algebra, linear algebra, and calculus, where alphabet-number combinations are frequent (20 – 35% more characters than Nemeth Code) (Knowlton & Wetzel, 2006).


46 Lower Cell Numbers Nemeth Code’s use of lower cell numbers allows the upper part of the braille cell to be used for mathematical functions, critical to the overall successful use of the code for mathematics (Supalo, 2012). UEB’s use of upper cell numbers introduces ambiguity by using the same symbols for numbers and letters; this creates a need for a second symbol to distinguish between them.


48 Concerns from a Blind Computer Programmer
English itself is far from unified. Practicality of braille unification in the United States Use of upper numbers in UEB Computer Braille Code (CBC) -- Chris Gray,

49 Why We Think UEB is Problematic
Upper cell numbers Numerous new indicators Longer expressions Insertion of braille grouping symbols that do not appear in print Use of terminology that is not used by mathematics teachers Ambiguity of how to write fractions dependent upon the presence of variables.

50 Published Research

51 Wetzel and Knowlton JVIB, April – May 2006
“The participants clearly stated that any changes to the code that would make braille more difficult to read would not be in the best interest of the current population, many of whom could be greatly hampered by learning a code that these professionals considered to be more complex.” “… the [UEB] study lacked input from professional braille users in the fields of mathematics and computer science.”

52 Wetzel and Knowlton cont.
“There is a significant question remaining as to the impact of eliminating multiple contractions in a passage. It is a question that should be addressed before global changes to the braille code are made. These issues can be most effectively addressed by conducting further research.” “Perhaps some of the most significant research on any braille code needs to address a vast array of cognitive issues that are related to learning and using braille as a reading and writing system.”

53 Wetzel and Knowlton cont.
“The field would benefit from studies that address limits to short-term memory (working memory) as they apply to the reading, recall, and writing of braille.” “Writing braille is an area of research that is yet to be addressed.” “When one looks at the results collectively, it is clear that much more research is necessary before professionals will have sufficient knowledge to make wise decisions regarding changes to the braille codes.”

54 Wetzel and Knowlton cont.
“To date, no studies have addressed the transcription and comprehension of graphic material in braille. A unified code needs to address this kind of information in addition to pure literary text.” UEB would be more expensive to produce than EBAE or Nemeth Code due to longer passages. Arithmetic computation “required 17% more characters and algebra required 20%-35% more characters.” This would mean more expense to produce the books. Arithmetic and algebra books are the longest ones.

55 Other Available Research
Holbrook and MacCuspie, JVIB Sept Study of UEB involving 5 adult participants NUBS Sampler Questionnaire, Summary of Responses, Feb samplers distributed, results based on 236 valid surveys

56 Suggestions Consider development of better and more uniform TVI personnel preparation programs and higher state certification requirements. (Pogrund & Wibbenmeyer, 2008) NUBS is another choice presented by BANA, and needs to be considered more carefully; therefore, conduct more research on NUBS regarding its viability and efficacy in all fields of study.

57 Braille Code Comparison Math and Science Samples of UEB, Nemeth, and NUBS
Part 1 Examples 1 & 2 Example 3 Examples 4 & 5 Example 6 Part 2

58 How will UEB Incorporate:
Braille Code for Chemical Notation, 1997 Guidelines and Standards for Tactile Graphics, 2010 Braille Formats: Principles of Print to Braille Transcription, 2011

59 Number Line Graph x=1

60 References Adelman, C. (1999). Answers in the Tool Box: Academic Intensity, Attendance Patterns, and Bachelor's Degree Attainment. Jessup, MD: ED Pubs. Gray, C., (2012, April 28). Presentation at BANA meeting. Hill, R. (2006, May 1). On The Transition in Mathematics from High School to Michigan State University [Online]. Available:

61 Holbrook, M. C. , & MacCuspie, P. A. (2010)
Holbrook, M.C., & MacCuspie, P.A. (2010). The Unified English Braille Code: Examination by science, mathematics, and computer science technical expert braille readers. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 104,   Kalet, J.W. (2005). Introduction to psychology (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson & Wadsworth. Knowlton, M., & Wetzel R. (2006). Analysis of the length of braille texts in English Braille American Edition, the Nemeth code, and Computer Braille Code versus the Unified English Braille Code. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 100,

62 McGee, M. G., & Wilson, D. W. (1984). Psychology: Science and application. New York: West Publishing Company, Pogrund, R.L. & Wibbenmeyer, K. (2008). Interpreting the meaning of the terms certified and highly qualified for teachers of students with visual impairments. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 102, 5-15. Supalo, C. (2012, April 28). Presentation at BANA meeting.

63 Wetzel, R. , & Knowlton, M. (2006a)
Wetzel, R., & Knowlton, M. (2006a). Focus group research on the implications of adopting the Unified English Braille Code. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 100, Wetzel, R., & Knowlton, M. (2006b). Studies of Braille Reading Rates and Implications for the Unified English Braille Code. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness, 100,

64 NUBS References Nemeth, Dr. A., (2008, Oct. 15). NEMETH UNIFORM BRAILLE SYSTEM, Condensed Version.

65 UEB References International Council on English Braille. (2010, June). The Rules of Unified English Braille. Australia: Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities Inc. International Council on English Braille. (2008, Oct.). Unified English Braille, Guidelines for Technical Material.

66 Thank you for joining us!
A Production of TSBVI, 2012

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