Bruce Toews (masterofmusings) wrote,
Bruce Toews

What is Unified by the Unified English Braille Code?

I have talked long and hard about whether or not the Unified English
Braille Code (UEB) should be implemented. Clearly I am opposed to it.
I am not unbiased and don't claim to be. But I would like someone to tell me something very basic about this
code, which people seem determined to shove down our throats: Just what
is being unified?

"We're adopting one code for literary braille, computer braille, and
mathematics," they tell us. Yet every time I point out that complex
spacial mathematics is impossible under UEB, and that teaching children to do mathematics on paper will be rendered all but impossible, the response I get is,
"Well, the plan is to revert back to Nemeth in such situations."
Presumably the Computer Braille Code would also be reverted to in the
case of complex programming-related material, and what we call ASCII
braille would be implemented for character-for-character representation,
such as in a braille display. Number of codes eliminated by the UEB? 1,
the literary code. Number of codes added? 1, the UEB. Big unifying gains

Before I go on, I want to elaborate just a bit on the ASCII Braille issue. Currently, devices that output braille - braille embossers and braille displays - use a system of one-on-one representation called ASCII braille. If you want to read untranslated output from one of these devices, you need to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of ASCII braille. Fortunately, the Computer Braille Code uses symbols quite consistent with ASCII braille. However, the UEB does not. The concept of lower-cell numbers, as used in Nemeth coe and in Computer Braille, is completely eliminated, for a start, and punctuation marks look nothing like their ASCII braille counterparts. This means that, far from being unified, serious computer users are forced to learn a new code, and to switch back and forth between codes when looking at their bulky unified textbooks and their braille displays and hardcopy printouts. And now, back to the unifications offered by UEB.

"The UEB will unify all English-speaking countries under one braille
system," we're told. Who's in? South Africa, New Zealand, Canada,
mega-braille producers like that. That's sarcasm. The countries that
have adopted UEB are all small potatoes when it comes to braille
production. The United States and Britain are the two big ones, and
neither have adopted UEB. The number of braille codes eliminated? Zero.
The number of braille codes added? 1. Big gains there for UEB. In the meantime, the small braille producers conveniently alienate themselves from the major players, the result being that blind people in these small braille producers will get more limited access to books than ever before, having to rely on the small-budget local production afforded them by these small countries. Canadians, get used to Farley Mowat and Timothy Findley, you'll be reading a lot of them while your American and British counterparts get the bestsellers and the variety to which we should all be entitled.

"We currently have two systems for braille math," we're told, "one North
American, the other British. UEB means one math code for all." Again,
neither the United States nor Britain is in on this. So now we have
three mathematical systems of braille, not two. Furthermore, as has been stated before, we're told to revert back to the old codes when the going gets tough. Yeeha, UEB is just
unifying the living daylights out of us all isn't it?

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