Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

Changes Coming to the Literary Braille Code

Picture of braille alphabet in braille classroomSince January is the month we honor and observe Louis Braille’s birthday, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss the changes taking place in the Braille code as we knew it. The new Braille code is not something that individuals should be afraid of. An A is still dot 1, an R is still dots 1-2-3-5, and the word right is still dot 5, 1-2-3-5. The changes in the Braille code mainly focus around eliminating some contractions, spacing modifications, and new punctuation symbols. In this blog, I will give short descriptions of what the changes are in the Braille code, what old and new Braille readers should look forward to in future Braille; and ways to get assistance in learning the changes in the Braille code.

The Unified English Braille Code (UEB) took effect in the United states on January 4, 2016. This date is a very memorable date because it is the official birthday of Louis Braille.

The decision to adopt the code was made by Braille Authority of North America (BANA); which is a board made up of members of organizations who focus on Braille literacy. There are a lot of questions and concerns about the new Braille code. Why would they change something that millions of people have grown accustom to? What are the benefits of the new Braille code? Will veteran Braille readers successfully transition to UEB? Well, I have some answers that can put peoples’ minds to rest. Although there are changes to the new Braille code, these changes are very subtle.

Student reading braille signOne of the changes includes elimination of nine contractions. For example, instead of using contractions for to, ble, or com; Braille users have to write the words in their entirety. Dot 6 Y and dot 6 N were also eliminated due to BANA believing that this would cause ambiguity for Braille readers. They believe that dot 6 Y and dot 6 N could be read as a capital Y and a capital N instead of ally and ation at the end of a word. Another change that is taking place in the UEB code involves spacing. In the former Braille code the Braille signs and, for, of, with, and the were flushed next to each other in sentences. In the UEB code, each word stands alone. The reasoning for the change in spacing is due to wanting Braille to mirror print. There aren’t any words joined together in print so BANA feels the same should go for Braille.

The UEB code is introducing new symbols for punctuation; but don’t worry, they are easy to grasp. There is some punctuation that won’t change in the transition; but, there are a few that have. For example to write a plus sign, Braille users will type dot 5 followed by dots 2-3-5; to write a minus sign, users will write dot 5 followed by dots 3-6; and to write a equals sign, users will write dot 5 followed by dots 2-3-5-6. This is a slight change from the old plus sign (Dots 3-4-6), the minus sign (dots 3-6), and the equals sign (Dots 4-6-1-3). Some other signs that have changed in the UEB code include the parentheses, brackets, and the dollar sign. All of the new signs are easy to grasp and will take no time to grow accustom to.

Adult client reading braille in classIn conclusion, the two Braille codes are similar in more ways than not. The main changes take place when readers begin to move in to contracted Braille. Even though there is a change, they are simple to master and perfect. There is always uneasiness when it comes to change; but I am happy to tell you that there shall be no fear! There is a large support system available for Braille users to access. Before the adoption of the UEB code, many organizations have reached out a helping hand for veteran Braille users. CVI is one such organization. Through our New View Adult Rehab Program, we can assist with teaching you the UEB code and the alphabet braille code too. We also have a braille club for extra support, instruction and lots of fun in advancing your braille skills. But here are several other outlets for seasoned Braille users that will offer guidance during the transition. Listed below are a few websites to visit when you feel the pressure of something new.

Hadley School For The Blind
National Federation of the Blind
National Braille Press


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