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William Daugherty, Superintendent, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired

Abstract:  Superintendent Daugherty shares information on changes to the braille code.  He reviews the steps to make the transition from English Braille American Edition (EBAE) to the Unified English Braille code (UEB). 

Key words:  blind, visually impaired, braille, Unified English Braille (UEB) code, TSBVI, TEA, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA)

The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) has adopted changes to the braille code consistent with most of the rest of the English-speaking countries. BANA is composed of a group of experts and stakeholders involved with braille, and they are the recognized body who make changes to the braille code as needed.  The code currently in use in North America is known as English Braille American Edition (EBAE).  The new code is known as the Unified English Braille (UEB) code.  This change to UEB represents the most comprehensive change to the code in decades, and its intention was in part to address the limitations EBAE had to adapt to the continuous changes in language and to the growing interface between braille and technology.

Although UEB looks like EBAE for the most part, there are some significant changes that will require readers, teachers and transcribers alike to study and become familiar with the appearance of some new signs and the elimination of some others. BANA chose to retain the existing mathematics code called Nemeth code, but UEB also has mathematics and technical code that is likely to find its way into usage based upon decisions by teachers at the instructional level. 

Over the past year all states have been developing plans for the implementation of UEB.  These plans include things such as how to train teachers, students and transcribers in the new code; when and how to make changes to textbooks; when and how to make changes to state assessments such as the STAAR; and in some states like Texas, when and how to develop a UEB-based braille proficiency test for those seeking to become teachers of students with visual impairment (TVI's).

Texas has developed a very good plan, still in the draft stage, which the Texas Education Agency (TEA) will consider for adoption. This plan lays out the many steps it takes to get this accomplished in the form of a timeline.  This timeline culminates in the Spring of 2017 with the goal of having met wholly, or in large part, full implementation of the UEB code in Texas.

It is important to note that during this transition period, which reasonably can be predicted to go beyond the Spring of 2017 on several fronts, that TEA, our Education Service Centers, TSBVI and school districts across the state will figure out ways to minimize the impact on students trying to learn a new code while having books, tests and other materials in the “old” EBAE code.  For a time it will be common to see materials offered in both codes. Students and parents are encouraged to begin conversations with their local educational teams because it may be beneficial for ARD committees to make some decisions on what code will be used for both instruction and assessment. More can be learned about UEB at the BANA website www.BANA.org , and TSBVI will be regularly posting related information at www.tsbvi.edu