Unified Braille Code

Unified Braille Code


In 1991, two highly-respected blind scientists, Dr. T. V. Cranmer and Dr. A. Nemeth, wrote a letter to the Braille Authority of North America pointing out the difficulties posed for blind people by the need to use different braille codes for normal literature, math, computers, and different scientific disciplines. They requested that a unified code be developed.

Their request was persuasive, and Ms. Darleen Bogart (Royal Canadian Institute for the Blind) was appointed to chair a Unified Braille Code Research Project. The project team was instructed to develop a six-dot code as similar as possible to the present literary code in use in all English-speaking countries.

In 1993 the unified code project became an international project of the International Council on English Braille. The code-development committee, chaired by Mr. Joseph Sullivan, president of Duxbury, Inc, was expanded to include representatives from England, South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.

In March 1995, the code development committee presented its first draft of a proposed code, and it is presently under review and development around the world. The present goal is to have a code for adoption in 2003.

The ubc code represents standard text by a slightly-improved version of current contracted (grade 2) Standard English Braille. Equations and other technical expressions are represented by a greatly expanded set of uncontracted (grade 1) Braille symbols.

The unified braille code uses the literary "number mode" convention by which the letters a-j represent the digits 1-9, 0 if a string of such letters is preceded by a number indicator. This has the very great advantage that very simple math expressions can be written in a form much like literary braille. Unfortunately, more advanced math is hopelessly clumsy if this number mode convention is used - the reason special math codes were developed in the first place. There are a number of other advanced uses (eg computer braille displays, aligned arrays, in labels where symbols can appear out of context, in some formatted text applications, and some types of scientific literature) where this code is incapable of representing the information.


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Last update March 5, 2001