DotlessBraille Home

Unified English Braille (UEB)

Note that there are other sites besides this one which are addressing the problems of a unified code.
Be sure to visit Unified Braille for All

UEB and BANA, 2012

The Braille Authority of North America (BANA)has recently published a three-part article titled The Evolution of Braille: Can the Past Help Plan the Future? which describes a number of problems currently encountered by U. S. braille readers. The concluding section, titled "At a Crossroads," states that "braille in the United States must change to keep up with current trends in publishing and technology" and presents "several choices as to how to proceed." One choice is to "adopt UEB" (Unified English Braille).

Although the latest version of the UEB is not identical to the UEBC version which elicited a negative reaction when BANA had it evaluated in 2002, UEB still has the same, widely-documented problems as far transcribing technical material. One might then assume that the advantages of the UEB in other areas outweigh the problems impacting technical material. However, my recent careful study of how the latest version of UEB would address the various issues outlined in the Evolution article has led me to the conclusion that UEB does not accomplish what BANA apparently believes it would. Luckily, one of BANA's other choices is to "adopt NUBS." (NUBS is the Nemeth Uniform Braille System. The NUBS [] documentation is available at the link. You can also read more about NUBS in an older article on this site.)

NEW!!! Since the recently adopted EPUB 3 electronic publication format, which is designed to support accessibility, uses MathML to represent mathematics, I've added a new article titled Positive Impacts of EPUB 3: MathML and Braille Mathematics. This new article begins with a brief introduction to MathML and then describes how NUBS and UEB each implement MathML schemata. It explains the ways in which UEB is not as well-aligned with MathML as NUBS is and suggests that this lack of alignment could be an important new reason for not adopting UEB.

2012 UEB Study Showing Numerous Problems

These articles focus on documenting problems in the UEB treatment of non-technical material. They also provide considerable background information.

This is a work in progress. Please check back often for updated and new articles.

History and Background

Unified English Braille has a long history. You can locate some of it via the International Council on English Braille (ICEB) Project Page. In 2001 the BANA developed two comprehensive Samplers comparing transcriptions using UEB (then known as UEBC) with transcriptions using its EBAE and Nemeth codes. The outcome of the review of these Samplers by various persons in the United States was a negative reaction to the UEB. In 2002 a number of organizations in the United States including the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB) passed resolutions against the UEB. The main concern at the time was that the use of upper numbers and other aspects of the UEB made transcriptions of mathematical and other technical material less print-like and generally longer.

UEB was later adopted in Australia (population 23 million) and New Zealand (population 4 million) and is currently in use in these two countries. Prior to the adoption of UEB, Australia was using a mix of braille codes not dissimilar to UEB as far as the rules for transcribing mathematics. The latest version of the UEB rules were developed under the auspices of the Australian Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities Inc. A copy of The Rules of Unified English Braille, June 2010 (UEB Rulebook) can be obtained from the ICEB Project page.

UEB has also been adopted by Nigeria and South Africa. However neither of these countries has sufficient resources to support development of the UEB. Moreover, it should be noted that although English is the official language of Nigeria, less than one-quarter of the population (approximately 40 million people) are even able to understand it. As for South Africa, English is the first language for less than 10 per cent of the total population of 50 million, i.e. approximately 5 million people.

UEB has quite recently been approved for use in both Canada (English-speaking population 26 million) and the United Kingdom (population 63 million). However it currently (April 2012) appears that both of these latter two countries are waiting to see what the United States does before investing a large amount of resources in training and producing braille materials in UEB.

[Note that 23+4+40+5+26+63=161 or barely more than half the population of the United States, which Wikipedia states is the country with the greatest number of people who speak English as a first language.]

Older articles documenting problems with UEB

I have over the last 10 years published a number of articles about the flaws of the UEB. Here are links to three of the earlier ones.

First draft posted April 17, 2012.
Slightly corrected draft posted April 18, 2012.
Articles added April 19, 2012.
Links to additional articles added June 08, 2012.
Link to article on MathML and braille math added June 12, 2012.

Please send corrections and feedback to the author at info at