[Blindmath] UEB again

George Bell george at techno-vision.co.uk
Tue Dec 6 03:58:49 CST 2011

Hi all,

Having just joined the list, I'd like to introduce myself, and explain
the two of the hats I wear here in the United Kingdom.

First, I am Chairman of the Braille Production Group of UKAAF (United
Kingdom Association for Accessible Formats).  As many of you will
know, the UK will be moving to UEB over the next few years after a
planning and implementation phase which is about to begin.

Second, my company, Techno-Vision Systems Ltd., is a Duxbury Braille
Translator dealer with a very close working relationship with Duxbury
Systems.  We've been around for 25 years now, and have tended to
specialise in braille products and services.  We don't just sell
equipment and software. We also produce braille, so tend to see things
from both ends of the spectrum, so to speak.

Around 18 months ago one of our major clients and I were discussing
Mathematical braille and Duxbury, and he asked if it was at least
possible to provide a list of what Duxbury could NOT handle.  At least
teachers, transcribers and such like would then know what to avoid and
handle manually.

There was little alternative but to work with the "Braille
Mathematical Notation" publication for the UK.  Since only a .pdf copy
was available, this was scanned to obtain the text, then around 400
example equations input using MathType and finally 6 key entry to
re-produce the braille.  The whole lot was passed through Duxbury, and
the results analysed.

This in itself was an extremely valuable, major learning exercise, and
taught us a great deal about what transcribers would ultimately be
facing, but I'll spare those details for now.

With a great deal of work on all sides, we have been able to greatly
reduce the problem areas to an extent where up to secondary school
level braille math can fairly confidently be produced.

And of course along comes UEB.

That said, I would hasten to add that the work to date has not been in
vane, and so we are about to do the same with the current draft of the
UEB Technical Braille material which, I hope, will be a somewhat
easier task.

Wearing these hats has been an interesting exercise, and above all, it
has been quite amazing how we have been able to consult with, and get
help from, different groups and organisations, many of whom have been
pursuing solutions on their own.

For example, we can now scan a math book using Infty Reader and open
the resultant .xml file in Word, convert all equations to MathType
format, and produce large print, braille, etc., from one file.

Duxbury have also contributed and so now it is possible to mix and
match literary and math.  So for example we can have UEB literary
braille and Standard English Braille math in the same document if
required during the transition period to EUB.

On another tack, speech output is being looked at.

And so we go on.  We're not trying to conquer Everest in one fell
swoop, but I'm quite confident that future progress will be driven as
much by demand as anything else.  Younger students are now more easily
able to get good braille math  material, and the brighter ones will
undoubtedly go on to motivate us to produce more.

George Bell.

-----Original Message-----
From: blindmath-bounces at nfbnet.org
[mailto:blindmath-bounces at nfbnet.org] On Behalf Of Jonathan Godfrey
Sent: Monday, December 05, 2011 11:50 AM
To: Blind Math list for those interested in mathematics
Subject: Re: [Blindmath] UEB again

Hello all,

I've been watching the flow of messages on the topic with interest. 
The last time this thread blew up I went asking questions locally and
found some answers that left me thinking New Zealand was on the right
track. We have the President of the International Council for English
Braille who was my first port of call.

I note that the original intent may have been for UEB to address the
needs of literary, mathematical and computer braille. In that regard
we can say that UEB has failed. Aside from Michael in the U.K. and me
down here in New Zealand, this list is dominated by those of you
living in the lower 48. I am not surprised to see that the other
aspect of unification is somewhat missing from the discussion.

While the differences may seem trivial for the experienced braille
reader, the U.K. and U.S. braille systems were different, and both are
quite readable interchangeably by good braille readers. Literary
braille for the English language should have been (in my opinion)
enough reason to look for a common solution that meets the needs of
the 21st century. I suspect that the UEB system will have a limited
lifetime as well as our needs change.

In New Zealand we were very quick to adopt UEB as we are taking
documents from all over the English speaking world for our students to
use. It is therefore quite logical for us (and Australia, South Africa
and Nigeria) to adopt a unified system of some sort to cut down the
inefficiencies that exist outside the U.S. or U.K. who are notably the
last two major English speaking authorities to join the UEB craze.

Turning to mathematical content now. I find that the most compelling
reason for not being reliant on UEB is the comment made by someone in
the last flurry of messages that there were university level
mathematical representations that UEB could not handle. This does not
mean UEB should be tossed out. It means UEB's mathematical code is not
capable of dealing with some content, but it isn't capable of handling
French or Spanish either. A mathematical document is therefore little
different to a bilingual document in that the reader must know more
than just the basic English system (whichever one is
chosen) to get the most out of it. I will in the next few months want
to be increasing my competency in computer braille. UEB won't be the
medium of my education for that even if it is the official code in New

I believe that the UEB code should be adopted, but that it is done so
without replacing all other codes. We must still deal with the
preferences of those people who have been educated using other
systems. If effort is made in the technology that will produce the
braille wanted by the reader instead of the braille wanted by some
publisher or authority we will all be better off.

As a further comment, I would point out that the mathematical codes
used around the world were/are more numerous than the literary ones. 
Australia used to teach a system that was linked to the British system
but was different (or so I have been led to believe), while we here in
New Zealand were always Nemith users. The uptake of UEB and its simple
mathematical system has been hailed for improving the educational
outcomes of young blind kids across Australasia. That's got to be
appreciated even by the Nemith fans. But it isn't reason for tossing
out Nemith.

When I was in Europe this year, I met people who were reading numerous
braille codes as they worked in multiple languages. The more they
could read the more successful they would be. One guy laughed at the
idiocy of the mono linguists that were complaining about change. 
(His words paraphrased). I can't help but agree.

Dr A. Jonathan R. Godfrey
Lecturer in Statistics
Institute of Fundamental Sciences
Massey University
Palmerston North

Office: Science Tower B Room 3.15
Phone: +64-6-356 9099 ext 7705
Mobile: +64-29-538-9814
Home Address: 22 Bond St, Palm. Nth.
Home Phone: +64-6-353 2224 (Just think FLEABAG) 

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