[BlindMath] Questions about Nemeth and UEB

John Gardner john.gardner at viewplus.com
Thu Apr 6 04:36:04 UTC 2023

Interesting to see a mention of the Gardner Salinas braille code. I thought that had been long since buried. That code is a little history lesson on how good things can go so wrong. UEB is "Uniform English Braille". Actually it would be more correct to call it "Ununiform English Braille" because there is absolutely nothing uniform about UEB. It was not intended that way. UEB arose from a famous letter from Professors Abe Nemeth and Tim Cranmer in 1991 describing the fragmented nature of braille being many arcane codes with many differences, including different symbols having different representations. They asked that a new braille code be developed that, among other things:
* braille representations for symbols would be uniform (whether literary, math, computer, or other subject),
* text to braille and braille to text would be easily and correctly translated by computers.
That is not how it turned out.

BANA listened to those two persuasive scientists and appointed a committee (Abe Nemeth, Tim Cranmer, Emerson Foulk, and chaired by Joe Sullivan) to develop a new uniform braille code. Norberto Salinas and I were permitted to be observers and participate in discussions. He, a mathematician, and I, a physicist, pointed out that a uniform code would need symbols, not codes (such as number sign followed by letters) to represent numbers. We then, in a few weeks, wrote that GS code just to show the committee what a uniform code could look like. Then all hell broke loose when the rest of the English-speaking world demanded representation on that committee. The Americans all supported changing numbers, but the new members all opposed it as "too radical", so literary numbers were retained, and a uniform code became impossible. Interestingly, the French apparently did not consider it too radical, because they have adopted "Antoine numbers (letters + dot 6, the symbols preferred by three Americans, with Nemeth preferring dropped numbers) in their code.

I occasionally just for fun code some math into GS, and it is just such a nice elegant compact code. Too bad, but that is the way politics works folks.

John Gardner

-----Original Message-----
From: BlindMath <blindmath-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of Bill Dengler via BlindMath
Sent: Wednesday, April 5, 2023 6:29 PM
To: 'Blind Math list for those interested in mathematics' <blindmath at nfbnet.org>
Cc: Bill Dengler <codeofdusk at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [BlindMath] Questions about Nemeth and UEB

What is your intent in learning Braille mathematics - primarily as a system for working in yourself, or as a means of communicating with others? Do you want to read Braille mathematics on a display? Write notes for yourself that you'll be converting to something like LaTeX for (sighted) collaborators anyway?
Nemeth is a more compact code than UEB, requiring in some cases fewer cells to convey the same information than UEB. However, with this compaction can come less clarity: numbers are represented by "lowering" (translating down a
position) the letters a through j, similar to US computer Braille.
Personally, I find this confusing.
UEB is the standard code for technical material across the English-speaking world, though there are some groups (especially in the US) that oppose this with varying levels of success. A strong advantage of UEB is its consistency, reduction in ambiguity, and closer correspondence (often a one-to-one mapping) with (especially computer generated) print. If you're familiar with the older Taylor code[1] used in the UK and Australia, the UEB mathematical code was based on (and corresponds more closely to) that code.
If you are the primary consumer and producer of your Braille mathematics, it's certainly alright to invent your own notation/shorthand, or even use something like Gardner-Salinas Braille[2], an infrequently used eight-dot code, if you really want to be efficient.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Martyn_Taylor
[2]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gardner%E2%80%93Salinas_braille_codes
-----Original Message-----
From: BlindMath <blindmath-bounces at nfbnet.org> On Behalf Of dana mohsen via BlindMath
Sent: Wednesday, April 5, 2023 5:17 PM
To: blindmath at nfbnet.org
Cc: dana mohsen <dana.mohsen.azim at gmail.com>
Subject: [BlindMath] Questions about Nemeth and UEB

Hello everyone, I hope everyone is doing well.
I had a question about Braille math.
I work with math audibly, using a screen reader, but I have been interested in learning braille math recently. I can read both contracted, and I'm contracted braille.. my question is: should I learn Nemeth or UEB math? I definitely love to learn both, but I'd like to learn one of them fully before doing the other. Which one is the better one? Which one is more efficient, and which one is more common in the United States.?
Thank you.
Best regards,
Dana Ibrahim
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