UK Association for Accessible Formats adopts UEB as the braille code for the UK

Posted: 08/11/2011 |

In an important decision for braille this week, UKAAF agreed to adopt Unified English Braille (UEB) as an official braille code in the UK. Standard English Braille (SEB) has been the recognised code in the UK since the 1930's.

UEB has already been adopted by Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Nigeria and South Africa, and this adoption by the UK aligns our braille code with other English-speaking countries. This decision brings many future benefits to braille users in the UK: the sharing of braille files and information between organisations, education establishments and producers will be easier nationally and internationally; and braille will be easier to learn and to teach - benefits which will ultimately increase the availability and use of braille.

Peter Osborne, the Chair of UKAAF, said “This has been a very complex issue, and it was not a decision that the Board has taken lightly. The value of the research time alone to gather evidence is estimated to be over £40,000, kindly delivered through member organisation activity, and the Board received a report with recommendations to consider, supported by over 200 pages of evidence. This analysed the benefits and drawbacks of UEB, the experiences of other countries, and a tremendous amount of direct feedback from stakeholders, including users, teachers, producers and UKAAF's counterpart standards bodies in other English-speaking countries."

He went on to say “This, of course, does not mean that SEB will disappear overnight. Far from it, this simply means that most of the resources previously dedicated to developing SEB will now be refocused on developing and implementing UEB. We now have an enormous amount of work to do on implementation, including establishing timescales, supporting and training teachers and users, and ensuring that there are enough resources available. A key focus will be to maximise the benefits and minimise the disruption to children and adults studying and taking exams. We will unavoidably have a period where we are supporting both SEB and UEB codes whilst we carefully plan the implementation of UEB."

Dr Sarah Morley Wilkins, the Vice-Chair of UKAAF, said “The braille subject area and the UKAAF Board have worked very hard to consider every angle. Everyone involved had a primary focus on the future of braille and the needs of braille users. This decision was not a formality by any stretch of the imagination. Although everyone supported UEB in principle, there were differing views on how and when it might be implemented. Ultimately, the decision to adopt UEB now was carried by a two-thirds majority of the Board. I would like to thank everyone involved in the research, particularly those who participated in interviews and focus groups, and tested sample materials. Members of the UKAAF braille Subject Area and research colleagues collated a tremendous amount of evidence to help inform their recommendations and the Board's decision, which puts us in a very strong position to commence a detailed implementation plan with UK stakeholders.”

Peter Osborne added, “I am very lucky to be supported by Board members with such breadth of experience and deep commitment to the provision of quality accessible information in all formats for print-disabled people in the UK. The next task for the Board is to prepare an implementation plan to benefit braille users in the short- and long-term. This is quite a remit and we undertake this with the guarantee that we will all work together with stakeholders to successfully implement UEB in the UK. UKAAF maintains a strong commitment to the development and promotion of braille as one of the vital accessible formats for people with print-disabilities.”