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so you may ask, what is the UEB. It is the unified braille code. For people who don’t know about braille, or much about it, braille is the way blind people read, with a series of raised dots. Each country has had its own style of writing braille. Braille takes a lot of room, so over the years, it has been modified to include a series of shortcuts, contractions to make braille a little smaller. Things like one symbol for words like the, and, with and on and on. One symbol for common letter combinations. in the word, “combinations” for instance, com is a contraction, as is the in and the ation. Even so, my braille bible is in 34 volumes and my full set of the Harry Potter books is in about fifty-five volumes. Braille is also quite expensive, because it uses so much paper!

so, some years ago, a group of people called the braille authority of north America, got together with similar bodies in the other English speaking countries and decided braille needs to be changed and updated to be more like print. And on top of that, all English braille should be the same. And because they think it needs to be more like print and that people don’t read hard copy paper braille, they think, but rather use electronic one line at a time braille displays instead of a whole page of beautiful delicious braille, they decided to do away with a number of the contractions and to change the punctuation we have used for decades.

now I ask all my sighted friends who read this, what would you think if someone came along and said they were going to change the way print looks and reads, if they decided the way you write it type it and read it had to change. if suddenly, that key below the L wasn’t a period anymore but was something else. Or if they were going to change mathematical symbols, things like that. Or if they told you real books are going away , and you can read on your kindle or iPhone anyway so you don’t need to worry that we’re going to mess up your print. How many times have sighted people talked about their love of holding a real book in their hands and reading. well, it’s the same for me. I can’t afford much braille due to its cost, but I love it. I love to put my fingers on a book and read!

anyway, the changes in braille will take place beginning in 2016, and some braille producers are already using the UEB. I’m angry and irritated. Now buying hard copy braille books will be even more costly because it will take much more room and more volumes. Maybe Harry will now be in seventy volumes instead of fifty-five!

well, I started this because I wanted to post the contents of an email I sent to some friends. but I got on a roll explaining braille and why I hate the UEB. But here’s another reason. Read on.

Here’s part of why I think I’m so angry about UEB.

I worked with a lot of deaf-blind people when I worked at the Lighthouse for the blind in Seattle. For those who don’t know, Seattle has a very large deaf and deaf-blind community and a lot of Deaf-Blind worked at the lighthouse. ASL is its own language as you probably know. People who are fluent in ASL don’t spell out every word, they use all kinds of shortcuts. And because it’s a language, it’s very common for them to write like ASL. Sure, many can write the way we write in perfect grammatical English, but it’s common for them to write in ASL so to speak. I spoke and emailed with several deaf-blind administrative assistants at the lighthouse and their emails had a sort of shortcut language most of the time. It was pretty cool. I tried to take a class in ASL at a local community college but the head of the ASL department told me they didn’t teach tactile ASL. Boo.

Anyway, if some well-meaning idiots came along and decided that people who are deaf need to change ASL to be more like regular spoken and written English, the you know what would hit the fan. There would be an uproar, an outcry of rage. The deaf community takes pride in who and what they are, in a big big way, and they’d never tolerate people coming along and deciding to change ASL to be more like print or spoken english.

Now of course, Braille isn’t technically a different language. But to my mind, a small group of idiots, made a decision quite a while ago that they were going to change braille. I know people protested. I certainly wrote a letter to BANA opposing it, but I don’t believe BANA ever meant to listen to our feelings and take them into account. Also, the blind community didn’t raise an uproar or outcry, not really, not boisterously, not so the whole wide world would hear. So, in some ways we let this travesty just happen. And it infuriates me that this small group of people decided braille has to be like print and therefore it has to be changed. After all, nobody bothers to read hard copy braille now that there are computers and braille displays. Never mind the expense and that fact that few blind people can buy those braille display in the first place. And these people decided for the whole English speaking world. talk about arrogance.

Anyway, that’s part of why I’m angry. It’s more than not wanting to have to learn braille all over again. It’s partly that BANA didn’t really have the right to do what they did, in my opinion, and we let it happen because we had so much warning, and we didn’t bother to come to the fight. I guess it doesn’t matter since such a small amount of blind people actually read braille. That last sentence was in mental quotes. So, because sometimes my idiotic sixties childhood comes back to haunt me, I boycott UEB. I refuse to learn it; I refuse to read it; I will not support it. I may cut off my nose to spite my face, but I’m okay with that. And my little protest won’t make a difference, except I’ll feel damn good about it. lol.

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