Remaining Literate in the Age of UEB
Remaining Literate in the Age of UEB
You’re listening to Seminars at Hadley. This seminar is: Remaining Literate in the Age of UEB. Presented by Dinette Johnson and Sharon Howerton. Moderated by Kim Walker.
July 14, 2015
Good morning, everyone. I’d like to welcome everyone to Seminars at Hadley. I am Kim Walker, an instructor here at the Hadley School for the Blind. Today’s topic is: Remaining Literate in the Age of UEB. Please remember, we will have questions at the end of this seminar.
Your presenters today are Dinette Johnson, and Sharon Howerton. Both wonderful instructors here at the Hadley School for the Blind. We also have a special guest with us today as a presenter; Dr. Janette McAlister. Janette lost her vision in December 2010 after sustaining a head injury. She has been a Hadley student since May of 2011.
An interesting fact about Janette is that she taught herself uncontracted braille. She was really excited when she found the Hadley School for the Blind courses. Her first course with Hadley was braille literacy 4. Janette finished her doctorate degree in economics in 2013 and was Hadley’s student of the year for 2014.
We welcome Dr. Janette McAlister as one of our special guests today. Now, let me welcome today’s presenters and I will hand the microphone off to Dinette.
Good morning, everyone. I’m so happy to be here. I’m glad that you could all make it to the seminar today. The point of today’s seminar is to discuss braille and literacy in this age of braille, when changes are being made to the code. Ad you’ve probably all heard, unified English braille is now the braille code that will be in place as of January 2016.
Hadley has been changing their courses – we are revising our courses; our braille literacy courses 1, 2, 3, and 4 – to incorporate these changes. As many of you know, the enrollment for braille literacy 3 and 4 is currently closed while those courses are being revised. Some of you are in the middle of these courses. You may have taken 1 and 2, but cannot move on to 3 and 4 yet.
Maybe you’ve even taken braille 3, the uncontracted braille, but are waiting to take braille 4 and you’re wondering what you can do in the meantime. We want to explain the purpose of the changes in the braille code and to alleviate everyone’s fears in regards to these changes.
We also want to encourage literacy and we’ll discuss some possible ways to use your braille that you have now. First of all, we want to talk about: what is UEB? I’m going to pass the mic to Sharon Howerton and she’s going to read a clever little story about what UEB is.
Hi, this is Sharon. I’m going to read this little story called Braille Apocalypse.
Miss Sally and Miss Karen walked out over the grounds of the Braille Apocalypse. They scanned the area and saw nine green tents-
By the way, Dinette sent us this a couple weeks ago.
“Those must be where the contractions that are no longer usable are going to die,” Miss Karen surmised. They scanned the field and saw AND, OF, THE, FOR, and WITH looking lost. AND kept trying to hug WITH, but WITH was shouting “We can’t do this anymore!” Miss Karen and Miss Sally knew that they would need to talk to the strong man contractions.
Miss Karen put on her stern teacher’s face and told them they could no longer snuggle together. AND protested. “I’ve been cuddling my whole existence! It isn’t fair!” Miss Sally patted AND on the dots and said “We know. This change is hard. It will be difficult at first, but we will all get used to it.” AND pouted, but stood alone. THE, FOR, and WITH seemed near tears, but stood strong and alone.
“We’ll still be close to other letters when we’re used in words,” THE said. “It isn’t the same!” AND lamented. “It will have to do,” said THE, with a finality in his tone. “Let’s leave them for a bit and look in on the tents,” Miss Sally suggested. “I supposed we should,” Miss Karen said, as she led the way. VLE was in the first tent. A thermometer hung from his mouth.
He saw the TVIs and immediately began his delirious rant. “I’m not that easily confused with the number indicators! I’m not bad for the reader! I’m not! I want to be part of UEB! It can’t end like this!” Miss Karen and Miss Sally exchanged a noting glance. “We are so sorry, BLE. You will become a zombie contraction,” Miss Sally delivered the grave news.
“What does that even mean?” BLE asked in a panicky tone. “It means you will continue to be read in old braille, but we won’t use you when we write new braille. It isn’t really death, but you aren’t really alive anymore, either,” Miss Karen explained a calm voice. “Will I eat brains?” BLE asked. Miss Karen and Miss Sally laughed and thought to themselves that the change would kind of eat brains of the transcribers who were new to UEB.
However, the readers would be just fine. Miss Sally answered, “No. You won’t eat brains. You’ll get used to being a zombie though. Try to think of it as ‘retirement’ instead of ‘dead’. You’ll have way less work to do.” BLE seemed calm as the TVIs left to go to the next tent. The next tent was the first of the cling-ons. Little TO was in his tent looking rather pathetic. “I know, I know.
There’s probably no saving me. I was never all that great at saving space anyway,” he said with resignation. Miss Karen replied “You were everywhere. Sure, you weren’t saving that much space, but you did a lot of good work. We’ll still see you in old braille, but when we write new we will have to spell out T-O.” The TVIs parted and headed to the next tent. BY was waiting in the next tent and he had a similar reaction as TO. He seemed to know his days were numbered.
“The best thing I can do is accept my fate and hope I don’t scare any little readers when they see me doing a zombified cling-on move in old braille text,” he sighed, but looked accepting. Miss Karen and Miss Sally gave him a big hug and thanked him for his selfless dedication to little readers. “Don’t worry. We’ll explain it to the kids that all you zombies were heroes. You’ve all sacrificed yourselves in hopes to create better braille for everyone.”
The next tent was shaking. INTO seemed restless and frightened. “I don’t know what to think! On the one hand, my IN lives on. On the other hand we all know TO doesn’t make it. What’s to become of me?” He shook as he asked. The TVIs knew they had some explaining to do. Miss Sally used her most comforting voice and said “IN will live on.
However, it’s now spelled out. The word INTO will still have the contraction, but the TO will be spelled out. Also, there will be no more clinging.” INTO let out a huge sob and whined “Clinging was my favorite part of my job! I’m a snuggly type! This will be awful!” Miss Karen attempted to cheer him up and explained “You’ll still cling and snuggle in the old text, but you’ll have to follow the space rules going forward.” INTO conceded. “I supposed we have to follow the space rules. As much as I like snuggling, I love braille readers more than anything.
So we will just have to put them first.” The TVIs were grateful and parted, feeling like contractions were being really great sports. In the next tent the TVIs found COM hiding under his blanket. “COM, we need to talk to you. Things are changing, and we know you’re scared, but let us explain. You’re getting confused with the hyphen and the new braille is going to eliminate some of that confusion.” COM popped out his head and pleaded “The readers have always figured me out!”
Miss Sally agreed “They usually did, but there are also issues with back translation. We thought about it long and hard and this is what is best for our future. We surely do appreciate your service and we’ll be sure to tell kids how well you served us all.” COM seemed to accept his fate. DD popped his head out of the tent and the TVIs walked up. “Don’t come in. I already know I can’t carry on because I look too much like punctuation.
Obviously, the period beat me out. He’s everywhere. Everywhere!” DD zipped his head closed and the TVIs decided to move right along. At ATION’s tent there was a thudding sound. As the TVIs went in they realized that ATION was trying desperately to raise her dot6. Miss Sally intervened and explained that the dot6 could not be changed and it was too confusing to have what looked like a capital indicator in the middle of a word.
ATION stopped her thumping and looked defeated. Miss Karen offered further words of comfort explaining that back translation was difficult when two symbols meant different things. ATION asked how often that was even an issue. Miss Karen explained that technology was becoming a primary means to produce and read braille. ATION let the TVIs tuck her into bed.
The weary teachers walked over to the O’CLOCK tent. O’C. O’CLOCK was packing a bag with sunscreen and shorts. The TVIs asked what O’CLOCK was doing. O’CLOCK replied “I’m not crying over less work. I’m out of here. I’m heading to Florida. I’m not sad that my work is done.” The TVIs chuckled and wished him well. Before entering the last tent, Miss Sally looked like she was going to cry.
Miss Karen patted her on the back and said “I know this one is going to be hard for you.” They walked in and found ALLY weeping. Miss Sally held ALLY’s hand as she found the courage to tell her favorite contraction the hard news. “ALLY, you are a part of me. My name just won’t be the same without you. I’m so very sad that you won’t make it.” ALLY and Sally shared a hug, and the TVIs left the tent feeling accomplished.
They walked toward the main area of the camp and heard quite a raucous. Miss Karen wondered aloud “What could that be?” Miss Sally picked up a binocular and looked out toward the gate of the camp. “That’s the changing comp to composition and punctuation and indicators. They look restless. What should we do, Karen?” Miss Karen replied swiftly “Run!” They ran as fast as they could, but knew they would soon need to face the remaining changes. For the time being they had done enough. The end.
Thank you, Sharon. That’s a very clever story that summarizes most of the changes that are happening in UEB. If you followed that story you can see that UEB is not a total overhaul of the braille code; it’s just a few changes. This isn’t new to braille. Braille has changed over the year, several times. We discussed this – if you want to find out more about that – Hadley had a seminar in March called The Changing Braille Code: How Did We Get to UEB, and Why?
That had much more specific information on the exact changes that were happening in UEB and it told a lot about the history of braille and why these changes are being made. Just to summarize quickly the two biggest reasons for the change; number one is so all English speaking countries are now unified. Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and the United States; all of the English speaking countries will now be using the same braille code.
Secondly, one of the major things is that most braille is produced via computer. The Unified English Braille code allows a symbol. For every print symbol there is an equal symbol in braille code now. It makes it much easier for translation with a computer, there’s not as much confusion, especially with that back translation, the computer can figure out what the braille is trying to say. Those are the two biggest reasons for the change.
The Unified English Braille may be something that’s for you, and it may not be something that’s for you. You have to look at what you’re wanting to use braille for and then decide if it’s worth it for you to take a course, or take some lessons in the Unified English Braille. Great. If you decide you only have certain areas that you’re wanting to use your braille for and you don’t think you’ll encounter the UEB changes a whole lot with what you’re wanting to do; then maybe it’s not something for you.
But you can still use the braille you have. What we want to talk about today is how you can use the braille you have and remain literate. In one of the lessons I teach braille 3 & 4. One of the lessons is the person needed to tell me what they’re using their braille for. This student, Monica Sizemore, sent me this – she said I could share this with you. She says “I’m using braille for the elevator in my building, and other signs in my building.
I’m using it to read and keep track of my banking information and budgeting. I braille phone numbers, dates, and appointments. It’s useful for organization my personal belongings and food, or cooking and keeping track of ingredients when shopping. Also, just to read for myself. I’d really been missing that. I want to keep learning. Menus, and abacus and to finish the literacy courses.
I want to further my knowledge and increase my vocabulary. I want to be able to use braille for work, combining it with technology for personal use and for the workplace.” I think that’s a really great example of someone who’s really embracing braille and excited about what they can use it for. Monica is currently just in Braille Literacy 3. She is in uncontracted braille and she’s using it now for all of these things.
That just proves to everyone there is a use for it, even if you haven’t learned the Unified English Braille yet. Some other ideas for using the braille that you currently have might be; one thing I’ve heard over and over again is labeling, labeling, labeling. From CDs, to spices, food, appliances, medical equipment, and prescriptions especially, cleaning materials, and personal items in the bathroom so you know if you’re using the shampoo or the conditioner.
You can use braille in playing cards and games. A lot of people setup a braille calendar so they can keep track of their own appointments. Again, braille in elevators and signage in buildings so you can get around buildings independently. I will go over some courses that Hadley offers that incorporate braille. All of our independent living series use braille to some extent in personal management.
We have a course on managing personal finances, helping you use your braille to keep track of your financial information for yourself. That’s a big plus for a lot of people. Several of our recreation courses – including the container gardening – incorporate the use of braille. The technology courses are a great option for expanding your skill base. There are other options for learning braille. NFB offers some courses, the Perkin School for the Blind and Braille.org.
Sharon’s going to speak to the McDuffie Reader that some people have asked about. It’s another way for learning braille. I’m going to pass the mic to Sharon. While Sharon’s trying log out and log back in to fix that I’m going to go over some other ideas that some students had mentioned. They like being able to read without electricity – which is an interesting thing, or even reading with the lights of in the bedroom.
Taking notes while on the phone. Labeling print documents so you know what they are. You get all of this mail that’s come in and you have all your files and bills; they like to be able to label those documents and know hat all those papers are that are lying around their house. They like to be able to use braille in maps and tactile graphics. Soda machines, and ATMs. Hadley also offers a pen-pal group.
You sign up in the spring and it gives you the opportunity to use your reading and writing skills in braille. Susan Fisher is in charge of that program and in the spring she sends out an email to all Hadley students and if you express interest she pairs you with someone of similar skill and interest and then you can just send braille letters back and forth to each other at the level of braille that you’re at. That’s a really nice program, too. Be watching for that to come out in the spring.