Frequently Asked Questions
Braille Code Change for the United States

Q. Where did the idea of braille code change come from?

A. The braille code has changed many times since its creation in the 19th century. Changes have been made to assist braille readers in better understanding the text being communicated and to allow the production of braille to become more efficient. In 1991, more than 20 years ago, Dr. Abraham Nemeth and Dr. Tim Cranmer presented a paper to BANA discussing the urgency of the need to unify the various braille codes used in North America. The development of the computer braille code in the late 80s had created yet another set of braille characters for common symbols such as the dollar sign, the period, and the comma. The desire to create a unified code was partially in response to the perceived complexity of having multiple symbols for the same meaning. Later that year, BANA initiated a project to act on the recommendations in the Nemeth/Cranmer memorandum; that project became international in 1993 when BANA invited participation by the International Council on English Braille (ICEB). This process led to the development of the Unified English Braille Code (UEBC), which became known as UEB (Unified English Braille).

Q. Would changing the braille codes bring any real improvements?

A. Making changes to the braille codes would help braille readers, braille transcribers and producers, and teachers of blind students in a number of ways. For example:

More accurate computer translation from print to braille and from braille to print would:

Q. How much would braille really change?

A. The literary code would be easily read by those familiar with the current braille code. The following list is not comprehensive, but is provided to give a general sense of how literary braille would change:

Q. Why can't we just modify existing code?

A. BANA has made small changes to the literary braille code from time to time. More and more, however, proposed changes would result in conflicts with existing codes.

Q. Would all the other codes we use now disappear?

A. No. The Nemeth code would still be available for use wherever it is needed. The music code and the International Phonetic Alphabet code would not be affected. Books and materials that have already been produced in older codes would still be available for readers who want them. Nothing would be removed from circulation in the near future.

Q. How hard would it be to change existing translation software?

A. UEB is already built into the Duxbury Braille Translation software and into popular refreshable braille devices, such as products from Freedom Scientific, HumanWare, and HIMS. It is also available for the Mountbatten Brailler. Individuals using iPhones or iPads with refreshable braille displays can use UEB now because it is available in the VoiceOver screen reader that comes with every computer or mobile device sold by Apple.

Q. Would all the old braille books still be usable?

A. Existing braille books would remain in libraries and still be quite readable.

Q. How long would the braille code change take?

A. A change to UEB would not happen overnight. Careful planning would be undertaken to determine the best ways to introduce teachers, transcribers, students, and general readers to the changes in the braille code. Full implementation would no doubt take many years.

Q. Where can I get more information about UEB?

A. More detailed information about the background of BANA's consideration of code change will be published over the next few weeks. Additionally, information about UEB can be found at