Last week, I attended a briefing on the relatively new Unified English Braille code. I’d read many a document on this before, but it was good to have the opportunity to go and discuss this with others and to look at the rationale behind the change in the english braille code.

To give some background, for years and years, the various braille codes has differences throughout the English speaking world. American varied from British, mathmatic codes varied from other scientific codes. In short, there was a desire to simplify evrything into virtually one code. Well, after much discussion, debate, consultation and more debate, changes started to occur throughout the english speaking world and here in the UK, the change over was set for 2015 (with some variations depending on Braille producers/transcribers).

Now any changes are going to cause some constination and the roll out of the Unified English Braille code is no exception. In order to mitigate against any revolts, consultations did take place to ask the opinions of Braille readers throughout the United Kingdom. Sadly, there was an extremely small response to this which voted against the introduction of the Unified English Braille code. However, in 2011, the United Kindom organisation for Alternative Formats, took the decision to go ahead with the introduction of the new code.

Although the changes in the code are small and the rationale behind the changes do make sense, the concept of trying to fix something that wasn’t broken does resonate amongst many Braillists; especially amongst those I spoke with last week. There is especially a sense of bewilderment in how Braille is being made to incorporate many print conventions into its structure (for instance signs to denote bold and emphasised text). However, counter arguing this, as many people are now using multiple formats, the need for transferability between the two is becoming more important; especially in schools where learning all conventions is important.

The debate, no doubt, will continue. What is important to remember though is that Braille in whatever form it takes, should never be allowed to lose any further relevance or importance. Over the years, the arguments against it and the missunderstanding of many individuals and organisations have really made the accessing of this great format more difficult to obtain. Braille brings information into a more personal, self-respecting and secure environment. Lets face it, there would be a huge revolt if we took away print and insisted that everyone had their personal information read to them wouldn’t there?