UBA Press
June 29, 2012


In a move that shocked even veteran BANA watchers, UBA Press has learned that the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) appears to have attacked a teacher of blind children in a letter delivered to the Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB) dated February 26, 2012. In the letter, BANA accuses a Texas teacher of the blind of delivering inaccurate and untimely information in the form of a circular to her teaching colleagues around the country. The letter is signed by three key BANA members, one braille reader and two who are not braille readers.

UBA Press has reviewed the allegedly incorrect information and finds it not to be outdated or inaccurate as claimed by BANA. In addition, the data was carefully reviewed by a knowledgeable third party to be completely certain about its accuracy.

The Texas math teacher, Maylene Bird of the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, has become increasingly concerned about the likely harmful effects to her students with the potential adoption of the Unified English Braille code (UEB). “I am deeply concerned that this proposed code will make it much harder for my braille reading students to achieve their true potential in math and science,” says Bird.

Recently, she distributed information in the form of a circular that compares the proposed UEB code to the currently-used Nemeth code for the presentation of mathematics. The comparison demonstrates clearly the greatly increased number of braille characters necessary to present material in UEB when compared to currently used braille in the United States.

For example, one quite simple equation can be displayed today with ten braille cells. With UEB, seventeen cells are necessary. In another example showing a simple subscript problem with an identifier, the current code requires 12 braille cells while UEB requires 23. The concern here is that all these extra dots and cells likely places excessive load in a student’s mind on reading the braille rather than learning the math. For a print and braille version of the circulated material, go here.

In a move that could be construed to damage her credibility with her superiors and colleagues, BANA struck out by accusing her of distributing material that was ten years out-of-date. However, Bird states that this circular was developed using the 2010 rules and symbol set for UEB. Further, BANA provides no evidence or examples in their letter showing errors in the circulated material. Again, UBA Press has carefully investigated the circular and finds no errors such as those claimed by BANA.

UBA Press contacted the Chairperson of BANA, Frances Mary D’Andrea, to ask for BANA’s explanation of the situation. She indicated that BANA had responded to a request from a person she named who is well-respected in the braille community in sending the letter. However, the BANA letter mentions no such request and has every indication of being unsolicited. In an email exchange on the subject of the BANA letter, the person she referenced made no mention of such a request when asked about it.

“I’m quite surprised by this action,” said veteran BANA watcher and former member, Chris Gray. “I may have my quarrels regarding UEB,” he continued, “but I don’t recall BANA’S ever directly or personally attacking an educator of blind kids or a braille transcriber in a public letter. It’s a sad day, really!”

UBA Press will continue to follow up and report on this story. The BANA letter contains twelve specific points for consideration related to the possible adoption of UEB. We will be analyzing each point in upcoming articles and posts on the Unified Braille For All website.

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Copyright (c) 2012 Unified Braille for All