Paths to Literacy

for students who are blind or visually impaired

UEB and Math: Where Are We Headed?

UEB and Math collage

The roll out of a new braille code known as the Unified English Braille code has caused a welcome resurgence in interest and training in braille for educators. There is a lot of excitement as we master the new rules and learn about these changes. This has been a very energized time for those interested in braille instruction.  
 
The field of visual impairments is a small one. In my home state of Texas there are just 10,000 students with a visual impairment from birth to age 22, out of a total school population of over 5 million. Within this group, a significant number of students are too young for reading, use vision for access to literacy, or have additional disabilities that include cognitive delays and they are (currently) non-readers.  This leaves a core of braille readers that currently numbers 374. (Annual Registration of Students with Visual Impairments in Texas, 2016)   I imagine that the numbers in other states are similar.  Adult braille readers are also making the transition to UEB.  There are some estimates on how many adults in the US read braille and again, the numbers are not large; typically fewer than 10% of the adult blind population read braille. (NFB: The Braille Literacy Crisis in America, 2009)
 
What is disconcerting is that within this tiny population of braille readers and educators, there is disagreement about how to braille science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) materials. This lack of agreement is creating a regrettably chaotic situation across the US.  In some states, the use of Nemeth Code will continue for STEM materials and UEB for other media. In others, students will be taught only UEB for all subject areas, including STEM and STEM topics. In some states, educational teams are making individual decisions about whether each student will use UEB or UEB and Nemeth.  
 
At the individual level, this may not be a concern - after all, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires individualized instructional plans, including learning media.  However, from even a slightly broader perspective, the confusion that will result from this patchwork of literacy modes is quickly evident:
 
  • The level of mobility in our country practically assures that we will have students who have to move between different systems as they go through their schooling.  Imagine that a student begins schooling in a Nemeth state, and then moves across state lines or even into another county and the math books are suddenly in UEB only. A few years later, the family moves again and the student finds STEM materials in a different code.  How will this impact that student's academic progress?
  • Ensuring that all braille instructors at all levels have competency in braille is an ongoing problem. Without a consistent method for writing STEM materials, every teacher will need to be taught and to master both codes.  This is in addition to foreign language codes, music code, computer code, tactile graphics, etc.  University programs have extremely limited time for teaching even the most basic skills needed by teachers of students with visual impairments.  The current STEM solutions only add to the challenge of providing quality personnel preparation.
  • Finding skilled transcribers is even now a difficult task, and becomes harder with each added layer of braille code expertise required.  
  • Preparing textbooks, instructional materials and statewide assessments in braille is a costly endeavor, and will be even more expensive as producers are required to prepare several versions of the same material in multiple braille modes. 

 

Students with visual impairments who reach higher education and want to pursue STEM topics will find that accessing graphic and online materials remains a challenge.  How will it impact their success and the university's ability to support their learning when instructors in STEM fields are also asked to produce materials for students coming with a variety of STEM braille skills?  
 
Those who propose using UEB only state that it is more consistent to stick with one code and less confusing; Nemeth proponents point to the complexity and length of UEB symbols versus clarity and economy of space in Nemeth.  In fact, it's even more complicated than this, as there are other codes used for math such as NUBS, LaTex and mathML.
 
I do not have the expertise to make the case for either UEB only or for UEB and Nemeth; what I do wonder at is our small and usually collegial field's inability to find a middle ground where we can agree on a common solution and then develop a consistent standard for learning.  The current situation is essentially a stalemate.  This is not going to serve our students who want to pursue higher education or STEM vocations, will increase training costs, could impact recruitment and retention of professionals to our field, and likely cause more confusion for adult readers. 
 
The challenge:  Are there leaders in our field who can work together to find common solutions? The blindness field needs to settle this issue in a way that helps the US make the leap into UEB as successful as predicted and ensures access to valid, consistent STEM braille materials for all ages and ability levels.  
 
 
Cyral Miller is a TVI and the Director of Outreach at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
 

 

 

Comments

As a faculty member in the

Posted by Don Winiecki

Blind students deserve quality and uniformity

Posted by Carlton Anne Co...

Response to Carlton

Posted by Tracy Fitch

Perspective from University Faculty

Posted by PennyR

Global view

Posted by Jen

A braille code that _best supports_ those who will use it...

Posted by Don Winiecki

...one more thing

Posted by Don Winiecki

Perspective from Transcriber & TVI Grad Student

Posted by thsthunder

The jobs of tomorrow

Posted by Jeff M Bowler

A Comparison of Nemeth Code and UEB Math

Posted by Susan Osterhaus

Nemeth Video

Posted by Charlotte Ovard

from the field note

Posted by demo_pdelfrari

Posted on March 30, 2016
Updated on: February 7, 2018

Previous comments for UEB and Math: Where Are We Headed?

Charlotte Ovard commented on March 19, 2018

Can not thank you enough for this video on Nemeth UEB comparison. I am a braille transcriber/translator and our state (Utah) has decided to promote both UEB Math and Nemeth braille. This very strange decision has caused me so much grief as far as how am I suppose to LABEL AND fit UEB math onto math graphics such as geometric figures? I am with you - Nemeth rocks. I will be sharing your video with the Vision Specialists who service our braille students. Again, THANK YOU!

demo_pdelfrari commented on December 2, 2017

I was pleased to find Cyril's piece.  I cannot comment in any thing like the depth of the other commentators .  For me, this blog was an alert that the introduction of UEB Braille - with the blanket statement that accompanied it, that all textbooks after 2016 would be produced in UEB Braille - represented this change over as an all or nothing deal.  The diverse modes of Braille are clearly more robust than this, the comments and video show this. 

Susan Osterhaus commented on May 17, 2016
We have a growing number of young blind adults who grew up with the Nemeth code and who are going into the STEM fields, and learning the Nemeth code was one of the springboards that allowed this to happen. Many of my former students are employed and are now my colleagues. I just reconnected with two of them at this week's AccessU at St Edward's University (our local accessibility conference version of CSUN). While at CSUN and again at this conference, we revealed the new Accessible Equation Editor (AEE) from Pearson which allows simultaneous input and output of both print math and Nemeth code. The sighted programmer who learned the Nemeth code and produced the initial AEE within six months had nothing but praise for Dr. Nemeth, who was a visionary and anticipated everything we would need in the 21st century - a man way ahead of his time. Two former students (one in high school and one in college) were hired as interns by Pearson to work on the project, and a third blind individual was hired by Pearson for quality assurance.
 
I have done a thorough comparison of UEB Technical items with those created in the Nemeth code. A third grade student attempting to do a simple spatial addition problem may have to learn how to read and create said problem three or more different ways - one with their teacher, a 2nd in their textbook, and a 3rd on their test because such variation is allowed in the UEB Technical manual. I have prepared a PowerPoint and Video illustrating my concerns, which can be accessed below:
 

So, rather than rambling on, I would ask you to take a little over an hour of your time and watch my video. Along with my own perspective as both a math teacher and a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI), you will hear from a blind computer science major, a blind chemist, a blind and a sighted programmer, a mother, lawyer, and TVI, and the chair of the BANA board.
 
If you are blind yourself, please download and emboss the attached braille file before you watch the video.  You should not use it on a braille device allowing only one line of refreshable braille, since some of the items are spatially arranged, and it is best that you have the hard-copy braille to compare the two different braille versions side by side.
Jeff M Bowler commented on April 29, 2016

Our world is becoming increasingly complex and it is suggested that the future of our economy will rely on essential STEM job skills. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment in the collective occupations related to STEM—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics—is projected to grow to more than 9 million as we approach 2022. Of these occupations, some of the highest-employment, fastest-growth occupations include computer systems analysts, applications software developers, and systems software developers. The future jobs in STEM revolve around use of the computer. I agree with Don W. that we need to consider which code systems are best transcribed digitally with software. Perhaps software developers should be integrally involved in a discussion as to which code is more conducive to digital machine transcription via software and transcriber device. If Nemeth Code works and has worked efficiently for a majority of VI students, then I would also suggest that there would need to be some strong reasons to revert to another code. As LeeAndra stated, consideration of staying consistent with what our VI students use and are used to using should not to be taken lightly. Access to STEM is more than just access to numerical code, but it is access to literary code, access to computers, and in my opinion, access to real-life experiential learning.

thsthunder commented on April 27, 2016

Throughout this last year, this has been a hot topic in my state and seems to be in many other states. Ever since I started transcribing for my district (about 3 years ago), I was taught that we needed to follow BANA guidelines and rules as much as possible so our students would be familiar with high standard quality braille material that was universal that would follow them throughout their life. 

I can understand that we may not want to follow the world in how they do things, but it seems that by not even being universal as a country we are putting our students at risk at being limited at what they can do after High School and beyond. For example: Will they need to choose a professional career path that will allow them to use the Nemeth code because that is what they used in school and how they learned all their STEM material? Will they HAVE to go to Universities that use their preferred code? Will our students be graduating from High School with these limitations? 

These are my additional concerns I would like to add to this discussion. -LeeAndra

cyralm commented on April 10, 2016

Thank you so much for your comments, Don.  The importance of people with multiple perspectives coming together as we (hopefully) resolve the issues in the current "choose your code" era, cannot be overstated.  

Don Winiecki commented on April 9, 2016

Again an apology for what probably appears to be assertiveness in a world that really could use more compassion...

A fifth item for consideration is:

5. In a world where the generation of knowledge and ideas is accelerating asymptotically, _and_ where this content is increasingly rendered first -- and sometimes only -- digitally, we have to consider which code systems will best tolerate transcription by machine. We already have software that will transcribe text to braille (albeit with sometimes questionable efficacy), but we should not shy from the idea that eventually, machine transcription may (or will) be the principal means for rendering content in braille.

Many of us know the uncanny unreliability of translation software for interpreting languages that are foreign to us. We can use this experience in our favor.

The braille code system that allows machine transcription into one and only one (or very, very few) braille expression, and then back-transcription into print, without losing or changing meaning, is perhaps to be favored. We are only holding back our selves and the braille community if we don't consider this aspect when we adopt and support a braille system for maths and science.

This is not just something that should concern those who write the transcription software. We want a code system that does not allow for multiple ways of communicating the same maths and/or science or programming expressions. From what I have learned and what I have attempted, both UEB-maths and Nemeth could use some work in this regard.

I am a sociologist in a College of Engineering and I work with and participate in research with scientists and engineers of all kinds. When it comes to science and engineering, they ca talk among themselves with a high degree of fluency. I cannot imagine why we would want to have a braille system that does not afford the exact same thing.

I'll be quiet now...

Best wishes,

_don

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Don Winiecki, Ed.D., Ph.D.
Professor
Boise State University, College of Engineering
Dept of Organizational Performance & Workplace Learning (OPWL)
1910 University Drive, Mail Stop 2070
Boise, Idaho 83725-2070 USA
E-mail: dwiniecki@boisestate.edu
WWW: http://opwl.boisestate.edu
Telephone: (+01) 208 426 1899
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~d

Don Winiecki commented on April 9, 2016

I apologize in advance for what may come off as pontificating in the following. I don't mean to close off avenues for discussion. Instead, I wish to identify factors and begin to sort them into relevant and not-so-relevant piles. My goal here is to help us move toward a decision on what is in fact important to those who will use maths and science in day-to-day life _and_ in their careers -- to focus on outcomes and not on processes -- so that we can move beyond this debate and begin working to support those who will use these codes across all of the uses of those codes.

Others have commented that the U.S. is (for the present) the principal location in the world for students to go when pursuing a graduate education in science and engineering (but not necessarily maths)*. Those who make this observation indicate that we should adopt the code system that best supports research and development in such fields of study. (*This should not be read to dismiss the substantive contributions and impact of universities in, for example (alphabetically) England, China, Germany, India, South Korea, and other current and emerging centers for STEM work.)

While I do not believe we should ignore what the rest of the world is doing with their braille codes, what I note above is not the same as saying we should join the other UEB countries.

Several other things that go beyond what has been mentioned in this thread so far:

1. People who are fluent at maths and science (and music) concepts are quick to learn code systems. For this reason, I don't know that we should use ease-of-learning-the-code as our principal argument.

2. Maths and science are not *just* code systems. The essence of maths and science is its set of concepts, and relationships, and (principally) a _way of thinking_. The codes that are used to represent concepts in maths, statistics, chemistry, physics, biology, computer sciences and other sciences are only shortcuts to those concepts and relationships, and provide a means for manipulating the relationships that make those concepts relevant, in ways that can be archived, referenced and communicated to others. This suggests that we should use a code system that best provides for encoding, manipulating and communicating those concepts for people who work with those concepts.

3. A substantial amount of modern science is communicated in English (formerly Latin, then French and German). Students in countries that do not natively speak English, _learn_ English (and often write and speak it better than native speakers) so they can consume and use this research. The first outlet for research conducted in countries that do not natively use English is still often in English language journals; the world of maths and science is already accustomed to reading, using and writing its resources in a code system (visual or tactile) that is different from that which they use natively.

4. Maths and science that is represented visually, _always_ uses the same code system -- there is no `English periodic table of elements`, or `English multiplication tables`, or `English calculus notation`, or `English computer programming languages` -- there are only THE Periodic Table, Multiplication Tables, Calculus, Computer Programming Languages, etc.

All of this points to the idea that we should be focusing on the needs of those who will use the code system to do their work as members _and co-builders_ of a global society, as opposed to members of different inwardly-focused enclaves in a Babel-esque world.

Pax

Jen commented on April 9, 2016

Perhaps we need to take a global view since we are becoming a global society and as ones future job might impact or be in another English speaking country. As none of the other Engligh speaking countries have kept the Nemeth code and since they have been using UEB for awhile perhaps we should follow their lead for uniformity. Especially, as I stated above, ones future job might require him/her to move to another country or provide work in that country. We don't want to limit our US students job competitiveness. In other words let's be less US centered & look outwards to be more global centered with our decision.

PennyR commented on April 4, 2016
I am a faculty member at The University of Arizona and over the last 16 years have taught our Braille 2 course more than 20 times to both on campus and distance students.  Up until this spring I had always taught Nemeth code and my university students had to work hard to master the basics of this code among other things we cover in the course (e.g., continued building of literary braille skills, learning to prepare tactile graphics, learning to compute using an abacus).  This year I have added UEB for STEM material into the course and a lecture comparing EBAE and UEB. Without having EBAE knowledge these future TVIs cannot prepare Nemeth materials nor understand the available Nemeth resources they have access to.  
 
I have found this to be a very difficult semester for my graduate students and myself as we work to cram even more material into the same 15 weeks.  The graduate students have difficulty going between the codes as they  just learned the alphabet at the end of August.  (Me, their instructor, also has difficulty going between codes and I have been using braille for more than 30 years!) They are new to braille and working to build their own understanding and fluency; the more codes added the more challenging this becomes.  As I watch them struggle, I continually think of the child or adult who is a braille reader and is not gifted, just your "average" individual.  This individual needs to work diligently to master STEM content.  With the issues Cyral and others identify, all that energy spent having to learn two codes potentially across one's schooling and lifetime seems to me to be counterproductive to the energy that should be spent on learning STEM content.
 
I don't have a solution.  In my own way I have worked to support others including:
  1. Bringing individuals in the state of Arizona together in 2015 to try to develop a state plan.
  2. Setting up a statewide web site at http://www.azueb.coe.arizona.edu/.
  3. Setting up a listserv for university instructors of braille courses.
  4. Setting up a shared Dropbox for university instructors of braille courses.
 
The United States is a large and diverse nation; one of the things that make us the wonderful country that we are. But when it comes to this topic, our largeness and diversity are putting current and future braille readers at a disadvantage.  Let's find a solution that is going to assure the braille readers of today and tomorrow have materials they can access with speed and understanding.
Tracy Fitch commented on March 31, 2016

I am a Teacher of the Visually Impaired and I agree with Carlton's statements. After the switch to UEB, it was my understanding as a TVI that UEB would replace the literary Braille code currently used and that we would continue to utilize the Nemeth code. As someone who teaches both codes, I believe Nemeth should not be gotten rid of. The efficiency and detail that the use of the Nemeth code provides is invaluable. I did not realize that some states were doing it differently. I hope that a consensus is made on a national level.

I will say in response to the issue you had, Carlton, with your daughters math book this school year is an issue I had myself. I'm currently working with a gifted Braille student, whose gifted math book is still arriving in parts at the near end of the school year. I understand your frustration, as myself, the math teacher and my students parent were also frustrated. But, the reason this happened is because most likely they had not had to transcribe the gifted book before. So, when your TVI ordered the book, it had to be a special order request and then the Braille transcribers started the book. I don't have to tell you, since you are also a TVI about the lengthy process of transcribing Braille, especially Nemeth textbooks. I was not this students teacher last year, but I was told the book was ordered in the spring. Our instructional materials center requests we order Braille textbooks for the following year in March. But, even though the gifted book was ordered, and they probably started it right away, we only had the table of contents the first week of school and by the time we got actual content, the class was past that point. We remedied the situation by ordering a textbook a grade higher for the teacher to use. This textbook came right away as it was already transcribed and on the IMC's shelf. I also went ahead and ordered the textbooks the student will need for math the following year back in December to insure that we receive them on time. I just thought that might help you when planning for your daughter in the future.

Also, I was so excited to hear that you also strive to teach students with intellectual disabilities Braille! I also have been a proponent for this for years and presented on the subject at our vision educators statewide training a couple of years ago. I unfortunately get a lot of push back from other TVIs about this subject, but it is something that I fight for. I've also seen the success and had a student that I taught from first grade through 9th grade that had a borderline mild/moderate intellectual disabilty. Her visual diagnosis was SOD. It took many years of consistent and repetitive instructing, but when I left her she was reading and writing on a first grade level. I also taught her how to interpret graphics and use an abacus. I currently using the same strategies with other students. I always told myself that if I got my doctorate that I'd focus on this area. It's just so refreshing and encouraging to hear from someone else who feels the same way!

Thanks for sharing!

Carlton Anne Co... commented on March 30, 2016

Cyral makes many good points. The need for unity in our Braille code usage throughout the United States is paramount, as I noted in my article, “A Cry for Unity in Creating Textbooks for the Blind” at: https://nfb.org/images/nfb/publications/fr/fr35/1/fr350109.htm.

As noted in that article, blind students will need to move due to family circumstances, and teachers of blind students should not be forced to keep up with two math and science codes--one for their locality and one for move-ins. Moreover, two codes will only hamper the timely provision of textbooks for blind students due to the need to produce all materials in both codes.

This school year, my daughter spent more than half of her Honors Algebra 2 class without any textbook. Unlike her sighted peers (who had textbooks from day one), my daughter had to muddle through without one. My daughter is bright and is good in mathematics, so she survived—but not everyone can. Luckily, there was no question about UEB with this textbook (which was ordered in the summer of 2015). Now with the UEB controversy and duplication of math and science codes, imagine how much later her Honors Algebra 2 book would have arrived—if it had arrived at all.

Based upon my research, a total of twenty-five states, including textbook leaders California and Texas, are utilizing UEB and in conjunction with Nemeth Code, thereby following the clear and unequivocal language of the BANA (Braille Authority of North America) motion to adopt UEB found at: http://www.brailleauthority.org/ueb/UEBpassed.html), which states in a pertinent part, “Therefore, it is moved that the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) adopts Unified English Braille to replace the current English Braille American Edition in the United States while maintaining the Nemeth Code for Mathematics and Science Notation, 1972 Revision…” In other words, half of the states, and those representing the vast majority of students, are simply inserting UEB where EBAE used to be. This is a reasoned approach that would best serve all stakeholders: students, educators, universities, and employers.

Despite this clear mandate to retain Nemeth Code, some have determined that Nemeth Code should be extinguished:
The first argument is that UEB maths (the term used in all UEB countries) will make our students more marketable for foreign jobs. Unfortunately, this argument ignores not only the need for uniformity within this country; it fails to consider the comparative strength of American blind students in the STEM fields. If UEB maths is so wonderful, why aren’t we seeing a plethora of blind students in undergraduate and graduate STEM fields from all UEB countries? Nemeth users are taking and succeeding in higher-level math and science courses at all levels. Professionals in the field use Nemeth—because it is a robust, elegant code built FOR mathematics. UEB maths was an add-on to a literary code—UEB.
Next, proponents of the “All UEB” approach argue, “Well, Nemeth might be better for higher-level math, but UEB is easier for beginners.” UEB is NOT easier for beginners or students with additional disabilities. In almost all cases, UEB maths requires MORE cells to convey the same amount of information. The math problem ”one plus two,” needs four cells in Nemeth Code; it needs eight cells in UEB—twice as many. For young students, having to keep up with eight cells of information to understand the problem is inefficient and demotivating. For students with learning disabilities and intellectual disabilities, the cognitive load of keeping so many extra pieces of information in the working memory can be difficult or impossible. For students with orthopedic impairments and/or motor control issues, longer passages are more difficult to read. I have taught several students with multiple impairments, including intellectual disabilities. These students learned and thrived on Nemeth Code. Dropped numbers are easier for them because there is no risk of mistaking the number for a letter. I am confident that the added cognitive load and physical endurance required to use UEB maths would have stifled their learning. Based upon my knowledge of Nemeth Code, of UEB maths, and of blind students with and without additional disabilities, I can confidently state that, for every student, Nemeth Code is a more efficient and useful math code to learn and to use.
The last claim is punctilious but pervasive: UEB includes some mathematical symbols and is a complete code, so UEB must be wholly adopted, even if it means abandoning the original intent (and language) of the motion to adopt UEB in the first place. This legalistic approach is unworthy of comment. If, indeed, UEB cannot be adopted without abandoning Nemeth, then the 2012 motion adopting UEB is self-contradictory and would therefore need to be stricken. At that point, we are back to EBAE and Nemeth, and all the hard work that has gone into transitioning to UEB would be for naught. Make no mistake, an “All UEB” approach would not pass in BANA. Major stakeholders, including the blind individuals who t actually use the codes, know the significant limitations and failures of UEB maths. While literary UEB has beneficial components, they certainly do not outweigh the negative impact of UEB maths.

Thus, let us abide by the motion to adopt UEB and retain Nemeth Code. Let us ensure that all blind students have access to a robust and efficient mathematics code by using UEB in literary contexts and Nemeth Code, supported by UEB, in technical contexts. Let us stop the arguing and go about producing quality materials by certified transcribers and teaching students the content they need to succeed—no matter where they live or might move.

I am the parent of a blind child, a certified teacher of students with blindness/visual impairments, and multiple impairments, and an attorney. I currently serve as Manager of Braille Education Programs for the National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute.

Don Winiecki commented on March 30, 2016

As a faculty member in the College of Engineering at Boise State University (BSU), I have substantive interest in the very issue Cyral mentions here. My job is to help students who come to my courses to progress toward their educational and professional goals, whatever those goals might be.

Those goals necessary orient to a point _after_ graduation from university. Helping them succeed means that I have to be attentive to the skills, knowledge and orientations that will be of value in professional life.

For students who are not visually-impaired, the same symbol systems are used in maths and science throughout the world -- a student in Poland, South Korea or Boise will all read and write the same maths and science notation. It is arguable that this is one of the things that has made maths and science universal, and which has facilitated the movement of its concepts, and thus its influence, virtually everywhere in the world.

For students who are visually-impaired, the same cannot be said. Maths and science braille notation are different in Poland, South Korea, and Boise -- and even though a student may be in the U.S., there is no guarantee that he or she will read and write the same maths and science notion from state to state, or even county to county.

This is not a good thing for visually-impaired students with goals for a career in maths and science, or an interest in those things. It is also not a good thing for the world of maths and science.

At this point, professionals in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) who happen to be visually impaired are most likely to be fluent in Nemeth braille code if only because -- in the U.S. -- Nemeth code has been in use for longer than UEB-maths. It is the case that debates over UEB-maths and Nemeth code consider that as an issue, but the fact is that for visually-impaired individuals in the U.S., professional work in STEM careers currently involves Nemeth code braille. (This is different in other UEB countries, where Nemeth code has never been in common use.)

Arguments for UEB-maths include the possibility that it is easier to learn, though like all research in education, we have not enough evidence and what evidence we have is not necessarily conclusive.

NOTE that I am not saying that we have to continue with Nemeth -- nor am I advocating for UEB-maths. These are simply facts.

If we desire to support visually-impaired students toward achievement of success in STEM careers -- or even to provide for common techno-scientific literacy through the population -- some decisions have to be made. These decisions will be played out in the creation of trade materials for everyone and instructional materials for students at every level so they have the chance to learn content using the symbol-systems that will be in common _at the point where they will apply what they have learned in careers_.

At the most fundamental points, these decisions should reduce impediments to students and professionals -- making it harder than it has to be will only exert a force that discourages visually-impaired students and professionals from their goals and can lead to a loss for everyone.

No matter which way this goes -- and right now it is mostly a decision between UEB-maths and Nemeth -- the path will be bumpy. We stabilize the symbol systems for content in use from pre-K to post-graduate studies, and in turn help organizations decide where they have to put their energies so that capable professionals can succeed. All of this will involve advocacy toward policy and legal requirements so that resources can be focused toward the goals we set.

This focuses on the needs of students, teachers, and professionals, but will require the coordinated participation of everyone from researchers to authors to transcribers, to publishers, and even the researchers who are working toward machine translation of text to braille.

This is a systemic issue that vibrates through the entire community of braille readers, with impacts that go well beyond that community.

Having one language and one symbol system for maths and science is an issue that is bigger than any of us, but it requires all of us to be willing to engage, debate and even compromise our ideals for the benefit of everyone.

How can I help get to a resolution? How can you?

(Fair notice -- I am not an engineer, though I do have a technical background in drafting, technical writing, technical illustration and lots of stuff that requires maths and science. About 25 years ago I took a different direction in my own education and career. I am now an ethnographic sociologist who studies technology (in all its manifestations) in social systems. In the BSU College of Engineering, I teach research courses that focus on (a) people in socio-techical systems and (b) how to identify and help resolve systemic organizational problems. I also do a substantial amount of computer programming in my work, and collaborate with faculty in our Computer Science department on many types of projects.)