Why My iPhone Has Convinced Me to Start Learning UEB


I’m a millennial. I love how the rapidly changing pace of technology allows us access to so much information. I usually have no qualms about jumping right in when a new, potentially revolutionary service comes out. For instance, I can’t wait to get my hands on an iPhone SE so I can try out Apple Pay, if only to say that I’ve tried it and to understand why Apple hyped it up when they announced it. However, as humans, we generally only like so much change. One change I’ve been averse to is the adoption of UEB in North America.

I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s learning Braille like anyone else, and while I’m not the fastest Braille reader, I used it all through school so it’s what I know. So when I heard about UEB being adopted in the U.S., my knee jerk reaction was “don’t take my grade 2 away!” I didn’t see how the new rules and changes would benefit me.

A change of heart

That was until I started using Braille screen input on the iPhone a lot. I use it for nearly all of my text input on my iPhone, in many cases preferring it to dictation or the stock iOS keyboard. Most of the time I don’t think about it; I just rotor to Braille screen input and start typing.

As I do more and more email and web surfing on my iPhone though, I’m finding little things that get in my way when using the standard contracted Braille code. Typing websites is something where I’ve typically use the regular keyboard because of the way certain symbols get translated. Trying to type .com would translate as 4com, putting me into a Google search because that’s what the phone thinks I’m trying to do.

UEB will also be good for entering passwords. I’m sure most of us have been with another VoiceOver user who’s been signing into something, and you can almost guess what their password is because they have to find the right character on the stock iOS keyboard before entering it. Since UEB is designed to remove ambiguity, it should make entering passwords a lot easier.

That could be really cool. Any resources to help with making the switch?

I’m sure there are a lot more resources for learning UEb than I know of, but I’ve been using this Overview of changes on the Braille Authority of North America website. They also have a learning resources page.


Getting used to something different can be a challenge, particularly when it’s something you’ve been using all your life. I’m sure some of the removed contractions and changes in punctuation will take some time to get acclimated to. Old habits die hard, as they say. But with more and more of my online activities being done on my iPhone, the adjustment from a reading standpoint may be worth the trade off.

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Submitted by Becca on Sunday, March 27, 2016

Hello. I totally agree ! I hated you EB when first learning it. I think it should be fine though. Great post.

Submitted by Mike Malarsie on Sunday, March 27, 2016

So I'm still working on getting grade 1 down so I'm not dealing with this quite yet. I have been blind for a few years but I've recently decided to really put in the time to practice and it's going slow but well.
I'm going to pester you guys when I get to this next giant and seemingly impossible step! Great post!

Submitted by Brian Giles on Sunday, March 27, 2016

In reply to by Mike Malarsie

Good on you Mike. I think in some ways you'll have a bit of an easier time learning contracted Braille in UEB than those of us who have been using grade 2 forever. It'll be weird getting used to reading with some of the new rules, but reading up on why some of the changes were made does make it make more sense. I'm going to do some more playing with the Braille display and see how I like that.
Good to see another contributer from Utah here. :)

Submitted by Ken Downey on Sunday, March 27, 2016

So I just looked at the overview for UEB for the first time. A big part of me is like, really, taking away the spacing between certain words, getting rid of some of my most beloved contractions, and making me learn all these symbols? I'm going to college twice a week, and that's enough learning... Except that typing passwords and email addresses, (can't use that double d contraction any more,,) but it's starting already to seem worth it. I can just imagine a time when I'm comfortable enough with it to use it all the time, but that time is not quite yet. In the meantime, I'll have to keep putting, then deleting, spaces in emaeaemail addresses. Heck, the more I think about it, the more I am thinking I'll just go ahead and make the switch now. No time like the present I guess' lol.

Submitted by Morgan Watkins on Sunday, March 27, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Thank you! I am also a lifelong user of Grade 2 Braille, but almost certainly ought to look at making the big leap to UEB. Thanks for a pointer in the right direction.

Best wishes,


Submitted by Earle on Sunday, March 27, 2016

This article has really got me thinking. I just might have to break down and learn UEB. I'm so tired of using braille screen input and switching back to the regular keyboard just to enter an at sign. I have found no other way to enter an at sign when using BSI.

Submitted by Jeff Crouch on Sunday, March 27, 2016

I really enjoyed reading your article.
Here's a resource that might help. It's on the braille audio reading download service provided by the national Library service. The book is called The ABCs of UEB: a guide for the transition from English Braille American Edition (EBAE) to the rules of Unified English Braille (UEB) BRE00095. if you have a braille display and you pair with your iPhone you should be able to read it. I hope this helps.

Submitted by Brian Giles on Sunday, March 27, 2016

Earl, that's one of the things that inspired me to write this entry. Once you've got UEB set up in your VO Braille settings, you rotor to BSI and start typing an email address as normal. When you want to insert the @ sign, press dot 4 followed by dot 1, and then finish typing the email address, using dots 256 for the period just like in grade 2.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Sunday, March 27, 2016

That book is already available from the Braille Authority of Noarth America.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Sunday, March 27, 2016

I haven't heard a single person, after learning UEB and using it for a long time effectively, say that UEB is a bad thing, and that they wish to go back to pre-Unified braille.

Submitted by jrjolley (not verified) on Monday, March 28, 2016

You read right. I literally decided to learn UEB because I was so loving the BSI input mode. I am so much better at entering text with it that I've decided to sell my Mac and go IOS exclusively. I've enjoyed the transition and I doubt it would ever have been possible without UEB. I'm writing this comment on my just purchased iPad pro in BSI and absolutely love it.

How did you manage to pull that off? Sometimes I wish I could go all iOS because that's what I use most of the time. I wonder if I could quite get there yet, though. How would you write all your documents (I don't think Pages is as full-featured as it is on OS X)? Also, though I don't do it often, you can't plug a thumb drive into your iPad, and what about playing audio that you don't want as part of your iTunes library? I have VLC on the Mac for that, but don't know if you could do the same on iOS.
I've also dabbled a bit in Garage Band, but am pretty sure you cant' do everything with the iOS versiopn of that. I don't do that much, though.
But if I could get away with it, I'd be tempted to buy an iPhone dock and a bluetooth keyboard and sell my MBP.

Submitted by Mike Malarsie on Monday, March 28, 2016

Ok so I know people have put some resources in the other comments and I'm going through them but so far much of it has left me mainly confused. I'm kinda dumb.
I'm a braille newb. I understand grade 1 but I still read it like a first grader. My question is where can I find or what should I do to start getting a handle on the contractions and everything else that's involved here. I looked at Hadley but I didn't find a course that sounded what I was looking for. If there are any other resources you all know of that would be good for a novice I'd really appreciate it! I'm reading the rules of UEB but again, not understanding contractions in the first place makes it hard to understand.
Thanks for any help!

Submitted by MelodicFate on Monday, March 28, 2016

Like the author of this post, I was very hesitant to start learning UEB. I figured that since it worked for so long, why change things? And then I realized. Using UEB would mean no more switching to the regular iOS keyboard to type the @ symbol or write out email addresses. So, I've started downloading all my Bookshare titles in UEB. I've got the ABC's of UEB book. Now, I don't claim to love everything about it, I still think eliminating contractions will make things bigger. Also, putting spaces between words will do the same. But I understand the spacing thing, they want to make it more like print. I'm just not sure that in actual hardcopy form, it will be the same size as the regular Grade II code.
All this is to say, I've started learning it. I like the new symbols for parentheses. I like that we can now write an @ symbol with braille screen input. So...I'm learning it. Thanks to iOS.

Submitted by Greg Wocher on Monday, March 28, 2016

Hello all,
I am now 40. I did not lose my eyesight till I was 27. When I first lost my eyesight I learned grade 1 and grade 2 braille. However I have not kept up with it like I wish I had, them braille displays are expensive. LOL. One of my issues is trying to remember all the punctuation symbols. Not having a braille display makes learning all the punctuation marks a bit difficult to learn. Do any of the resources out there have a table or something with information like the . is dots 256?

Greg Wocher

Submitted by riyu12345 (not verified) on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Isn't the at sign dot four? My braillle setting is set to unified english braille, or something like that and at is dot four for me. Perhaps it's because I'm in the UK?

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

If you know uncontracted braille, it might be useful to wait until the end of the week where Hadley will be re-launching their course for beginners teaching contracted braille. They had to take down some of their courses for beginners to redesign them for UEB.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

You could benefit from the new Hadley course teaching uncontracted braille (see my above comment for details). Alternatively, I think that some organisations like National Braille Press, Braille Authority of North America, etc. provide basic braille charts and symbols lists, but I am not sure how many of them are in print for sighted people and thus would be completely worthless for you.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

In UEB, the symbol for the at sign is dot 4 followed by dot 1. It is generally better to enter the correct symbol rather than just using the dot 4 as that would not be accepted in other circumstances, and if you were writing it for someone else to read, they would be confused at what you were trying to say. Another reason for using both dots is because if you wrote something like dot 4 followed by c, e, j, l, s, etc. the symbol would be misrepresented. If you have your braille input settings set for something other than UEB, you would not be able to enter an at symbol directly. However, if you use UEB, you can enter the symbol as you would see it in braille output.

Submitted by Darrell Bowles on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

My hole problem with UEB, is how is it that a group of people can just sit at a desk and decide to make changes to a system that has been around for over 200 years. Learning Grade 2 for some of us was hard enough. I spent almost 8 years learning both grades one and 2, because I had a huge problem with braille reversals. I do not know how many articles I have seen on the lack of braille literacy, and yet here is this new code we are required to learn, because it's all of a sudden the standard?Wich brings me to my last question. How many people on the board for the braille authority of North AMerica, actually know braille? It is not that UEB may not have a place, but sometimes I wonder just what goes through the minds of people who just decide to make such changes.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Actually, braille has changed several times over the last 200 years. I have noticed that from reading the comments here that it seems that people who have lost their vision later in life are the ones most loudly objecting to UEB. No-one here who has learned the code is objecting to it.

In answer to your last question, all of the people on the BANA board and the boards of all of the other countries and the International Council on English Braille know braille. In fact, nearly all of them are blind people and use braille every day.

Submitted by gailisaiah on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Hi all, I agree with Darryl. I learned braille early in life in the late 1960's. I don't understand why the change but I'm sure there must be a reason. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. I have a book about all the changes and hopefully this "old dog" will be able to re-learn eventually But until I'm forced to, guess I'm set in my ways. Just my thoughts.

Submitted by Greg Wocher on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

There are many reasons for the change. One is that nearly all of the english speaking countries have moved to UEB. Another reason is that UEB more closely represents what sighted people see in print thus making traslation from UEB to prin and vice versa much easier. Also UEB eliminates the need for computer braille. Everything you needed computer braille for can now be done in UEB. UEB has actually got me interested again in trying to get more profficient with braille. I am also really excited by the new ELBraille that will be hopefully coming out this fall.

Greg Wocher

Submitted by OldBear on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I don't have any computer braille output devices, but use a braille writer to write down notes and some of my mail and information are in braille (still grade 2). Looking at those changes at the link above, it doesn't seem too bad, and most of them I can completely understand because I've had trouble with writing down passwords and things like that.

My ability to read Braille, or even focus on tactile detail, for extended lengths of time got messed up by a medication a long time back It's a lot better now, but still a little wonky and slows me down when reading. Maybe I should fool around with the braille input on my iPhone in place of the keyboard, one of these days.

Submitted by Darrell Bowles on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

I have been blind since birth, and again, while there may be benefits, it still concerns me. The united states should not be changing it's code just because the European Union does. Are we not an independent country? I will for the sake of experimenting, give the password thing a try. I guess my main concern with this, is that eventually, grade 2 will not be the way to go. As I stated in my other post, I grew up on grade 2 braille, and had to spend many hours in tutoring to learn contractions that were very similar. I'll play with it, but I can't promise adoption.

Submitted by Shersey on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

We're not changing over just because Europe did it first.
Some reasons for UEB:
1. UEB is trying to make things easier for English-speaking countries to all use the same Braille code. You don't have U.S. print, British print, Australian print, etc. You just have regular print for all these countries. The same with Braille.
2. UEB will make it easier to share published works from one English-speaking country to another.
3. UEB will make it easier for translators translating print to Braille. The way UEB is formulated, readers will have a better sense of how text is in the original print document--for years, blind people have been missing out on whether something is italisized, bolded, underlined, etc. UEB puts us on a more equal playing field.
4. UEB will make translation errors less prevalent.

I understand why UEB has been adopted by the BANA. It may be difficult at first, but I'm sure we'll all get used to it over time. I haven't made the switch yet, but I plan to, eventually. I have a book published by NBP, I think, on the changes from BANA Braille to UEB. I seriously need to find that thing again and read through it again. The thing that I really have a hard time remembering is how to write the new parentheses.


Submitted by Jake on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

In reply to the idea that the US shouldn't change its code because others have: if that were the only reason I'd agree with you. However, speaking as someone who's had a lot of experience in Braille reading and translation both to and from Braille, I can understand fully why the change. Consider, in English grade II, how many punctuation symbols have identical dot patterns to many of the contractions. Then, consider the problems that poses for back-translating Braille to English text. Why does that matter to us in this thread, right now? Because, what do you think that Braille screen input is doing? And unlike translation software, which can take the entire text and analyze it to figure out which dot pattern is likely to mean what (and still often get it wrong, by the way) the most BSI has to work with is one word. That's nowhere near enough context. So, let's take a password, which should include numbers. What's that number sign supposed to be? A number sign or the BLE contraction? This is the primary reason for the change, not the fact that other countries have done it. They were just a little faster to see the obvious than we were, that's all.

Submitted by Jake on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Going iOS only is possible, but only if you don't need to access a lot of traditional peripherals in the traditional way. I know of no way, for example, to copy files to a full-sized SD card. Micro SD, on the other hand, can be done with various external add-ons. You have to analyze your own situation and decide for yourself. There are even iPad compatible thumb drives now, with a USB connector on one end and a Lightning on the other.
However, unlike the previous poster, I'd never be able to go BSI only. For short things on the iPhone, sure. But if I'm typing out something good and long on my iPad, you won't catch me without my Magic Keyboard. I type much, much faster than I Braille even though I grew up learning Braille first.

Submitted by Jake on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

IMHO, Braille is dying for two reasons. The inefficiency of hard-copy Braille, and the outrageous price of refreshable Braille displays. Braille books simply take up too much space. I went to electronic books in school, when possible, because I got so tired of being told I'd need page 75when I asked before class, and then being told that I need page 150 as well after class started. I never had the right volume available, and there was no way I could carry all 20 of them.
As for the cost of Braille displays, here's hoping that the Orbit Reader 20 will be the beginning of the end for that problem. If so, we may see a revival of Braille use rather than a further decline.

Submitted by Brian Giles on Tuesday, March 29, 2016

In reply to by Jake

Ah. I would probably get a magic keyboard too if I did go iOS only, but how would you do things like spell check a document? That is pretty easy to do on OS X.

Submitted by JeffB on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

UEB should never be forced on anyone. If people want to learn it I do not have a problem with that. It's the whole UEB or nothing thing that pissis me off. You wouldn't change print like that so why change Braille. The changes make no sence and are only being made so computers can translate Brille better. It may be a visual world but I do not think we should be forced into it. I will use US Braille untill I die!

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

If you choose to stay with pre-unified braille, you will be fairly unable to read anything that you are given that is in UEB.

Here are four examples.

1. You get a flyer in the mail.
2. You decide to go on vacation and find something in braille in the place where you are vacationing that is interesting to you.
3. Your bank sends you your banking information in braille.
4. You buy an assistive technology product (perhaps even a braille device) and the instructions are in UEB.

Submitted by Jake on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Realistically, the differences between UEB and Grade 2 at the literary level aren't anything that'll trip people up. There aren't any new contractions, and the basic literary symbols are unchanged. Some contractions are gone, but that should in no way make someone unable to read it. The differences are in the advanced punctuation, mathematics, and accented characters.

I generally don't spell check, so I can't answer. I can hear misspellings when I read and, when I'm typing a word that I know I'm uncertain of, I'll use the iOS spell check/auto-correct to get the proper spelling. Good question though, and I'll investigate it.

Submitted by OldBear on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

There's a whole bunch of physical grade 2 literature, books and pamphlets etc, that will be around for a very long time, so knowledge of both will be useful. It is the people who only know UEB who will probably have the frustrations.

Submitted by JeffB on Wednesday, March 30, 2016

And no one else sees a problem with this? I have a right to read braille how I wish. Because of this UEB stuff if I have a blind child I think I'll start crying and never stop because this UEB stuff is dumbed down Braille. Not to mention math is going to be impossible. I think it's time I've made a pattition against this.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Thursday, March 31, 2016

This comment is specifically aimed at Jeff for his comment two posts above.

No-one is forcing you to learn braille. If you want to keep reading pre-unified braille, that is your right, and that will remain your right. However, the worldwide consensus is that UEB is overall better.

You also talk about math being "impossible". Why is this so? People in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Nigeria and New Zealand who do math find that UEB is very useful. Compared to pre-unified braille, there was so much code switching involved in United States braille. If you use UEB math, many signs are transferrable from literary braille to mathematics braille. Allow me to illustrate this with an example. Imagine the purely literary sentence "I bought an iTunes gift card for $100". Now imagine this math problem from a school textbook: "The value of a $100 iTunes gift card is reduced by 27% at Christmas time. What is the cost of the iTunes gift card after this price reduction?" In UEB, both the numbers and the dollar signs are written the same way. There is no need to be familiar with a new code.

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Thursday, March 31, 2016

So like many, I grew up reading Grade 2 braille. I am, I must admit,a bit daunted by the prospect of relearning a large portion of what I know of braille to conform to new standards. My question, then, is where can I find braille cheat sheets? All of the online resources are nice, but using a screenreader to read about UEB braille doesn't cut it. I need braille references before the signs start making sense. Any idea where I can find such? Thanks.

Submitted by Bingo Little on Friday, April 1, 2016

@barrelBowles European Union? We need to carify something here: first, the last country to change to UEB was the UK, which for the moment is in the European Union. We followed you, not vice versa. Secondly, this has nothing to do with the vast majority of Europe who, after all, don't have English as their official language. Really we're only talking about the UK and Ireland, and perhaps Maltar for those who don't use Maltese as their first language. I was resistant to the change myself initially, but I am liking UEB now. It really helps if you want to produce professional-looking print documents in Braille. Bold, underlining and so on are all possible relatively painlessly. In addition, I really like the fact that I can type in another language without changing to computer Braille or to another code. I posted something on the Facebook page of a Belgian friend of mine in French the other day, and UEB made that a breeze. I know the learning curve is a bit steaper in the US, particularly with maths, but I do think it's worth it.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Friday, April 1, 2016

BANA is offering a free 46-page braille publication called The UEB Reader. To obtain it, send an email to them. It contains 25 pages of information on the changes between pre-unified braille and UEB. There are also sample documents in UEB.

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Friday, April 1, 2016

In early 2012, I saw a document emanating from the UK in UEB. However, the United States did not adopt the code until November 2012.

Submitted by Clare Page on Friday, April 1, 2016

Hi! I read this thread with interest, as a newbie when it comes to Unified English Braille: I've only discovered it recently, in braille magazines which I get from the UK, as I live in France and don't read up-to-date English braille publications much. I haven't found transitioning to reading UEB that difficult: it's true that some contractions are gone, and some symbols have changed, and that's taking some getting used to for me, but I can understand the reasons UEB was adopted and I wouldn't refuse to read it. However, as I'm so new to it, I don't yet have the confidence to write in UEB: I still use grade 2 UK braille, both on my faithful old perkins brailler and on Braille Screen Input in IOS. It was surprising to me to read above that some American BSI users felt they had to switch to UEB to be able to braille the "at" sign: I'm not familiar with pre-UEB US braille, so I don't know what the American "at" sign used to be, but I found that in the uK braille table on IOS I could type the "at" sign by double-tapping dot 4, and that's worked fine for me since I discovered it. Admittedly, I only tend to use BSI for Twitter and for text messaging, as I tend to be alone when I enter passwords on my iPhone and emails and web browsing are usually done on my PC, but right now I feel happier using the old UK braille, although I'll never say never when it comes to writing UEB in the future, however unlikely that seems for me now as most of my brailling is done just for myself. The only symbol for which I have to switch to the standard keyboard in IOS during brailling is the "for" sign, which uses all six dots, but that's purely because I haven't mastered the trick of brailling all six dots at once in BSI: I'd still have that problem if I started using UEB, as it's a BSI problem for me, not one specific to any braille table.

Submitted by Bingo Little on Friday, April 1, 2016

I stand corrected up to a point. UEB was technically adopted by the UK in October 2011, but the implementation over here has been phased. I have only seen documents from, for example, banks and so forth produced in UEB since late last year. I am not sure on what date the USA decided officially to implement UEB< so they might have been after us, but technical adoption happens a while before you actually see it. I still stand by my point about the European Union though. This has nothing whatsoever to do with the european Union. much as that organisation extends its tentacles into all sorts of other things that don't concern it, the Eurocrats have not yet discovered the joys of UEB. Believe me, had they done so, you'd have regulations on dot firmness, paper size, paper thickness, safe postures in which to write UEB, and so on. You guys in the USA have no idea what fun and larks you are missing not being part of the EU! Such fun and larks that President Obama is making a pspecial trip here next month to beg and plead with the good old British public that we vote to remain in the EU on 23rd June. If I catch up wit hhim on his tour i will be sure to ask him if he would like the USA to join it! Seriously, the UK implemented UEB (and I am in no doubt at all about this) after Australia, new Zealand, South Africa, Canada and Nigeria did. I'm not sure where the republic of Ireland is on this one, but I'm guessing they have implemented it too. I'm also curious about the channel Islands and Gibraltar: as the crown's dependent territories do they decide what to do with their own Braille, or do we decide for them? And what if the Cornish are successful in getting the UK government to recognise Cornish as an official language in England? All jolly interesting stuff when one has a day off and not much to do, as is my current state.

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Friday, April 1, 2016

Thanks @Tjt2001 for that information. I shall go do that immediately.

Submitted by JeffB on Friday, April 1, 2016

Don't you think if you saw something like that about print changeing the country would be up in arms? Just why! Why mess up everything and make life more diffacult than it needs to be. UEB's gotts to go. Gots to go!

Submitted by OldBear on Friday, April 1, 2016

MLA standards, for example, have changed many times since I was in college back in the Nineties, including acceptable fonts and spacing. There are also arguments starting about whether or not to teach cursive writing in schools. Left handed students were forced to learn to write right handed cursive in some cases in the past.
Some things stick and others don't; UEB doesn't seem that bad to me, looking at the changes. I'm a bit more worried that a given program or even operating system I might use will be suddenly and completely reworked and no longer be accessible. LOL

Submitted by TJT 2001 on Friday, April 1, 2016

Prior to the United States' adoption of the Unified English Braille Code, BANA published a lengthy article detailing their reasons for doing this. To people who are not convinced, perhaps you should read or re-read this article. The article is available in PDF and BRF formats from the following link. Note that the BRF files are in EBAE.


Submitted by TJT 2001 on Friday, April 1, 2016

BANA has just updated their UEB page on their website with many more resources that you should take a look at.

Submitted by Bingo Little on Saturday, April 2, 2016

That was a very interesting article from the BANA website actually. It does indeed confirm that the USA was last to implement UEB, and also that countries such as Ireland are not members of ICEB so all my speculations were pointless. It makes my point about back translation very well though.