This audio podcast highlights Belinda Rudinger, a presenter at the 2015 TATN Assistive Technology Statewide Conference at Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston, TX.
Session Title (Wednesday AM): UEB, AT, and Me
Session Description (Wednesday AM): TVIs, transcribers, and administrators alike are apprehensive regarding the coming change from English braille, American Edition to Unified English braille. This presentation will cover the history of UEB, review code changes and philosophy, and describe how assistive technology and braille translation programs will be affected.
As Region 10’s VI Assistive Technology Consultant, she serves students and TVIs by helping them make the most out of the devices and software available.
Link to Podcast Interview
This audio podcast is an interview with Belinda Rudinger from the 2015 TATN Assistive Technology Statewide Conference at Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston, TX.
Ms. Rudginger is Region 10’s VI Assistive Technology Consultant and serves students and TVIs by helping them make the most out of the devices and software available.
Hello, and welcome to this podcast, I’m Thurman Nassoiy. This interview was recorded during the 2015 Texas Assistive Technology Network’s statewide conference at the Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston, TX.
Thurman Nassoiy (TN): This interview is with Belinda Rudinger. Did I get it?
Belinda Rudinger (BR): Yes.
TN: Alright, Good. Good afternoon. We’re so glad you’re here.
BR: Good afternoon. Thanks so much for having me.
TN: Um, I’m gonna go ahead and jump right in so that we can talk about the session you presented earlier today, right?
BR: Yes, first thing this morning.
TN: Oh, awesome. Good for you. You have to get those people awake that early! Your presentation is about the transition from English Braille American Edition to Unified English Braille. Can you tell our listeners basically what does this mean for readers, for producers of braille, to educators, about this transition? And how do they become proficient?
BR: Yes, my presentation is specifically focused on how it’s going to hit users of braille as far as their devices, what settings needs to be changes, what devices are ready which ones aren’t, how to make those changes, and then we also looked at braille translation software for either braillists producing braille for students or sometimes the teachers of the visually impaired are the ones producing that braille. So we went through some of the main ones and discussed who’s ready and what the changes look like. We also examined some passages just to kind of get an idea of the context because I think sometimes with everybody trying to learn so much about the new code there’s sometimes an emphasis on looking at what’s different and looking at the rule book, and things like that, which is good to know, we need those resources, but I think it will be more helpful and ease people’s concern a little bit more if they spend some time just with the new code in context because they will really see it’s not so different. What we hear from braille readers, for example high school students or adults who’ve been exposed to Unified English Braille without any instruction, they’re realizing it’s still very readable. They might notice some little differences, but it doesn’t render them illiterate. It’s not that big of a change.
TN: Would you equate it kind of to like a different dialect of Spanish? Maybe I know Spanish but if I go to a neighboring country they also speak Spanish, but things are slightly different, but I can still understand.
BR: That’s actually a very good analogy; I might steal it.
TN: Ok, I was shooting in the dark on that one.
BR: No, it’s very good actually because you know there’s about oh six big other countries where English is their language but you know it’s Australia, Canada, the U.K. and, as we all know, there’s little differences like Australia calls the period a full stop, we call it a period. There’s little differences like that so this push actually started back in the 1990’s by two pioneers in our field, Dr. Nemeth and Dr. Cranmer, who did significant work on the abacus and on braille math so they are very smart wise people and it was kind of a push to bring braille into our current technological age so that our computers can work better with it. There’s something called forward translation and backward translation which is basically working from print to braille using a computer. The way things have been it’s sort of been a patchwork where when something new happens, for example website addresses or email addresses, hashtags for Twitter and things like that; old braille didn’t have a way to do that and so it was piling new things on without really a system. So the new braille is more streamlined and it’s going to work better for those translation programs and for students using devices and it should get rid of some of that ambiguity. As far as it being like another dialect, it pulls together all of those big English speaking countries to where we are all using the same thing instead of it being Australian version or Canadian version, things like that so literally we’re all speaking the same dialect.
TN: That’s more what we need to do in order to be able to communicate. In terms of educators, where do they go to get training on this so they can be prepared for the full implementation in 2016?
BR: We are, all of the 20 service centers, are going to be offering webinars. They are monthly and if people go to the SLSBVI website or just contact their local VI representative at a service center they can get those dates. It’ll be one webinar a month pretty much and it will kind of be short and sweet and we will probably have a TVI and a transcriptionist discussing different issues, so that will be good. I also anticipate different regions will, you know, perhaps offer additional trainings. There is a good list of resources at the SLSBVI website. We have one at http://www.region10.org/ueb that just lists a lot of good resources and ways to train yourself because TVI’s are kind of used to having to do that, braillists also. One course I could recommend is called http://www.uebonline.org and it originated in Australia but it assumes you have no braille knowledge and so if you have any at all it goes through really quickly. It even reminds you of things you may have forgotten and it has a transcription section where you are going from print to braille and then back from braille to print and you can’t move forward in a module without getting everything correct. If you even get one word wrong it immediately tells you that you’ve made an error and you have to fix it. So it’s really a nice adaptive kind of program. You can use it on any computer and do six-key entry which means you can use SDF and JKL on your computer keyboard to approximate the way you would do braille on a Perkins braille writer. That’s a really good way, especially for people in rural areas who just want to get started themselves, that’s a great way to start.
TN: Ok, fantastic. Is there anything special that school administrators need to be doing now to prepare for the implementation?
BR: I think being aware of it is good. I think they may need to be prepared to update some software programs depending on how long it’s been since they’ve done an upgrade. One of the things I mentioned this morning is that Duxbury, you need to have Duxbury 11.2, so some people maybe have still been running 10.9 or 11.1, but you need to have 11.2. For Tiger software suite you need to have version 5 instead of version 4. Braille 2000 has a new version and you may or may not be able to upgrade for free, it depends on when you purchased it and what kind of package you purchased. There is one software package called Megadots that will not be updated for UEB. That’s something they’re going to need to think about and allow for in their budgets.
TN: Ok, that’s important. Is there any other information our listeners would need to know about this transition?
BR: I think there is some anxiety because the less you know about something the more ominous it seems and I think maybe people have the idea that it’s just really different but one thing I really encouraged people to do this morning is to experiment with whatever translation program they have, whatever device they have, if they have a student using a Braille Note, for example, or a Braille Sense Note Taker, experiment with the different settings and see the difference. And I’ve done thing like just putting in a favorite quote I always liked and seeing how it turns out between the two. I think we need to encourage our children by making it fun and playing around with it a little bit because, when you see it in context, you realize you can still read it, you may recognize something that looks different but it’s not so different, typically, that you just can’t understand what they’re trying to say. I think we just need to keep a calm positive attitude. Some people have suggested even in 2016, when it’s going to be implemented, that’s also a big birthday for Louis Braille who invented it, so some people talked about having a celebration because it’s kind of an exciting thing to be a part of. I mean the braille code does change often. It’s taken a bunch of smart people on committees long time to make these changes and get us to this point, and so I think that we need to celebrate getting to be a part of it. I recognize that we also need to be able to vent.
TN: Change is hard.
BR: Yeah, it is hard but I think there will be a lot of good things and I really think it’s going to future-proof the code because who knows what kind of symbols we’re going to need in 10 years. You look back at how much has changed even in 10 years now.
TN: I think with positive experts out there, like yourself, getting the message out and keeping light and positive and using it in context. I think all of those things will help make it easier for kids, teachers, and for school administrators.
BR: Most teachers don’t have a case load of 10 different braille students at all different levels. They may only have a handful and so just focus on what your kiddo needs. If you have a three-year old just learning, you can start out with them. If you have a high school senior getting ready to get out there, then experiment with whatever braille reading device he uses and see if that makes reading website easier and things like that. Just start with them where they are, but make sure you at least familiarize yourself with the changes and have some good resources. We’ve always had to do that. I mean we’ve always had our cheat sheets.
TN: It’s part of being a good educator.
BR: Exactly and it’s all changing so fast.
TN: Well thank you so much for coming to talk with us. I really appreciate it.
BR: Thank you so much.