In 1991, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) set up a project with the aim of creating one braille code which could be applied across all subject areas, except for Music Braille, which is already standardised internationally. In 1993, other English-speaking countries became interested in the project and it was internationalised under the auspices of the International Council on English Braille (ICEB). The outcome of this project was “Unified English Braille” (UEB); an English braille code that can be used throughout the English-speaking world.
English is a worldwide language which is constantly evolving: e.g. numbers and capital letters appear more frequently within words (text shorthand, tradenames, etc.), study materials are more visually diverse and web addresses often occur in news articles and information handouts. Braille is the most commonly used tactile method for representing the written word and must evolve so that it can remain the primary literacy tool for blind people.
In early 2004, ICEB met and agreed that the Unified English Braille Code was sufficiently complete for recognition as an international standard and advised member countries to adopt it as their national code. Since then, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Nigeria and South Africa have adopted UEB as their braille code. The UK and USA also recently adopted UEB (presently just the literary code had been adopted in the USA). This made Ireland the only English-speaking country which had not yet adopted UEB as its braille code.
Based on experiences in other countries, new braille learners have had very few problems with the new standard. The differences for the reader are manageable, however; for teachers and producers of braille, there are changes in terms of layout and some contractions. Braille readers who are already familiar with literary braille will have little trouble switching to UEB as there are no new contractions.