A Nemeth-UEB Comparison

On November 2, 2012, the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) adopted the Unified English Braille (UEB) Code as a replacement for the Computer Braille Code and the English Braille American Edition (EBAE).  EBAE has historically been used in the United States as a way to convey literary content in braille for people who are blind.  This transition to UEB for was scheduled to take effect in January 2016 because Louis Braille, the inventor of the braille code, was born on January 4, 1809.

It is important to note that on November 2, 2012, BANA also voted to maintain the Nemeth Code in the United States for mathematics and science notation.  Nemeth Code was created by Dr. Abraham Nemeth, a college math professor who also happened to be blind.  Despite Dr. Nemeth’s aptitude for math and interest in what we now refer to as STEM fields, in college he was counseled to pursue a major in Psychology.  He received a Master’s degree in Psychology from Columbia University, but while looking for a job in that field, he continued to take math and physics classes in the evenings.  To overcome the barriers that resulted from a lack of accessible materials in math and science, Dr. Nemeth developed a code that he used for his own learning needs.

Since the November 2012 BANA vote regarding braille codes, individual states within the United States have been asked to develop plans for transitioning to UEB.  In the course of creating those plans, there have been ongoing discussions around whether to abandon Nemeth Code for math and science notation and convert all content over to UEB.  As a result of these discussions, Pearson hired Susan Osterhaus to develop and deliver a presentation about the differences between the Nemeth Code and UEB for math.

Susan is a renowned expert on best practices for teaching math to students who are blind or visually impaired. She has been teaching secondary mathematics for 37 years at the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Austin, Texas. She has a bachelor's degree in Mathematics, a master’s degree in Mathematics Education, and certifications in Secondary Math, English, and Teaching the Visually Impaired from the University of Texas at Austin. Susan has taught or consulted with VI students from Kindergarten through college.

Susan has refined teaching strategies related to math content to enhance the understanding of visually impaired students. She shares this level of experience freely with colleagues at TSBVI, throughout Texas, nationally, and internationally through presentations, workshops, videos, publications, and curriculum development. Susan developed and maintains a math homepage on the TSBVI Website, a resource through which she further shares her expertise in mathematics.

A recipient of numerous awards over the years, Susan was selected the 1998 Outstanding Teacher of Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired for the United States by the Principals of Schools for the Blind (POSB) in conjunction with the Council of Schools for the Blind (COSB). She was also appointed a member of the Mathematics Technical Committee (1998) and a consultant to the Tactile Graphics Technical Committee (2004) of the Braille Authority of North America (BANA) and continues to serve. She was the recipient of the JVIB Peer Reviewer of the Year Award for 2002. She received the Austin Silver Apple Award and was featured on KEYE TV on October 22, 2003. Susan was awarded the Julia L. Young award from TAER in 2004, in recognition of outstanding work with children who are blind or visually impaired in Texas. Susan helped organize the program and presented (in the Students with Special Needs Topic Study Group) for the 10th International Congress on Mathematical Education held in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 4-11, 2004. She also presented to a “standing room only” audience at HANDImatica in Bologna, Italy, on November 26, 2004. She was awarded the Council for Exceptional Children Division on Visual Impairments’ 2006 Teacher of the Year Award, for dedication, knowledge and skills in the field of visual impairments. She received the 2006 Association for the Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER) Education Curriculum Division’s Joyce May Ogburn Award, for dedication and excellence in educating children with visual impairments. However, her highest honor was bestowed when Susan was selected as the International Council for Exceptional Children Clarissa Hug 2007 Teacher of the Year, in recognition of outstanding special education teaching strategies, innovation, and ability to inspire children and youth with exceptionalities.

Susan’s presentation on the differences between Nemeth Code and UEB for math, demonstrates the differences between the two codes by walking through example problems.  It also includes a discussion of how each code may impact how blind students learn math, as well as the effects each code may have on the production of materials and software that blind students need for instruction and assessment.

A video of Susan’s presentation entitled, “A Comparison of Nemeth Code and UEB Math” has been posted on YouTube.

Braille files of the examples shown during the presentation entitled, “A comparison of Nemeth Code and UEB Math”

Powerpoint PDF

Word Reference PDF