Australia leading the way in braille eLearning

10/05/16
Julian and Michelle are using UEB Online to support their son, Charlie, who has significant vision loss

Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) will officially launch the accessible version of the world’s first eLearning braille course, UEB Online at the 2016 Round Table Conference on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities on Monday 16th May.

The UEB Online Accessible program builds on the initial launch of UEB Online, a training program for sighted people to learn Unified English Braille (UEB). The UEB Online Accessible program provides braille eLearning access to children and adults who are blind or have low vision.

UEB Online is leading the way in using technology to promote braille literacy both in Australia, and internationally. Learning the Unified English Braille (UEB) code has never been easier with this accessible online platform - all you need is your computer and an internet connection.

“The accessible version of UEB Online offers the same course material, instant feedback and online nature using a standard computer and keyboard for exercise completion,” said the program’s developer, Craig Cashmore of PeppaCode Pty Ltd. “Accessible technology has been incorporated into the design of the UEB Online Accessible program, enabling access to the course material using screen readers like NVDA and JAWS, along with refreshable Braille Displays for 'feeling the Braille' as it is entered.”

UEB Online Accessible has been enhanced to include an audible way of presenting lesson and exercise content, allowing people with vision impairment to complete the same course material as presented in UEB Online for sighted learners.

“A braille learner who is blind or vision impaired now has the choice of hearing the exercises read to them, sentence by sentence, word by word, or character by character, or may choose to convert the exercises from print content into Braille via a refreshable braille display. Learners receive instant spoken feedback of any errors they may have introduced, allowing them to correct and continue the exercise. At the end of each exercise they are notified of their 100% accuracy completion,” said Craig.

Braille is fundamental to the development of language and literacy for people who are blind.

“Research shows that children who are blind and learning braille have better employment outcomes as adults. Withholding braille from a child with significant vision loss would be like saying to a sighted child that they don’t need to read print anymore and that they should only learn by listening,” said UEB Online project leader and RIDBC Lecturer Dr Frances Gentle.

The UEB Online program has also been accessed by the international braille community.

“We anticipate a similar uptake of UEB Online Accessible by children and adults who are blind or vision impaired,” said Dr Gentle. “The Unified English Braille code has been officially adopted by seven countries – Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Canada, South Africa, Nigeria and the UK, however 5% of UEB Online’s participants come from more than 50 countries, many of them in the developing world.”

“This demonstrates the demand for braille eLearning programs and the scarcity of braille teachers in many developing countries. In our region; for example, only seven out of 16 Pacific Island countries have established braille teaching and production capacity.”

UEB Online Accessible works with a variety of accessible technologies including screen readers, screen magnifiers and refreshable Braille displays, each allowing use by a visually impaired learner.

“UEB Online and UEB Online Accessible offers children with vision loss and their families, teachers and classmates the opportunity to learn braille. For many braille learners, they can go to school for the first time,” said Dr Gentle.

Children, families and professionals wanting to access UEB Online or UEB Online Accessible should visit www.uebonline.org or http://accessible.uebonline.org. Registration for both programs is free.

RIDBC is a charity and Australia’s largest non-government provider of therapy, education and cochlear implant services for people with hearing or vision loss, supporting thousands of adults, children and their families, each year.

RIDBC relies heavily on fundraising and community support to be able to continue to make a difference in people's lives.