Braille program recognised at United Nations - Royal Institute for Deaf & Blind Children

Braille program recognised at United Nations

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Photo of Trudy Smith, Greg Leigh and Josie Howse holding the certificate from The Zero Project recognising UEB Online

UEB Online, a world-first free, online collection of braille training programs available anywhere, anytime has received a Zero Project award. It recognises RIDBC’s significant contribution to breaking down barriers for people with a disability.

Developed by a team at RIDBC under the leadership of Dr Fran Gentle, the UEB Online website offers innovative and effective solutions which enable people with or without sight to learn braille.

A global impact

The award was presented in mid-February at The Zero Project Awards at the United Nations in Vienna. The ceremony was part of the annual Zero Project conference attended by 500 international guests.

An initiative of the Essl Foundation, The Zero Project’s founding principle is to “create a world without barriers,” based on the Articles of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

The conference offers a place where effective and innovation solutions can be shared worldwide.

The Zero Project award comes two years after UEB Online was recognised by the World Braille Council as an innovative approach to teaching braille in low income countries and rural and remote communities.

Accepting the award on behalf of RIDBC was key member of the UEB Online design team Josie Howse, who said, “I was excited and honoured to accept this award on behalf of RIDBC, an organisation I hold with deep respect.”

“It was an excellent opportunity for RIDBC to be present on the world stage, in an environment that captures the best representatives in accessibility internationally,” Josie said.

Photo of Josie Howse with officials from the Zero Project, including Herr Essl, founder of the Essl Foundation. Josie holding the 2020 Zero Project Award Certificate for UEB Online.

Fran Gentle, RIDBC lecturer and UEB Online team leader said, “Receiving this prestigious international award shines a light on our contribution to innovative practices in braille education in Australia, and abroad.”

Of the award ceremony Josie said, “It provided a greater awareness of braille and the increased and accessible opportunities for subscribers worldwide to learn braille in their local environment with ongoing support team when required.”

The award will have positive implications for UEB Online in the future and further promotes the program as a global solution in braille education that utilises recent developments in accessible, inclusive technologies.

Josie with Zero award in Vienna Photograph of the certificate from The Zero Project recognising UEB Online.

What is UEB Online?

In the simplest explanation, UEB Online enables people with or without sight to learn the Unified English Braille (UEB) code. But there is nothing simple about UEB Online or the recognition it is receiving globally.

The first of its kind, the global program has more than 18,500 subscribers from 197 countries.

Currently, the UEB Online website offers courses in UEB literacy, UEB introductory mathematics (primary school level) and UEB advanced mathematics (lower secondary level), with more to follow.

“Professionals and parents supporting children who are blind can access the UEB Online braille training programs from any location – all they need is a computer and internet access” Fran said.

Accessibility is key for UEB Online, as Fran explains, “By providing free, open access to the UEB Online website, any financial or geographical barriers to learning braille are minimised.”

Starting in 2013, the goal for the RIDBC team was to develop an online, self-paced and self-marking braille training program in Unified English Braille. Seven years later the program has exceeded its goal.

As Josie explains, “I am a passionate advocate for braille as the corner-stone of literacy for blind people and to have been given the opportunity to play a significant part – from the development of the content to the daily braille support to subscribers since 2014. It has been extremely satisfying.”

How have people benefited?

UEB Online aims to offer an innovative service to achieve the best outcomes for people learning braille, including educators and parents.

Kiribati is a country in the Pacific Ocean. The Head Teacher at the Kiribati School and Centre for Children with Special Needs is Marebu, who uses UEB Online.

“It’s fantastic and has taught me a lot. I can easily access it on my slow Internet connection here in Kiribati. I have learnt many new UEB skills and am sharing my knowledge with our other teachers here at the Special School” she said.

Marebu’s colleague Banga shares similar thoughts, “I have gained many skills and teach students and other teachers how to write and read it.”

The future of UEB Online

The UEB online program continues with momentum.The team feels encouraged to continue developing the braille training programs and resources” Fran said.

In the next few months UEB Extension Mathematics will be launched before the RIDBC design team focus on creating resources for STEM subjects of science, engineering and technology, something the team are excited to offer.

As far as braille education goes, these are exciting times for the design team and for the global myriad of users.

Learn braille online

UEB Online means learning braille is for everyone. To start your braille journey, visit the website by clicking here.

With thanks

With thanks to the RIDBC UEB Online Design Team (present and former members): Frances Gentle (Team Leader), Trudy Smith, Carla Silveira, Craig Cashmore, Tarna Cosgrove, Sonali Marathe, Josie Howse, Ben Clare, Tricia d’Apice, Jacqui Cashmore, Teresa Williamson, and Cathy Yu.

Development of the online braille programs was made possible by funding from RIDBC with financial assistance from several Australian foundations and charitable trusts.

We acknowledge with thanks the James N. Kirby Foundation, the Hargrove Foundation, the Baxter Family Foundation for Children, the JLDJS Foundation, the Skipper-Jacobs Charitable Trust, the Thomas Hare Investments Trust, the Duchen Family Foundation, and the Sibley Endowment.

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