American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
Future Reflections Fall 2015 BRAILLE
by Sally Martin
(a.k.a the teacher formerly known as dot 6 S dot 6 Y)
From the Editor: Sally Martin is a teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) and an orientation and mobility instructor in Chandler, Arizona. After attending a workshop on the United English Braille code (UEB), which will go into effect in January 2016, she realized that many teachers and transcribers are highly anxious about the ensuing changes. She wrote this piece as a playful way to address people's fears, and last May it went viral on the blindness listservs. Unfortunately, if you don't know Braille, this story won't make much sense. The humor is, to say the least, esoteric.
(This story is dedicated to Jason Vo and Cameron Knotts.)
Miss Sally and Miss Karen walked out over the grounds of the Braille apocalypse. They scanned the area and saw nine green tents. "Those must be the tents where the contractions that are no longer usable are going to die," Miss Karen surmised.
They scanned the field and saw AND, OF, THE, FOR, and WITH looking lost. AND kept trying to hug WITH, but WITH was shouting, "We can't do this anymore!"
Miss Karen and Miss Sally knew that they would need to talk to the "strongman" contractions. Miss Karen put on her stern teacher face and told them they could no longer snuggle together. AND protested, "I've been cuddly my whole existence! It isn't fair!"
Miss Sally patted AND on the dots and said, "We know. This change is hard. It will be difficult at first, but we will all get used to it."
AND pouted but stood alone. THE, FOR, and WITH seemed near tears but stood strong and alone.
"We'll still be close to other letters when we're used in words," THE said.
"It isn't the same!" AND lamented.
"It will have to do," said THE with finality in his tone.
"Let's leave them for a bit and look in on the tents," Miss Sally suggested.
"I suppose we should," Miss Karen said as she led the way.
BLE was in the first tent. A thermometer hung from his mouth. He saw the TVIs and immediately began his delirious rant. "I'm not that easily confused with the number indicator! I'm not bad for the reader! I'm not! I want to be part of UEB!! It can't end like this!"
Miss Karen and Miss Sally exchanged a knowing glance. "We are so sorry, BLE. You will become a zombie contraction," Miss Sally said, delivering the grave news.
"What does that even mean?" BLE asked in a panicky tone.
"It means you will continue to be read in old Braille, but we won't use you when we write new Braille. It isn't really death, but you aren't really alive anymore, either," Miss Karen explained in a calm voice.
"Will I eat brains?" BLE asked.
Miss Karen and Miss Sally laughed and thought to themselves that the change would kind of eat the brains of the transcribers who were new to UEB. However, the readers would be just fine.
"No, you won't eat brains," Miss Sally answered. "You'll get used to being a zomie, though. Try to think of it as being retired instead of being dead. You'll have way less work to do." BLE seemed calm as the TVIs left to go to the next tent.
The next tent held the first of the "cling-ons." Little TO was in his cot, looking rather pathetic. "I know, I know, there's probably no saving me. I was never all that great at saving space, anyway," he said with resignation.
Miss Karen replied, "You were everywhere. Sure, you weren't saving that much space, but you did a lot of good work. We'll still see you in old Braille, but when we write new, we will have to spell you out as T-O." The TVIs left and headed to the next tent.
BY was waiting in the next tent. Like TO, he seemed to know his days were numbered. "The best thing I can do is accept my fate and hope I don't scare any little readers when they see me doing a zombified cling-on move in old Braille texts." He sighed, but he looked accepting.
Miss Karen and Miss Sally gave him a big hug and thanked him for his selfless dedication to little readers. "Don't worry, we'll explain to the kids that all you zombies were heroes. You've all sacrificed yourselves in hopes to create better Braille for everyone."
The next tent was shaking. INTO seemed restless and frightened. "I don't know what to think! On the one hand, my IN lives on. On the other hand, we all know TO doesn't make it. What's to become of me?" He shook as he asked.
The TVIs knew they had some explaining to do. Miss Sally used her most comforting voice and said, "The word INTO will still have the IN contraction, but the TO will be spelled out. Also, there will be no more clinging."
INTO let out a huge sob and whined, "Clinging was my favorite part of my job. I'm a snuggly type. This will be awful!"
Miss Karen attempted to cheer him up and explained, "You'll still cling and snuggle in the old texts, but you'll have to follow the space rules going forward."
INTO conceded, "I suppose we have to follow the space rules. As much as I like snuggling, I love Braille readers more than anything, so we will just have to put them first." The TVIs were grateful and said good-bye, feeling like the contractions were being really great sports.
In the next tent the TVIs found COM hiding under his blanket. "COM, we need to talk to you. Things are changing. We know you're scared, but let us explain. You were getting confused with the hyphen, and the new Braille is going to eliminate some of that confusion."
COM popped his head out and pleaded, "The readers have always figured me out."
Miss Sally agreed. "They usually did, but there are also issues with back translation. We thought about it long and hard, and this is what is best for our future. We surely do appreciate your service, and we'll be sure to tell kids how well you served us all." COM seemed to accept his fate.
DD popped his head out of the tent as the TVIs walked up. "Don't come in. I already know I can't carry on because I look too much like punctuation. Obviously the period beat me out. He's everywhere! Everywhere!" DD zipped his tent closed, and the TVIs decided to move right along.
At ATION's tent there was a thudding sound. As the TVIs went in, they realized ATION was trying desperately to raise her dot 6. Miss Sally intervened and explained that the dot 6 could not be changed. It was too confusing to have what looked like a capital indicator in the middle of a word.
ATION stopped her thumping and looked defeated. Miss Karen offered further words of comfort, explaining that back translating was difficult when a symbol meant two different things. ATION asked how often that was even an issue. Miss Karen explained that technology was becoming a primary means to produce and read Braille. ATION let the TVIs tuck her into bed.
The weary teachers walked over to the O'CLOCK tent. O'CLOCK was packing a bag with sunscreen and shorts. The TVIs asked what O'CLOCK was doing.
"I'm not crying over less work," O'CLOCK replied. "I'm out of here; I'm heading to Florida. I'm not sad that my work is done!"
The TVIs chuckled and wished him well.
Before she entered the last tent, Miss Sally looked like she was going to cry. Miss Karen patted her on the back and said, "I know this one is going to be hard for you."
They walked in and found ALLY weeping. Miss Sally held ALLY's hand as she found the courage to tell her favorite contraction the hard news. "ALLY, you are a part of me. My name just won't be the same without you. I'm so very sad that you won't make it."
ALLY and Miss Sally shared a hug, and the TVIs left the tent, feeling they had accomplished their task.
They walked toward the main area of the camp and heard quite a ruckus. Miss Karen wondered aloud, "What could that be?"
Miss Sally picked up a monocular and looked out toward the gate of the camp. "That's the changes to composition and punctuation and indicators. They look restless. What should we do, Karen?"
Miss Karen replied swiftly, "RUN!"
They ran as fast as they could but knew they would soon need to face the remaining changes. For the time being, they had done enough!