Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Nemeth and UEB Technical (But Were Afraid to Ask)


Presented at 8:00am in Denver 4-6 on Thursday, November 9, 2023.



  • Neil Soiffer, Talking Cat Software

Session Details

  • Length of Session: 2-hr
  • Format: Lab
  • Expertise Level: All Levels
  • Type of session: General Conference


The Nemeth and Unified English Braille (UEB) Technical braille codes for mathematics are black boxes to many who assist students in STEM courses. This talk will open the box and show the basics of Nemeth and UEB in a fun, informative, and interactive manner so that everyone comes away understanding the basics. This talk is aimed at sighted people who don’t know Nemeth and/or UEB Technical braille. Braille readers who want a refresher on Nemeth or UEB technical braille may also find the talk helpful.


This lab is aimed at Disability Student Office professionals and others who provide braille accommodations for STEM courses but for whom those accommodations are a black box, especially when it comes to braille for math. By opening the black box, professionals who help students with accommodations in STEM courses will have a better understanding of what it is the student needs and why one solution may be better or worse than another.

The lab covers the basics of braille, and then adds on the basics of representing mathematical notation in braille. It does this by showing both Nemeth and UEB technical braille codes, the two standards for representing mathematics in braille in the United States. By introducing the notation used for fractions, radicals, and subscripts/superscripts in both standards at the same time, attendees can appreciate the differences between the two approaches to encoding mathematics in braille.

The lab assumes the attendee knows little to no braille and the talk only assumes that attendees are familiar with mathematical notation to the extent that they recognize fractions, radicals, subscripts, and superscripts (they don’t need to know what they mean). The lab will make use of a web page that allows easy entry of math and displays the braille dots or ASCII braille characters used by Nemeth and UEB to represent that math. Those with a refreshable braille display will be able to feel the dots, but the focus for the majority of attendees is on visual recognition of dot patterns and the relationship of those patterns to fractions, roots, etc. Attendees will be able to tweak the math expression and see how the changes affect the Nemeth and UEB output.


  1. Braille for STEM does not need to be a black box
  2. The rules and the dot patterns used for Nemeth and UEB Technical are very different, but have some commonality
  3. Learning braille math is like visiting a foreign country -- it is not hard to learn enough to get around

Disability Areas


Topic Areas

Alternate Format, Assistive Technology, Other, Uncategorized

Speaker Bio(s)

Neil Soiffer

Neil Soiffer is a principal architect of MathML, the standard for putting math on the web. He was the main developer of MathPlayer, which is used with NVDA to make math accessible in Web, Word, and PowerPoint documents. He has published numerous papers on math accessibility and is a member of various standards groups concerned with accessibility on the Web and elsewhere. He currently chairs the W3C Math Working Group that is working on greater browser support for MathML along with updating the MathML standard. He received a B.S. in Math from MIT and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from UC Berkeley. He has worked at Tektronix's Computer Research Lab, Wolfram Research (Mathematica), Design Science (MathType, MathPlayer), and has now formed his own accessibility company, Talking Cat Software where he been focused on the open source MathCAT (Mathematics Capable Assistive Technology) project.