Reversing thumb keys on the Braille display

Braille on Apple Products

Hi. I have just taken delivery of my new braille display from humanware. The first thing I always do when configuring my display is to reverse the thumb keys on the front of the display. This has worked well, except for as soon as I connect to my iPad or iPhone. The keys reset them sells to how they originally were, or at least that is how it seems. I have looked through all the Braille options I can think of, both under voice-over and under the display itself, but no luck. Can someone help? Thank you.



Submitted by Maldalain on Friday, March 5, 2021

I do not think this is possible on iOS. Reversing the thumb keys is a feature on the display system and can not be imported to VoiceOver.

Submitted by Jonathan Mosen on Friday, March 5, 2021

Hi Kerry, it's the first thing I do when using a new Braille display as well. It's a bit obscure doing it on one of the new HumanWare or APH displays that use the new HID standard, but it's doable.

A listener to my podcast, Mosen At Large, asked me about this a few weeks ago, so I recorded an audio walkthrough demonstrating how it's done. You can subscribe to Mosen At Large and look for episode 98. I segment the podcast by chapter, so if you use a podcast app that supports chapters, and most on iOS do, you can jump straight to the segment.

Or you can listen online at and look for episode 98.

Hope it helps.

Submitted by Kerry Fielding on Saturday, March 6, 2021

In reply to by Jonathan Mosen

Hi Jonathan. Thank you so much for this. I have listened to the podcast and it would seem that I did figure this out last night. However, while it resolves my problem when navigating apps etc, it doesn't resolve the issue when reading Kindle books as the outer thumb keys do not work and the inner thumb keys are not recognized at all in any app. I did try to reassign them but whenever I press them, i'm just asked to choose a key. so I think the person who commented above might well be right.  If we wish to read Kindle books at present, we simply have to use the keys as they are. Happy to be prooved wrong though. I'm running IOS 14c.

Hi Kerry, that's right, the inner thumb keys aren't programmable, but for my use case that's OK, because I always reprogramme the outer thumb keys to pan. So I have the extreme far left thumb key panning the display right, and that works beautifully in apps like Kindle or Apple Books.

Of course even if you do that, you will currently encounter the auto-scrolling bug introduced in iOS 14.4 that breaks reading books in these apps and that affects all displays.

I think as I may have mentioned in that podcast, we're dealing with an issue where Apple's current UI paradigm for Braille assumes that all Braille devices have a Perkins-style keyboard. That's a big thing to change, so fingers crossed for iOS 15.

Submitted by Kerry Fielding on Monday, March 8, 2021

Hi. I went back and tried again after resetting Braille commands and this time it worked thank goodness. Reading away like crazy now so that’s good. Just out of interest, and possibly slightly off topic for this thread, I seem to have issues when connecting to my brand-new iPad Air fourth generation. I connect, and it just sits there and says braille display. I end up having to reconnect devices pretty much all of the time. It’s currently running iOS 14.3 as I am not going to upgrade to 14.4 and I’m waiting for the issues with Kindle books to be fixed. My phone, on the other hand, connects like a dream. I’m wondering if I should simply remove my braille display from the iPad and start again. I know Jonathan you mentioned in your review of the new humanware braille display, that you experienced issues occasionally when connecting to Bluetooth.