Best and smallest Braille display?

Braille on Apple Products


I'm in the market for a small brail display for my iPhone, mainly I want it to be able to read kindle books but obviously there are many other delights that most come with now. I did look at the Freedom Scientific 14 cell blue one, but I read on here that it's a bit delicate. Really I want something rugged I can throw in my bag or pocket just to pop out when I want a quick read. My budget is around the £900 mark, I do realise that may not get me much but any experience or advice you lot have would be greatly received.




Submitted by Sean Terry on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hi, I have the Refreshabraille 18 from APH. It is very small, compact and lite waight. Here in the US it's about 17 or 1800 dollars. I know that is a bit out of your price range, but, I have found it to be quite usefull. The need thing is that you can either use it like a normal braille display with the braille cosest to your and the keys at the top, or you can with a key command make the braille flip around then you can turn the device 160 DG, and have the braille keys be the thing closest to you.

Submitted by Brian Giles on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

There's also the new beatle display from hims coming out sometime soon. They say it'll be around US $1295, the same price as a focus 14.
I don't find the focus display delicate at all. Yeah it's plastic, but it is well made. I have the 40 cell version because I thought I'd be using it more with my computer, and I found the keyboard on the 14 to be a bit cramped. I like how the humanware displays are aluminum, but the smallest they go is 32, and I didn't like the nevigation keys on them. I went iwth the flcus because I like the multiple navigation options. You can accomplish many things in iOS either from the braille keyboard, or using the buttons on the front. Not everyone likes that, though.
I would suggest if at all possible you find a dealer you can visit and look at different options. I did that and it was really helpful. You could also see if a dealer might let you test drive a display for a week or so. That way you would really be able to see if it'll work for you. You can read spec sheets and reviews online all day, but it's not the same as actually trying it out.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Thanks so much for the responses. Unfortunately I can't find where either the refreshabraille or the varioultra are available in the uk. I know sometimes names are changed due to copyright.

The vario does look great but I think it might be a little out of my price range, the same with the refreshabralle, and the beatle, from what I've read, is still in pre beta stage. I did look at the braillepen touch 12, which seems to be the same price as the focus 14, any comparison between the two?

I guess I'm asking a lot for a relatively small amount of money but not really bothered about computing functionality as already have that on my iPhone.

Submitted by Travis Roth on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Club AppleVis Member

I know the Freshabraille is sold directly from American Printing House, I don't think they have resellers.
My comment on the Refreshabraille is it is rugged and sturdy, but in a lot of other ways it is dated. It is heavy, thick, has an awkward charging port that takes serious finger manipulation to use and is not a Mini-USB; and I don't like that when it disconnects from a Bluetooth device it remains awake at the menu and is easy to bump a button and change a setting you didn't want changed. The pros is it is still the most cells, 18, that I have seen in a 5.2 inch long device, and other braille displays could learn from how they put so many braille cells in a short space.
It is around $1700USD, which may be around #1000? I am not sure of the exchange rate.
I also have used a Focus 14 Blue. It is plastic and feels light to the touch, but it has proven sturdy for me. I would not subject it to the drop test, I don't think it'd survive very well. If you can manage to not drop it though it is a pretty good display for the money. If you do a search on AppleVis you will find a review of the Focus 14 Blue along with a comment I wrote in the comments section discussing some pros and cons I have found such as the power management which could still be done better.

Thanks to the person who posted about the Smart Beattle. I'd not heard about this one before, and it sounds interesting. I note on their webpage they have two different specifications of length, one paragraph says it is 4.59 inches and the specifications table says it is 5.86 inches. It will be interesting to find out which is correct; a 4.59" long display would be fantastic.

Submitted by Megan on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

When I was in high school I had a RefreshaBraille that I used a lot. I never liked the cramped keyboard, and as another commenter said it is thick, heavy and the charging port is *super* awkward to get to. In addition, it does NOT play well with Linux, doesn't always work well with Windows or Mac, and didn't offer the same amount of control over my iPhone that the Focus14 does. I switched in 2013 and I LOVE my Focus. It rides around in my bag, gets tossed in my purse, etc and is completely still OK. I also got the Executive Products case for it and that seems to help a great deal. the case that FS sends with it, in my opinion, doesn't do a great job of protecting or holding the display. I'm much happier with my EP case (…)
As far as the Pen Touch 12 goes, I actually really liked the display when I got a few minutes to play with one. The things that deterred me from getting it were its lack of cursor routing keys, lesser amount of control over iPhone functions such as two-finger double tap and scrub, and I personally thought it felt a little fragile and wouldn't stand up well to my lifestyle.
I have also seen the Vario Ultra and I think it's a very "cute" little display and in some ways perfect for someone who is active and/or has multiple devices. It's very pocketable and easy to use, but the Bawm-style keyboard reminded me of the one I didn't like on the RefreshaBraille and made the display a bad choice for me personally. As another commenter said, I think your best bet is to try and find a dealer and scope out different models yourself. A Braille display is a big investment, and it doesn't pay to get a display that you only semi like. Try out keyboards, read some Braille, and make sure the one you get is the best fit for you.
Hope this helps! Good luck and happy Brailling! :)

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Does anyone know where I can get the VarioUltra in the UK? I've done a web search and the only place that comes up seems a bit vague about it. I would much prefer being able to write it off than having it written off for me due to lack of UK dealers... Naughty uk dealers.

Submitted by a woman on Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hello ...

I haven't actually had the chance to 'examine' that many displays.
But I am quite satisfied with the Refreshabraille 18. It's small, the Braille feels nice, the keyboard is OK, and the 'joystick' works well and makes navigating quite easy and convenient. The battery life is also good, I'd say. I use the display on a daily basis (iPhone 4s, last iOS 7), and it can take almost two weeks before I have to charge it, It's also made from high-quality material, aluminum, and that also feels nice.
OK, as others have said, it has some drawbacks of course, no notetaking capabilities, charging port in a strange position, not Slim, and so on.
But it really is possible to become 'successful' at plugging in that cable :-) . I used to find it difficult, but now it's no problem. So I'd say this drawback could almost be ignored, one just has to feel for the port with one hand, and aim the cable straight at it with the other.

Yes, it's expensive, but it's a solid display.
And if one mainly wants to use it to read stuff on one's phone, to carry around and so on, it could be a good option I'd say. I've read novels on my phone with it :-) . So, it works for me :-) .

I admit I don't know about dealers in the UK (though one can get the Executive Products case for it in the UK :-) ). But, as far as I know, in Europe, the display is sold by Baum, that's how I got it.

I hope this was somewhat helpful.

Thanks for reading and sorry for this long post :-) .

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I found the VarioConnect 12 by baum again, though it is a fairly old unit, six years I think but, yet again I can't find where to purchase in the UK... The Baum distributer over here doesn't seem to stock them or reply to emails, even with the prospect of charing a thousand pounds, go figure...

The VarioConnect sounds ideal as it is tiny, only six braille keys which is fine and can fit in a shirt pocket, a slightly bigger footprint than a box of cigarettes but not as tall... So I've found it, just can't buy it...

Is the VarioUltra out yet in the states?


Submitted by Unregistered User (not verified) on Wednesday, February 11, 2015

I have a focus14, and it has held up very well over the course of the two years I've had it. I keep it in my computer bag, and it has traveled many miles without taking any damage. It is very small, and can vit easily into a jacket pocket, and even a jeans pocket.
As one previous poster said, the case it comes with is not very good. I have never used the case with it, and it has held up fine as is.
One thing to note about small displays is that it may take longer to read lengthy text on it than on a page or a bigger display.
For myself, I don't find the small displays to be very good for reading long chunks of text like a book or newspaper.
Other people don't seem to have this problem, so your milage may very.
It might also be worth your time to check out ios's current level of braille support.
Sometimes typing on a braille keyboard can be slow in ios.
At least on my iPhone 5s, there is often quite a bit of lag when typing.
I like to use my focus paired with a Bluetooth keyboard.
That said, the focus14 is a great little display, and does very well for what I use it for.
Best of luck.

Submitted by Oliver Kennett on Wednesday, February 11, 2015


After reading comments and advice, and the fact I will be doing a great deal of reading on the road, I think I'm going to wait for the VarioUltra which, according to Baum when I spoke to them, will be over the next month or so. the demand has been high and I think they are trying to keep up with demand. It isn't the smallest but I think a 20 cell would be okay to read on, 12s and 14, so I'm told can be a little frustrating with lengthier texts.

The great thing about these devices is that they are pretty future proof, brail isn't going to change so as long as they can be pair with phones in the future, we still get the same access... Though, naturally intelligent plastics are something to keep an eye on though I doubt they will come directly to the accessibility market, rather they will become part of phones first and implemented through software... They are materials that can take on shapes for a flat screen, such as nobs, sliders, buttons, and in this case brail. Very exciting.

Thank you everyone for the help.


Submitted by Maya Pureseva on Thursday, February 12, 2015

Hi Oliver,

There is one more small Braille display you might consider which is available in the UK. It's Esys12. I wrote a review about it on AppleVis a while ago. A display has a few drawbacks but I'm quite happy with its overall performance, it's price is about the same as the price of Focus14 but it also has basic note-taking functions built in. The only inconvenience you might experience is scrolling a lot to read lengthy texts but I have grown used to it, so it doesn't irritate me as much. Vario sounds like a great solution but here where I am it's a bit too expensive. Well, so I'd vote for either Focus14 or this one.
Have a great day and good luck in your search!

Submitted by Maldalain on Sunday, February 15, 2015

Have a look at Seika Braille Display on:…

It has the basic functions of a braille note taker plus it can be connected to your iOS devices to have braille. It is available on RNIB for £899.00 without VAT. and the delivery is almost £8. So this is within your price range, it has 16 braille cells, and I have read few posts online about the durability of the device.