Braille Display and IRC Chat

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team
Braille on Apple Products

Hi all. I have a friend who is both deaf and blind. She is trying to use IRC chat with the Colloquy app on an old iPhone 5e with a Focus 40 Braille display.

The problem she's encountering is that, if she's in the middle of typing a message, and someone else's chat message comes in at the same time, it garbles her message. I've seen her messages come up in chat, and a few words will be readable, then the rest has letters missing and is pretty much unreadable. If no chat messages interrupt hers, then her messages come through just as she typed them.

I understand the Braille display is probably trying to show her all incoming messages. But it would be nice if this didn't interfere with messages she were composing.

Is there a setting that will halt incoming messages while she's typing? Or is there another iOS app that works better with Braille displays? Thanks for any and all help.

Unfortunately, I don't have a Braille display myself, which limits my ability to debug or tinker around.



Submitted by Brian Tew on Friday, July 19, 2019

I have used irc in linux with braille since last century.
I have not found anything in ios to compare.
must it be irc, or would another chat venue be ok?
Does she have access to any other devices?

Submitted by PaulMartz on Friday, July 19, 2019

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Thanks. I've used IRC chat on both iOS with Colloquy and also on MacOS using Terminal and a command line client, but I don't use a Braille display, just a screen reader. The screen reader reads incoming chats in both cases. So if it works with your Braille display from Linux command line, I'm unsure why it wouldn't work with Colloquy.

Submitted by Roady on Friday, July 19, 2019

I use Colloquy, and can test on a Braille Display. I'll let you know if anything jumps out that will improve this situation.

Submitted by Brian Tew on Friday, July 19, 2019

In reply to by PaulMartz

Braille is horrible in ios chat apps. Every new message jerks the focus to the new message.
For braille chat to work the focus has to be controlled by the braille reader.
I can do this in linux.

Submitted by PaulMartz on Friday, July 19, 2019

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

In reply to by Brian Tew

In my experimentation with Colloquy on iOS, VoiceOver focus stays in the text entry field even though VO still reads incoming messages. When I say focus stays in the text entry field, I mean the VoiceOver highlight rectangle is drawn around that field, and I can enter text. Incoming messages don't change that. So the problem is something specific to the braille display, not the VoiceOver focus. Perhaps the braille display is confused that VoiceOver is reading something outside the VoiceOver focus area.

Submitted by Ishkabibble on Friday, July 19, 2019

I don't use the messaging app you mentioned but I do know that on older iOS versions (which your friend would probably be running since her phone is no longer supported on iOS 12), there were serious issues with messages becoming garbled when flash messages popped up on the braille display (incoming messages, other notifications etc.) From personal experience, this bug was present even in iMessage. I don't know of any fixes for this, but I can say that this bug has been resolved in iOS 12, which your friend's phone does not support. The only thing that could be done is to upgrade the phone (even an iPhone SE or 6s would resolve the issue, as they can run iOS 12.)

Submitted by PaulMartz on Friday, July 19, 2019

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

That's a fair comment. To explain, I'm just trying to understand how braille displays work in terms of what I already know about VoiceOver. If I say something wrong, please correct me so I can learn from experts like you. This will make it easier for me to transition to a braille display in the near future. My desire to learn about braille displays is one reason I volunteered to help my friend who is experiencing this issue.

But when a new message arrives in the ios chat apps I have tried the displayed charecters flop around hither and yon.
Makes it impossible to chat except one message at a time.

But I have not used coloquoy. I just tried to get it but could not get my apple payment method squared away.
sometime in the next few days I will fix that and try coloquoy.

Submitted by Brian Tew on Saturday, July 20, 2019

I got the latest coloquoy and ran it on ios 12.3.1.
same as always. I can chat with somebody v e r y slowly.
If they send a message, then i send a reply, then they reply, etc.
normal chat at anything approaching normal speed is impossible.

Good to see this issue reproduced by someone other than my friend. She and I also got into chat and discovered we could communicate easily and without issue as long as we took turns. She says it's no easier or harder for her than talking by regular text. Kind of defeats the purpose of chat, that is, multi-person conversation.

Submitted by Brian Tew on Thursday, July 25, 2019

you are correct that the focus of the display stays in the text input area when messages arrive
in coloquoy. this is using the latest version of coloquoy and ios 12.3.
And my deathless prose does not seem to be garbled by the incoming messages.
But each incoming message still scrolls the display if one is reading messages above the text input area.
I dont see how your friend can use it, but I am spoiled by linux.
In my linux irc incoming messages appear onscreen but do not affect the braille display.
Whatever I am reading is not affected by incoming messages.
the text scrolls up but the display follows it exactly, so it appears stationary to me.
I control the horizontal and the vertical.
I don't think there is anything like it in ios.