What's the best Braille display with Mac and iPhone?

Braille on Apple Products

Hi! I am interested in getting a Braille display but have never used one before. I just had the opportunity to try out the Focus 40 Blue and the Brailliant for just a few minutes. I'm a little overwhelmed with all the confusing details and since I didn't have much time with them I'm not sure which one I liked better. My main question is: I have heard that either one will work with a Mac, but does one of these work better than the other? The people who did the demo for me had no experience using them with Mac computers so they had no info for me on this. I really want to make sure whatever I get will actually work well with my Mac and also with my iPhone. Any advice, pros and cons on the displays, or tips would be much appreciated. And does anyone know of any resources, such as key commands and instructions for use with Mac and iPhone? Thank you so much!



Submitted by Brian Tew on Saturday, October 3, 2015

This applevis website is about the best.
The idevices list is helpful sometimes.
The hims-notetakers list can be helpful.
Google helps me a lot in finding these things.

I have no experience with either of those displays,
and you may never find anybody who has experience with lots of displays.
Such a person would have to be rich as midas, or maybe an instructor of some sort.

I have read lots of good words about the focus 40 blue display.
In learning commands remember that if you use voiceover
the voiceover commands takeover and they are different from the commands used without voiceover.

I guess the smart thing would be to read reviews of these displays by actual blind users.
But which one is best is a matter of idiosyncratic choice.
Good luck.

Submitted by Sergey on Sunday, October 4, 2015

I tried both of the displays mentioned in the original post. I used Brailiant for a short while and have more experience with the Focus series, since I personally own a Focus 40 blue classic and Focus 14 blue. Besides, I worked much with two notetakers: Baum Pronto 18 v3 and Hims Braillesense u2 mini. And I also tried Esys 12 braillle display with IOS devices. Since most of the VoiceOver commands are entered by using braille keys, You should consider which model has the most convenient braille keyboard. Other controls on the particular divice may be used for additional functionality but available controls and assigned functions differ from module to module. For example, until the recent IOS updates I liked using the Focus series of braille displays with IOS devices, because they have so called selector keys and the right selector keys is assigned to perfom two finger double tap gesture which is very convenient especially in the facebook app. Now in IOS 9 you can perfom this function using braille keyboard, so it is not so important. So, to put it all in short, the best way for you is to familiarize yourself with available models and choose what is best for you. But, anyway, Focus 40 blue is not a bad choice.

Submitted by Scott Davert on Sunday, October 4, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I would recommend checking out the list of braille displays that we have on this site and their reviews. I'm in the process of writing one for the Smart Beetle right now.
If you have specific questions, feel free to post. I use and teach on many different braille displays, and while I'm not any sort of authoritative person on this subject, I do have quite a bit of experience.

Smart Beatle seems to be the most affordable 14-cells braille display here in Russia. However, I had no chance to see it working. Besides, the author of the original post intents to use his braille display not only with IOS devices, but with Mac as well. In this case, IMHO, 14 cells is just not enough for convenient work on the desktop machine.

Submitted by Lielle ben simon on Sunday, October 4, 2015

Club AppleVis Member

Hello! I have 2 braille display from baum company. SuperVario and VarioUltra that i am got recently.
I m think that it's the best choce it va. VarioUltra. because sevral things.9 1. VarioUltra works grate with iOs device.
2. varioUltra there is things like word procesor, and calculator and more how much nice things.
VarioUltra can connect to 4 different devices and to assigning 4 different chanals. and you can to move between them in easly. If do you think about notetaker as option i recoment you to chek it.
SuperVario hes allso a grate braille display, but hes'nt thie is option of bleutooth and hes braille display very bacikly.

Submitted by Joyfuljules on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Thank you all for the feedback, I appreciate your thoughts and advice. I'm thinking about buying a used Focus 40 and I've found a couple online that are much more affordable. Although I don't know what model they are. I can't seem to find much information on older models and whether or not they are compatible with iPhone or Mac. Does anyone know if all of the Focus displays are compatible with Apple or if I would need to get a specific model that is newer? Also, I've been unable to find out if Focus or Brailliant allow you to actually input text on the Mac using the Braille keyboard, or if it's just limited to being a display? I know they do input text on an iPhone though. Thanks for any help you can give me.

Submitted by Lielle ben simon on Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Club AppleVis Member

Hi! By what i know kno that it's competeble with ios. I have no experience with it, and i Can't tell you more about this.
I kno fokus 14 and 40 the new model support in ios.

Submitted by Joyfuljules on Thursday, December 31, 2015

Hi, I just wanted to share that I got a used Focus 40 Blue classic and it works great with my Mac and iPhone. I haven't used it extensively with the Mac yet but so far everything I've tried on it has worked. I love using it with my phone. I did some research about Braille display commands and it appears that all the commands are pretty much the same on both the Focus and the Brailliant. So it really does just depend on which display you like better because they both seem to work the same way on Mac and iPhone. I wanted to comment on this here in case someone in the future is asking the same questions I was.

Submitted by Deborah Armstrong on Monday, May 23, 2016

The VarioUltra manual was recently updated to cover the Mac, and I personally really like mine. I think it's super important to read manuals for any device you are considering and imagine yourself using one. I love that my VarioUltra can pair with multiple devices, making it quick and easy to switch between my department iPAD, my personal iPHONE and a PC running JAWS.
But I hate that the VarioUltra is so complex. I often hit the wrong button or forget which key command say does "search again" in the word processor. But I read the manual before I bought, so I knew this would be an issue I'd have to deal with.
I also have a Focus 14 blue and I like that it's light and easy to carry. I dislike all the tiny buttons, I keep hitting the wrong one like I've said in other posts. Wish I could just unscrew half the ubttons on these things. I also find 14 dcells work great for reading texts and terrible for reading books.
If the manufacturer doesn't have manuals and some tutorial information online, don't buy the thing. You have to picture yourself learning it, mastering it and using it.

Submitted by prisy on Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Hello everyone,
I own the focus 40 Blue and it works both with my iPhone and Mac. I am able to type text using the braille keyboard, read and edit documents. Using a braille display is more efficient when it comes to editing because you are able to see the corrections that need to be made like Capitalization and punctuation. As far as formatting documents go, the braille display cannot really help with that since you can only read 1 line at a time. I like how the keyboard is easy and ergonomic. The keys are pretty big and have good spacing between them. I only wish it was lighter and more portable because it doesn't really fit in my briefcase with the additional charger. I mostly use it when sitting at my desk at home since it doesn't fit in any of my purses. Also, the braille display should be able to charge through USB rather than through a dedicated wall adapter. These adapters are bulky and can ad some weight when factoring in the laptop and other tech accessories inside the bag. As blind people, we often need to carry various pieces of technology just to be more independent and productive.