iFeelit: an introduction to using braille displays on iOS (the 2021 edition)

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

In this update to his previous podcasts on braille, Scott Davert gives us some general information about braille displays as they relate to their use with iOS devices. He then talks about connecting a braille display using USB and then Bluetooth. Further, the braille menu under VoiceOver Settings, navigational commands, text input, how to set up auto scroll, and how to get additional help are all covered.

Links mentioned in the podcast include:

Apple's support page covering Common braille commands for VoiceOver on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod

Apple's support article listing Bluetooth keyboard commands for iOS and iPadOS

Lightning to USB 3 Camera Adapter

A roughly edited transcript of the podcast follows.


Opening announcement: You're listening to the AppleVis Podcast.

Scott Davert: Hey, everybody, Scott Davert here. I'm going to record this podcast on using Braille displays with iOS devices. Now if you've been around AppleVis and the AppleVis Podcast for many years, you may recall that I already did this podcast. However, I did that podcast back in January of 2016. Now that we're five iOS releases later, and five years later in terms of the technology, of course, many things have changed, even some of the most basic level.

What are we covering in this podcast? That's always a good question to ask yourself before, and hopefully the person recording it gives you an idea. What we're going to be covering in this podcast is, first of all, general information about Braille displays and what connects and what doesn't. Then we'll talk about connecting both through Bluetooth and USB. We'll go through the Braille Display menu on iOS. We'll talk about navigation in terms of getting around your various home screens, activating apps, and so on and so forth. From there, we'll go into text editing very briefly. We'll talk about how to get help because we all need that once in a while, and setting up auto scroll.

The first topic, general information, well, pretty much any Braille display made within the last 10 years. I say pretty much because there may be one out there somewhere that I'm not aware of that doesn't support iOS. To my knowledge, all of the Braille displays on the market do support iOS and voice-over. What you will have to make sure is that you're running a compatible version of iOS.

For example, if you are running one of the new Humanware displays, they recommend that you run iOS 13.6 or later. The new Orbit 40, Orbit Reader 40, I should say, emulates a VarioUltra, which means the Orbit Reader 40 supports iOS devices, going back to, I want to say, 8.3, it may have been 8.4, or something like that. Anyway, whatever it is, it goes back many iOS versions. The focus fifth-generation supported iOS, I want to say, with maybe iOS nine. I don't remember exactly on that one.

Anyway, point being is, check with your user documentation if you're not sure whether your display is covered with your current configuration. Now there are, of course, many types of Braille displays on the market. They range in price, cell length, and also their features. Braille displays range in costs from $550 for the Braille Me, which is not being very heavily developed anymore, but it's still there, all the way up to 80 cell displays, which cost right around $8,000.

There's a wide range in cost and size, as well as other internal features. For example, the type of keyboard on the Braille display will make a difference. There are two types of Perkins-style keyboards. One, you have the keys straight across the keyboard. The other is more of an ergonomic fit. It will depend on the manufacturer as to how that's done. There's also a lot of differentiation between how far the spacebar is from the rest of the keyboard. Some people prefer it right up near the Braille display. That's what you'll find with the Braille edge and other HIMS products.

Some people prefer a QWERTY keyboard and don't want to use a Perkins-style keyboard at all. For that, we have the Mantis Q40 from APH, if you're in the US is where you would get it, and Humanware outside of the US is where you would get it. There's a wide range of options out there. By the way, the displays that I will be discussing are the majority. The majority are those that have a Perkins-style keyboard. When I talk about commands, I'll try to mention the Bluetooth keyboard command as well since the Mantis Q40 is a popular display. It's becoming more and more popular. It's good to also know what the heck is going on with that thing and how do you operate it. I'll also include links in the show notes to both the Apple support pages for Braille display general commands, which most of them are the same regardless of the device you're running, as well as a list, again, from an Apple support article covering the Bluetooth keyboard commands which you would need for the Mantis Q40.

Now let's talk about connection types. We have Bluetooth, which is the more conventional way of getting iOS paired with a Braille display. You also now have some displays, which support the new HID protocol, Human Interface Device, is what HID stands for. That allows you to connect to your iOS device or iPad OS device through USB. The displays that I have found that have worked include the Mantis Q40, the Brailliant BI 20, and 40X and the Chameleon.

Now Orbit Research does supposedly support this new HID protocol. However, I have not been able to get either the Orbit Reader 20 Plus or the 40 to Connect at this time. The other thing that you'll want to be aware of, especially on iOS devices is that you will need to purchase another adapter from Apple to connect your Braille display over USB. I will also provide a link to that adapter in the show notes. When you get this adapter, I believe it's a $40 purchase from Apple, on one end, you will find a lightning cable. On the other side of this plastic, odd-shaped thing, which isn't really odd-shaped if you've seen other Apple adapters, you have a port for a USB a cable, and you also have a port for a lightning cable.

To get this to work on iOS, you must connect that lightning port to a cable which then must be plugged in. You need powered along with the connection to make this work with the Braille displays. This adapter was originally designed for cameras, but it works for this purpose as well as you'll soon see. You also have to, of course, plug your Braille display in and the displays that I know of that are working are USBC all of them. Again, the displays that I have found it works with are the Brailliant BI 20X, BI 40X, Chameleon, and Mantis Q40.

If you're on an older version of the Brailliant, what they call the new generation, which are the models that are made of aluminum and have a keyboard but don't have Wi-Fi access, those do not work with the USB connection. This information, by the way, is accurate as of iOS 14.7 in July 2021. I'm running all of the latest versions of the firmware of the Braille displays I've tested. Let us now connect the cable.

I have again my Braille display connected here, and I also have the lightning cable plugged into power. I'm about to insert this adapter into my device for the first time. As I'm recording this, my device is at its home screen. I'm just going to go ahead and plug the adapter into my iPhone. You heard there, first of all, the electricity connecting through my lightning cable. Then you'd heard bonk from voice-over which confirms that my Braille display is connected.

VoiceOver:Adding a Braille display USB accessory will allow other USB accessories to connect even when your iPhone is locked. You can change this in settings.

Scott: What it said was the USB accessory, this setting will allow other accessories to connect even when your iPhone is locked. You can change this in settings.

VoiceOver:OK button.

Scott: Here's the OK button.

VoiceOver:Messages, 8 unread messages.

Scott: Where do we go to change this if we want to use the braille display when it's locked? I'm going to go into settings.

VoiceOver:Settings two new item

Scott: I was in voice-over previously, so that's where we are. I'm going to go back now.


Scott: There we go. Now I'm back at the main screen. What I'm looking for is Face ID and passcode. Let's go ahead and scroll over to there. Depending on your device, it will be Face ID and passcode or Touch ID and passcode. In my case, it's Touch ID because I have an iPhone SE 2020.

VoiceOver:Touch ID and passcode button.

Scott: I'll double tap.

VoiceOver:Passcode zero of six values entered.

Scott: I will enter my passcode and be back.

VoiceOver:Settings, back button.

Scott: Now I'm at the back button and I need to go quite a ways down. I am looking for--

VoiceOver:USB accessories, on.

Scott: USB accessories and turn that on if I want to be able to use it with the lock screen. I wanted to quickly show you that setting so that in case your device is not functioning while locked, that might be your problem. However at the time of this recording, there is another problem where once you lock your screen and even if you unlock it with intervention on the phone, the keyboard will not respond to key presses until you unplug it and plug it back in. All of what I'm about to cover other than the Bluetooth connection itself and this podcast will apply to both the Bluetooth connection as well as USB.

Let's talk about the Bluetooth connection process now. Unlike USB, there is a heck of a lot more displays that support Bluetooth on iOS. Pretty much every display, like I said before, is supported. The first thing that you are going to want to do, of course, is put your braille device in discoverable mode. In some cases, that might be simply turning the device on. In other cases, it could be you have to launch terminal or terminal for screen reader or there could be another situation. It really just depends on your device. To get to that point on your braille display, follow the documentation.

The other reason to follow the documentation is depending on the braille display you're using, you have a different process of doing this. For example with the Brailliant BI 20X, which is what I'm using for this particular demonstration, I went to Settings in Bluetooth and paired it that way. Now other devices like the Focus as well as some others require you to go to Settings, Accessibility, VoiceOver, Braille, and pair that way.

The other caveat with pairing devices is that unlike with USB where I just plugged it in and it worked, some require an authentication code. I can't sit here and list them all, but I'll tell you as an example, the Brailliant BI 20X and the orbit displays. If you have it set to just works don't require a passcode. Other displays like the Focus do require a passcode, that particular passcode is 0 0 0 0.

You have to enter that once you select that particular braille display under VoiceOver braille. Once you have entered that PIN, you'll need to double tap. In the upper right corner, there is a pair button. It's not quite in the corner, but it's definitely in the upper right quadrant of the iOS device and that should establish your connection, in that case, once you enter 0 0 0 0 and double tap that pair button.

For those who have difficulties with the touch screen, if you have a Bluetooth keyboard paired, most of the time, you can type in the PIN code and type enter after that. That will accept it. It doesn't always work, unfortunately. Because of that process being as different as it is for each display, I'm not going to really cover that. What I am going to cover is the braille menu. Again to get to this menu, you go to Settings, Accessibility, VoiceOver, Braille.

Once you pair through Bluetooth, if you're pairing your device, such as the Focus or even the Braille Sense, which has a whole other process of pairing, by the way, or any other Bluetooth device that pairs through this menu, you should be placed back in the upper-left corner of the screen when the pairing works, although that doesn't always happen. If you are using something like the Brailliant or even the VarioUltra, you'll have to go out of Bluetooth settings, and then go to Accessibility, VoiceOver, Braille.

I happen to have a command set up that will take me directly to the VoiceOver menu, which eliminates a few steps in the process. I can activate that with backspace, space, and the letter V. We'll talk about customized commands later. That's not a default one, that's one I set up.

VoiceOver:Settings, Accessibility, back button.

Scott: We're placed in the upper-left corner of the screen. Sometimes you will be placed a little further down. For example, the first option is output, and that will be where you're placed, but sometimes it's here in the upper-left corner of the screen. By the way, I was using the touchscreen to connect through USB, but I almost never use a touchscreen, and almost never use speech.

I'm only doing that here because we're doing a podcast. Everything I'm doing at this point is being controlled by the keyboard on the braille display. Let's take a look at this menu, and it's a good time for me to introduce you to a couple of easy commands. It's especially easy if you are someone who's used a notetaker in the past.

To move forward an item, or the equivalent of flicking right, you can press space with dot four.

VoiceOver:Voice-over, heading.

Scott: If I want to keep going to the right, of course, I can hit space with dot four again.

VoiceOver:Voice-over on.

Scott: If I want to go to the previous thing, I can flick left on the touchscreen, of course, or I can hit space with dot one.

VoiceOver:Voice-over, heading. Accessibility, back button.

Scott: On the Mantis, you would press right arrow to move to the next item, or left arrow to move to the previous item. What I'm looking for is the braille menu so I'm going to go right one more time, so that I'm actually in the screen.

VoiceOver:Voice-over, heading.

Scott: Let's say I would like to find braille. Now, I could tap somewhere on the screen if I wanted to, I have a general idea of where it is, but let's say, I don't have my touch screen. How would I find it? Well, I could, of course, hit space with dot four to move all the way through the menu, or most of the time, what you can do is to hit space with the letter F, as in find.

VoiceOver:Enter search text.

Scott: I'll type in braille and press enter.

VoiceOver:Braille button.

Scott: It went directly to braille. That is typically a handy feature. Sometimes it doesn't work, and if it doesn't, then you'll have to do the whole long process of scrolling through. Before I move on to the next thing, I'll let you know that the Mantis you press the VoiceOver modifier keys with the letter F for find, and that will do the same thing. To activate an item, you can press space with three, six, or you can also press a cursor routing button located above or below the option. For example, Braille BTN, BTN stands for button in braille, is highlighted. If I press the cursor routing button above the letter B, it will activate the braille menu, which is what we're going to look at.

VoiceOver:Output contracted button.

Scott: This time, it landed me on output, which is the first option. There is a heading before that, and the back button, I won't bother going backwards. Braille output allows you to control what you're reading, the grade of braille. I can again hit a cursor routing button, or space with three, six. If you're running a Mantis, you can press the up and down arrow keys together, or VoiceOver modifier with space.

VoiceOver:Uncontracted six dot braille.

Scott: By the way, if you are on a Mantis, you can also hit a cursor routing button, that functionality also works on the Mantis. I'm in this menu, you heard voice-over say uncontracted six dot braille. That's one of the options that you can set it to. For example, if you were someone who didn't like contracted braille, or it wasn't- you weren't comfortable reading it, you could come in here and activate this uncontracted six dot mode option. You can also choose-

VoiceOver:Uncontracted eight dot braille.

Scott: -computer braille, or-

VoiceOver:Selected contracted braille.

Scott: -contracted braille. Those are your three options. Now, if I want to back out of here, this works about 90% of the time. You can, of course, use the scrub gesture on the touchscreen. You can hit escape on the Mantis or space with the letter B with a Perkins keyboard to go back.

VoiceOver:Output contracted button.

Scott: Now we're back to the menu. The next option again, right arrow on the Mantis space with dot four on a Perkins-style keyboard.

VoiceOver:Input, contracted button.

Scott: You have input, which of course is what you're typing. You have the same options here, but the important thing is at least for some people that you can set these independent of one another. Let's say for example, you're not necessarily comfortable typing contracted braille, but maybe you want to read in it. You can come in here and set that accordingly. I'll activate this item as well so you can see the menu.

VoiceOver:Uncontracted six dot braille. Uncontracted eight dot braille.

Scott: Just moving to the next item.

VoiceOver:Selected contracted braille.

Scott: We do have one other option in the input menu, and that is--

VoiceOver:Selected automatic translation on.

Scott: What the heck is automatic translation you ask. Automatic braille translation will allow you to have the braille you type translated automatically, which I'm chuckling because I basically repeated what the menu option was in a different word order. When you turn it off what happens is that your typing will not be translated until you press the space bar. If you are someone who's just building some confidence in typing contracted braille, for example, and you want to do that, this is another option that may help you. Let's get out of here, space with B or escape.

VoiceOver:Input contracted button.

Scott: Space with dot four.

VoiceOver:Braille screen input, six dot button.

Scott: You can change your braille screen input, the same way.

VoiceOver:Braille tables two button.

Scott: We have here braille tables. What are braille tables? Braille tables aren't what you eat at when you're having dinner, but what they are, are the ability to interpret correctly what you're reading and writing. Of course, there are needs for different tables for different languages. I'm going to go in here again, up and down arrow together on the Mantis or cursor writing button on either device.

VoiceOver:English unified system button.

Scott: English unified system, a lot of information there, is what when I installed iOS 14.7 came back. I had it set to US English because I was working with somebody who was using that. By default, you will only have the one table, which is English unified, but a lot of people like their old braille and your old braille is still available. You just have to add it as a braille table. English unified system is what we have here. Let's continue moving to the right.

VoiceOver:English US system, actions available.

Scott: You have English US system, and you heard their actions available, which does not show up on the braille display. I'm glad because it would really get in the way I think of what you are trying to read because it keeps slashing up like hints do when you have those turned on. I have mine off partially for that reason. Let's say I wanted to remove the English US braille table. Don't worry, we're going to re-add it. I can hit space with dot six, or use the up arrow on the Mantis, and that will allow me to go to the previous type of whatever the rotor is set to. Space with dot six.


Scott: I Will, allow me to delete it. Now I'll hit space with three six, because that usually seems more reliable than tuning your cursor running button with the rotor.

VoiceOver:Add braille table button.

Scott: It's gone, and still we only have the English Unified System table currently on this device. Let's say we want to add a braille table. I'll go ahead and hit a cursor routing button above the word Add.

VoiceOver:Cancel button.

Scott: Cancel is the first item.

VoiceOver:Add braille table, heading Search. Search field actions available.

Scott: I'm simply moving to the right.

VoiceOver:Dictate button. English button.

Scott: You have here different languages, I'm not going to walk through them all, but to give you a general idea, here is English. I keep moving to the right--

VoiceOver:Afrikaans button.

Scott: We have under English.

VoiceOver:Albanian button.

Scott: An alphabetical list of all kinds of braille tables. I think there's 80 of them, something like that. Lot of options here, but I do want an English table so I will move back to the left with space and dot one, two times.

VoiceOver:Afrikaans button, English button.

Scott: There is English, I'll select that.

VoiceOver:Liblouis heading.

Scott: We have here Liblouis, and under the next heading, we will have System. Liblouis is an open-source braille table system. That allows you to have support for a lot of languages that Apple doesn't have native support for. That's the difference between Liblouis and System. System tables are those that Apple has developed, and Liblouis are these open-source tables. Now, the reason why you want both is that with some languages, there's only a Liblouis table, there is no System table. What I will also tell you is that the System table seems to be a lot more reliable in Unified English braille as well as US braille than the Liblouis table.

There are also some languages, by the way, that don't have a Liblouis table on iOS that have one in general, Dutch as an example, but they do have a System language. You can utilize the Search function if you want to do that as well, but this is a way to look at them all. If I move now to the right--

VoiceOver:English Canada. English North American braille computer code.

Scott: I'm just moving here to the right.

VoiceOver:English UK. English US. English Unified. Hebrew. Hebrew on contracting multilanguage braille table for Hebrew, Arabic, and English Israel. System heading.

Scott: Now, we have System which is what I installed. Let's keep going to the right.

VoiceOver:English UK.

Scott: You can do English UK.

VoiceOver:English US.

Scott: I'll go ahead and select that one.

VoiceOver:Braille back button.

Scott: Now I'm returning to the previous menu. I can confirm that by moving to the right.

VoiceOver:Braille tables, heading Edit button. English Unified System button.

Scott: We have that one and--

VoiceOver:English US System actions available.

Scott: Now, this other table, the US version. There are two different ways in which you can activate this. You can come in here and certainly go to the table. Once you have more than one braille table installed, you'll find just like you have with the languages rotor, if you're using more than one voice-over language, you also now have a rotor option for braille tables, so you can quickly switch them on the fly. I will go ahead and do that and also show you a couple more braille display commands.

I need to move to braille table in the rotor. To do that, of course, on the touchscreen, you'd spin with two fingers either to the right or to the left. On a braille display that has a Perkins keyboard, you'll use space with two three to go backward, space with five six to go forward. If you are on a Mantis, up arrow with left arrow or up arrow with right arrow will work.


Scott: I'm just heading space with two three.

VoiceOver:Braille table.

Scott: There's braille table. Now, if I hit either space with dot three or space with dot six, since there's only one other option, it will switch me to the US English System table.

VoiceOver:English US.

Scott: When I did that, on the Braille display I see English and then the left parentheses US, right parentheses, but those parentheses are two, three, five, six instead of the UEB version. That is adding Braille tables, why you would want them and why you may want a specific one. I'll back out of here.

VoiceOver:Braille tables two button.

Scott: and Move on to the next option.

VoiceOver:Status cells, button.

Scott: Status cells. Status cells allow you to do any number of things. Basically, what will happen is information can be communicated through those status cells to you, permitted, you learn what combinations mean what. I'll go ahead and go in here.

VoiceOver:Status cells position heading.

Scott: Our first option is status cells position.


Scott: We have left and we have--


Scott: What you can do is if you want these set, you'll need to choose left or right. What it is, is a series of dots that will communicate, for example, if speeches on, the screen curtain on, and all kinds of different things with the status cells. I'll go ahead and go one item backwards to-


Scott: Activate that.

VoiceOver:Selected left.

Scott: If you don't have either left or right selected, the option for right would have been the final option. Now that we have it set to show up on one side or the other, we can explore the options underneath. I will go back to the right.


Scott: One more time.

VoiceOver:Show general status off.

Scott: Show general status. These are the things like whether the screen curtain is on, whether your speeches on, and so on and so forth. All I have to do is activate it or turn it on with the cursor routing button.


Scott: Now the furthest left cell shows me dots, one, six, and eight. If I wanted to learn what those do, what I can do is hit a cursor routing button on that cell, or above or below depending on what you're using, and it will tell me what exactly the status cells mean. Underneath this-

VoiceOver:Show text status off.

Scott: Show text status is another option and this allows you to look at the formatting of text. For example, if the text is bold, there is a specific combination that it will convey to you. When you have both of these on, the first two cells of your braille display will be taking up by status information. It's also possible, by the way, to turn status cells off for general use but have formatting on. Again, just like the general status, you can hit the cursor routing button that is above or below the status cell itself to get a key of what it is. I would show you it, but it doesn't read out in speech, you only see it in braille. That is the status cells option.

VoiceOver:Show general status on.

Scott: If I wanted to disable status cells, which apparently is a default now, for a number of years, that was not, I will turn off the general status.


Scott: Now I see no status cells on my braille display. Let's go ahead and back out of here. Again, escape or space with B depending on what you are using.

VoiceOver:Status cells button.

Scott: Move on to--

VoiceOver:Equations use Nemeth Code on.

Scott: You can turn this on and off. If you have it off, the equations won't show up as Nemeth Code, obviously. I'm really not sure what convention they follow. If you want Nemeth Code, there you go. You can have your equations that way. I believe if you turn it off UEB math is supported if you're in UEB, but I have not tried it. That would be a good question for somebody who's in the field of education. Moving along.

VoiceOver:Show on-screen keyboard off.

Scott: Depending on what you're doing with braille, sometimes certain areas of iOS, you're not able to enter text, so you'll need to do that with the on-screen keyboard. However, it can get in the way, for example, let's say you have an app and the send button is located in the bottom right part of the app. Now, if you need to activate that send button, you could hit space with four or five, six, which will take you to the last item on the screen, and then activate it with a cursor routing button or a space in three, six, or up and down arrows.

When you do that, it'll be sent obviously, but if you have the on-screen keyboard visible, the last thing you'll see on the screen is returned, which doesn't always send the message. Sometimes it gives you a new line. Sometimes it does send the messages like in the messages app, as well as Facebook messenger. I think does the same thing, but not all messaging platforms do that. That is one advantage, and one disadvantage to having the on-screen keyboard shown.

It also can come in handy if you want somebody to type something to you, especially if you're Deaf-Blind and you don't have a Bluetooth keyboard and you want them to type something quickly. Maybe you want to bring the on-screen keyboard on screen and have them do that. That is the on-screen keyboard, and why you may or may want to not have it on.

VoiceOver:Turn pages when panning on.

Scott: Turn pages when panning. If you're using the Kindle app or you're in the Books app, and you're trying to read a book, instead of being interrupted and having to manually turn pages in that book, if you don't want to have to do that, and you just want to continue reading, what you'll want to do is turn pages when panning on and you'll have that ability.

VoiceOver:Word Wrap on.

Scott: Word Wrap has nothing to do with hip-hop music. Let's establish that upfront, but what it does do is it will specify whether you only receive full words on your braille display or whether you want to receive, say, part of a word on one line. Then when you pan forward, you will see the rest of the word. This comes in handy, and some people really like it, especially on smaller braille displays like the Focus 14 or the Smart Beetle, which are obviously 14-cell braille displays, where there's not a lot of real estate to work with. You might want to maximize your use of cells. That's one way to do it as long as you can get used to it.

VoiceOver:Braille alert messages, 0.5s button.

Scott: The next option, braille alert messages are essentially flash messages and you can control how long those stay on your braille display. If you're a slower reader, depending on what you're trying to do, you may want that to be set to a longer duration. What the announcements do depends on the app. Some apps don't use them at all. Hints like double-tap to open, that sort of thing. Those are VoiceOver announcements or braille alert messages for braille display users. There are some apps that use it to convey information.

For example, if you're in Zoom and you're watching captioning go by, flash messages is how that captioning will be delivered. There are other things that come through as announcements as well. By the way, you can look at the 10 up to 10, depending on how many it's stored at the moment. Flash messages. If you have it like I do set to half a second and you miss something, you can hit space with the letter N and that will pull up your most recent list of announcements, or as iOS is calling it, alert messages. You would then hit space with N again, to return to wherever you were on the screen.

VoiceOver:Ignore call duration 0.6s button.

Scott: Ignore our call duration is our next option. It's currently 0.6 seconds, that's what it said. This will determine the amount of time to where the operating system will interpret whether your keypress of the spacebar is supposed to be a space bar or are you associating it with the previous letter. A lot of the commands use chords, but depending on the type of typer you are, you may find that you want to speed this up or slow it down if it's misinterpreting your typing and turning letters followed by space and the chords. Moving along.

VoiceOver:Auto-advance duration, fives button.

Scott: Auto-advance duration is auto-scroll and we're going to talk about how to set that up later, but this is one of the ways that you can control the duration that the braille display will pan. You may want it faster or slower, depending on your reading speed or if you're like me, you may just not use it. I like to pan manually because sometimes I read faster than others.

VoiceOver:Choose a braille display.

Scott: Choose a braille display. There is nothing on this particular option but underneath here, we have a list of braille displays that have either been connected, are within range, or in the case of the Brailliant, connected right now. This is one of the areas where you would pair your braille display through Bluetooth. If it's not done through Bluetooth settings itself, this is the other place. Those on focus braille displays, braille hedges, braille cents displays, older versions of the Refreshabraille, and so on. I can sit here and list old displays all day, but I won't. That's where you would come in to pair your device.

We've reached the end of the braille menu but before we move on to the next section, I wanted to briefly talk about some of the things that you can access on the fly without having to come into the braille menu. These commands are not all available on the Mantis. Which is also true of the announcement history. I said that space with the letter N on Perkins keyboards and I didn't give you an equivalent Mantis display command because there isn't one at this time.

Let's look at some of these commands for those who are on Perkins-style keyboards. Some of these aren't going to even apply to the Mantis. For example, braille input, you can change on the fly with space and dots 2, 3, 6.

VoiceOver:Braille input, 6 dot.

Scott: I'll hit it again.

VoiceOver:Braille input 8 dot.

Scott: One more time.

VoiceOver:Braille input contracted.

Scott: That controls of course my braille input. Whenever I'm typing, I can change that on the fly. Now, if I want to change my output in other words, when I'm reading, I can use space with the letter G.

VoiceOver:Braille output 6 dot. Braille output 8 dot. Braille output contracted.

Scott: Just like input, it cycles through the three options. Now input of course isn't even relevant to the Mantis at this time, since it's only a QWERTY keyboard, but it would be nice if they had some kind of command to change your output. We can also hide and unhide the on-screen keyboard. You can do that with space and dots 1, 4, 6, and when you do that, it should be in a text field. It won't work here, but space with one, four, six will allow you to show and hide the on-screen keyboard.

Moving along now to some other navigational stuff. If I want to go to the top of the screen, I can do so with space and the letter L or control up arrow on the Mantis.

VoiceOver:VoiceOver back button.

Scott: That's the back button of this particular menu. I can go to the bottom with space and dots 4, 5, 6.

Automated voice:Refreshabraille, 2, 7, 1, 7, 8, 9, 6, 8. Not connected button. Actions available.

Scott: That's a display I'm not currently using, but it's there. Control down arrow, by the way, on the Mantis to activate that. VoiceOver modifier with H or space with H will take you to your home screen. Let's go ahead and do that


Scott: and sometimes speech will cut it off, but it does show messages, which is the icon on the upper left corner. I'm not sure why speech didn't merit, but it didn't. That happens sometimes by the way. Anyway, with those commands, I can move around the home screen. For example, let's say I wanted to go to the bottom of the screen, bottom right icon, that is, I can hit space with 4, 5, 6 again.

VoiceOver:Dot Watch 2.

Scott: Space with 1, 2, 3 to go to the top.


Scott: There are commands also to navigate to other parts of the home screen. For example, if you want to go to the status bar, you can hit space with the letter S as in status, I believe it's VoiceOver modifier M on the Mantis.

VoiceOver:1144, status 4 items.

Scott: Now we're in this status bar and I can move around the status bar with, of course, left or right arrow on the Mantis or space with dot 4 or space with dot 1 respectively on a Perkins keyboard. However, this will keep you in the status bar. If you want to get out of the status bar, you need to press either space with B on a Perkins keyboard, escape on the Mantis, or you can press VO modifier M or space with S to leave the status bar.


Scott: Which I've just done, and now I'm back on my home screen. You can also navigate through various pages of your home screen. To move forward a page space with O, or space with dots 1, 3, 5.

VoiceOver:Page 2 of 5, wallet.

Scott: If you want to go backwards, space with 2, 4, 6.

VoiceOver:Home, page 1 of 5, messages.

Scott: There are others like muting speech space with M on the Perkins keyboard, VO with the letter S for speech on the Mantis.

VoiceOver:Speech off.

Scott: I'll do it one more time.

VoiceOver:Speech on.

Scott: There are a lot of others, it just would take me all day to sit here and list them all, but those are a few that will get you started. Next thing we're going to look at is composing simple text. I'm going to use the notes app for this, but you can use whatever text editor you like. iOS 14.6, going all the way back to 14.0 gave us some issues as braille display users having to do with getting wrong information about where we were. You might still see it from time to time. I'm sure I will encounter it during demonstration. If not, I'll mention it before we move on from text entry.

I am going to hit space with the letter H twice, and that's going to take me into the app switcher.

VoiceOver:app switcher. Settings active.

Scott: Just like every other area of iOS where there's accessibility built-in, some apps aren't very accessible at all, but that's a whole nother story. You can hit space with dot 4 to go to the next item, space with dot 1 to go previous, right or left arrow keys respectively if you are on a Mantis. I'm in the app switcher, and I'm going to find the notes app.

VoiceOver:Messages active, dice world active, clear node active, swarm active, notes active, actions, my LTC notes.

Scott: What you heard there is the name of a note. I can, of course, double-tap or hit a cursor routing button to go into this note, or I know the new note button is located in the lower right corner. I can hit space with 4, 5, 6.

VoiceOver:51 notes.

Scott: Get very close to the new note button. Now, all I need to do is hit space with 1.

VoiceOver:New note button.

Scott: I'm on the new note button. By the way, there's another keyboard shortcut which works about half the time at this point. That is command with the letter N that will automatically create a new note if it's able. The way to do this on a braille display without a Bluetooth keyboard is to emulate or pressing the command key followed by hitting the letter N. You have to do it rather quickly, but you can, what you do is you hit space with 1, 7 to emulate the command key and quickly type the letter N and-

VoiceOver:New note. Multiline text field is editing insertion point at start.

Scott: I am now in a brand new note. Let's say I want to type, it's pretty simple. I'll just type, Hello, How are you today?

VoiceOver:Hello, how are you today?

Scott: Let's say I wanted to get rid of the word hello. There's a lot of ways you can do this. The most simple is to press the cursor routing button above or below the letter H in how, and then either hit backspace on the Mantis or dot 7 on your Braille display several times.


Scott: Sometimes it will give you the correct information as you're backspacing and other times it gives you gibberish like it just did. Now, all I have is how are you today with a question mark. Let's say I would like to add to that again, with the cursor routing buttons, I can press the one located to the right of the question mark, and today. Now my cursor is blinking there and I can continue typing, I'm doing well.

VoiceOver:I'm doing well-

Scott: Comma, how about you?

VoiceOver:How about you?

Scott: If I want to, for example, move the cursor to the top of the document, I could pan backward or forward. Or I could hit space with 3, 6.

VoiceOver:Insertion points at start.

Scott: If I hit space with 3, 6 again.

VoiceOver:Insertion points at end.

Scott: Insertion point jumps to the end. Of course, on the Mantis, I would hit up and down arrows together, that would jump your insertion point between start and end as well. It's a little more complicated, sometimes based on whether QuickNav is on or off but that's beyond the scope of this podcast to cover so I won't do it. Let's say you want to do some other easy editing. Let's say, for example, I think this is a really stupid note, which I do by the way. I could do a select all on the Braille display. On the Mantis, it's command and the letter A. The quickest way to do it on a Perkins keyboard, his space with 2, 3, 5, 6.

VoiceOver:How are you today? I'm doing well, how about you? selected.

Scott: The entire thing is selected, and I feel dot 7 and 8 underneath everything so I'm able to see that it is all highlighted. Let's say, for example, I want to get rid of all this, now I can just hit backspace or dot 7 on a Perkins keyboard and-

VoiceOver:How are you today? I'm doing well how about you?

Scott: It's gone and you can tell because the pitch of speech is down slightly and after I hit dot 7 on the Braille display, all the text is gone. There are a lot of other things you can do to edit, a lot of other commands you can use. For example, if you want to bold text, you can do command with the letter B, you can underline it with command U and you still have all of your rotor options by the way. For example, if you wanted to do text selection, you could hit space with 5, 6 or 2, 3 until you get to text selection.

Then use space with dot 1 or space with dot 4 to select the type of element you would like to select by and you can use that method as well. A lot of different options available. I haven't even listed them all, there are other ways also to highlight text and delete it but this is a general overview podcast so I think I will leave it at that point. We've been talking a lot about different braille display commands and of course, I'm going to give you the information for the general command list with iOS and braille displays but that might not be the format you prefer your commands to be in.

Maybe you are one of those people that like to just hit random keys and see what they do. There is a way to do that in iOS so that you will not impact the operating system, that's VoiceOver help, which you can get to from anywhere with an iOS by pressing space with the letter K for keyboard help. On a Mantis, that's going to be VO with K, I'll go ahead and do that.

VoiceOver:Starting help, to stop help perform a four-finger double tap or two-finger scrub or press escape on the keyboard.

Scott: Or space would be on the braille display. Here's the issue with this particular method of trying to learn braille display commands. Now as a speech user, it's not a big deal, you hear whatever you press, but as a braille display user, that's not necessarily the case. It quickly flashes up AND it's gone. For example, I'll just hit the far left thumb key on the Brailliant.

VoiceOver:Dot 1 spacebar move to previous item.

Scott: I know that's not dot 1 spacebar that I pressed, it does give me the function which is to move to the previous item. Now on the braille display that came up as an announcement or an alert message. Let's say I am going to just see what a random command does. Let's try space with 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

VoiceOver:Dot 1, dot 2, dot 3, dot 4, dot 5, dot 6 spacebar toggle screen curtain.

Scott: Space with 4, 6. Doesn't do anything but it does take you to the notification center for whatever reason. IOS is being temperamental and not functioning.

VoiceOver:Dot 2, dot 3, dot 4 space bar. Move to status bar.

Scott: Space with S is going to move you to the status bar as I already covered. There are other things as well. Space with 2, 5 will take you to the control center but for whatever reason, VoiceOver help is not telling you that but it does work. Let me get out of here. I can do that by hitting escape on the Mantis or space with B on Perkins-style keyboards. Space with H doesn't work.

VoiceOver:Dot 1, dot 2, dot 5, spacebar. home.

Scott: That'll just tell you what it does. You have to hit space with B escape or do the two fingers scrub on the touchscreen.

VoiceOver:Escape stopping help.

Scott: Now I'm back in the notes app. I can confirm that as a braille display user by the cursor flashing, there are other ways to get help as well. Let's say, for example, you would like a list on your IOS device. This is actually a two-part demonstration. I'm going to demonstrate not only how to find commands and hear what they are but also how to set up auto-scroll. I am going back to VoiceOver braille space with backspace and V.

VoiceOver:Settings accessibility back button.

Scott: Let's go back to braille.

VoiceOver:Enter a search text, braille. Brailliant BI 20X 6 5 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 7 8 button.

Scott: Again, I use the find functions base with F or V O F if you're on a Mantis.

VoiceOver:Output contracted button.

Scott: I've activated that menu. This probably looks familiar. What we're looking for is the braille display's name itself. I'll go ahead and get quickly to that.

VoiceOver:Selected Brailliant BI 20X 6 5 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 7 8 connected. Connected button actions available.

Scott: You'll hear that it's connected in their actions available. I'll hit space with dot 6

VoiceOver:More info.

Scott: This is what we want. I'll hit space with 3, 6.

VoiceOver:Braille commands button.

Scott: Now we have braille commands button. However, I'll also let that on the screen if I move one item to the right-

VoiceOver:Forget this device button.

Scott: You can forget the device but for right now space with dot one to get us back to the commands button.

VoiceOver:Braille commands button.

Scott: I'll activate that.

VoiceOver:Braille button.

Scott: We have here a list of categories. Let's just choose the braille category.

VoiceOver:Decrease auto-advance speed button.

Scott: You could set up a command here. It's not set up but you can set up a command to decrease auto-scroll or auto-advance.

VoiceOver:Enable auto-advance button.

Scott: You can set one up to turn it on or off.

VoiceOver:Increase auto-advance speed button.

Scott: Speed it up. Again, you'll notice there are no commands being spoken here. The reason is because they're not set up yet. Let's keep going now.

VoiceOver:Next input mode dot 2+ dot 3+ dot 6+ spacebar button.

Scott: That might seem familiar to you.

VoiceOver:Next output mode, dot 1+ dot 2+ dot 4+ dot 5+ spacebar button.

Scott: That's just another way in which you can look at what commands there are available and what their functions are. You can also as you notice there with the increase and decrease of auto-advance and auto-advance itself, there were no braille display commands associated with it. Apple has chosen to do that so that you can choose your own command which I'll show you now. Let me go back to where we need to be here.

VoiceOver:Next input mode dot2+ dot 3+ dot 6+ spacebar increase auto-advance speed, enable auto-advance button.

Scott: That is enable auto-advance. By the way, it is also an option in the Rotor if you enable it. Enable auto-advance. Let me activate that.

VoiceOver:Braille enable auto-advance No assigned braille keys dimmed.

Scott: I moved to the right and it said nothing has been assigned and it's dimmed, of course, because, well, there aren't amy. Let's go one more option and we have-

VoiceOver:Assigned new braille keys button.

Scott: Yes, option two assign a new braille display command. You might say, "I have no idea what I want it to be," and that's a reasonable thing. Or, "I don't know all the commands. How do I make sure I don't override it with something else?" The answer is that you will be prompted before you make any changes. Let's say backspace with S is what I want to make activating auto-scroll. Let me activate the assign new braille keys button.

VoiceOver:Alert, press braille keys.

Scott: Dot 7 with S and space.

VoiceOver:Assigned new braille keys button.

Scott: We'll return to that button now if I go back one option.

VoiceOver:Dot 2+ dot 3+ dot 4+ dot 7+ spacebar. Actions available.

Scott: Now you see the command and if you did it wrong, maybe you typed it wrong or you decided that's not what you want, you can hit a space with dot 3 or a space with dot 6.


Scott: Then activate the delete button and the command will be gone. If you want to have control over the speed of your auto-advancing, you can also do that. You noticed earlier that there were options for increasing and decreasing the speed of auto-scroll, and you would follow this process. I just outlined to add commands for doing that as well. Since I'm over an hour on this podcast already and this is an overview podcast, I really don't feel like I can go into greater detail about what's available to assign.

I will tell you that as an advanced braille display user on iOS, there are a lot of customized commands that you can set up other than what you just saw with auto-scroll. There are commands that have to be assigned but you can use them for things like jumping around on a webpage to various controls like headings, form controls and a lot of other elements. Not only that but let's say for example, you had a document that was five paragraphs long and you had a couple of sentences that were underlined in paragraph two. Then maybe another one in paragraph four and maybe a third one in paragraph five.

Well, you can set up commands to jump directly from one part of the document that's underlined to the next. There are also options for bold and a whole lot of other possibilities. I would highly encourage you to check that out. That brings me to the end of the podcast. Thanks, everybody, for listening. I hope that some of the information contained here has been helpful. If you are interested in looking at content that deals with specific braille displays, one thing you can do is look at the hardware reviews and accessories section on AppleVis.

You can also look at the AccessWorld magazine. There's a lot of braille display reviews and those various issues. You can also follow me on Twitter if you'd like. My Twitter username is Scott Davert. That's S-C-O-T-T D-A-V-E-R-T. Thanks so much for listening and we'll look for you again on another podcast. Bye for now.

Closing announcement: This podcast has been brought to you by the community of AppleVis. For the latest in resources and tips and tricks to help you get the best experience from your Apple device, visit us online at www.applevis.com.

[01:04:09] [END OF AUDIO]



Submitted by Holger Fiallo on Thursday, July 29, 2021

I could pay my mortgage for a year for my condominium. Do believe people need to learn braille. I do know it but never use it. Even in my 17 years as social worker did not needed.

Submitted by Kerry Fielding on Saturday, July 31, 2021

Very informative, but as A long time Braille user who has just started to use Braille and wants to become more efficient at doing so, do you have any tips for navigating around the iPod screen? For example, in the mail app, where you have all your mailboxes down one side and your message on the right hand side? I’m told to use containers, but as yet, I can’t seem to make this work for me efficiently. I’d like to be able to do this without using my hands on the iPod at all.

Submitted by Jason White on Sunday, August 1, 2021

As an experienced braille display user, I can recommend this podcast to anyone who is approaching VoiceOver for iOS/iPad OS with braille for the first time. I generally don't use braille with iOS devices, but I use it extensively with my laptop computers (Linux, Mac OS and Windows). If I were using an iPhone or iPad for writing anything more than short text messages, or for responding to e-mail, I would definitely turn to the braille interface.

Although the braille display features of screen readers tend to be similar, there are differences of detail. This podcast is effective in conveying the specifics of Apple's choices in VoiceOver for iOS/iPad OS - exactly the tour of the territory that newcomers need.

Hi Kerry. You may wish to set your orientation to portrait. If you do that on the iPod, your messages will not show up as a separate column on the same screen, but you should end up seeing the message and then can interact with it once selected. You said iPod in one instance, but iPad in another, so I'm not sure which to address. If you wish to use the columns where your mailbox folder is set up on the left and the contents of messages open up on the right, I would recommend setting up braille display commands for jumping to previous and next container. I hope this helps.

Jason, thank you very much! I'm glad you found it worthy of passing along. It was certainly designed for users who are more novice in terms of braille access on iOS. If I had the time, I'd do more specific podcasts about specific apps, but alas.

Submitted by Scott Davert on Thursday, August 5, 2021

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

In reply to by Holger Fiallo

$8,000 for an 80-cell display. As for your not needing it, many hearing people don't. I'm not sure I understand the point of your comment. Were you hoping we would be proud of you for not needing a braille display?

Submitted by Anna D on Sunday, August 8, 2021

Club AppleVis Member

Scott, that was a great introduction to braille displays, and I learned things though I've been using braille with the iPhone for quite a while. I had no idea you could connect some braille displays to iOS devices using USB, for example. I tried it with a Brailliant BI 40X and the Humanware NLS eReader, and it worked with both. I was very surprised to find out that I could use a standard USB camera adapter, the one that doesn't connect to power, with both of these displays. I would have thought a braille display would draw at least as much power as a flash drive and require the power of the USB 3 adapter, but apparently not. I have no idea whether some displays that can connect this way do require a USB 3 adapter, but those two don't.