Part 2: Ten Braille Tips for iDevices by Scott Davert, AppleVis Editorial Team and Accessibility Specialist

Photo of Scott Davert with his white cane and assistive technology

Guest blogger Scott Davert, M.A., VRT, (at left) is an AppleVis Editorial Team Member and a Senior Instructor in the Adaptive Technology Department and Communications Learning Center at the Helen Keller National Center for Deaf-Blind Youths and Adults. Previously, Scott has reviewed new accessibility features in iOS 7, RoboBraille, and the Humanware Communicator app.

In his latest review, Scott has compiled 10 useful tips for braille users of the iPod, iPhone, and iPad, based upon his personal experience and his work with individuals who are deaf-blind and use braille with their iDevices.

In Part 1 of his review, Scott discussed Bluetooth pairing and connectivity; Unified English Braille and translation tables; turning off VoiceOver sounds; reviewing messages and information in braille; and conserving and extending battery life. In this week’s Part 2, Scott discusses five additional tips, including activating VoiceOver help and turning off automatic contracted braille.

6. Hey, What’s This Button Do?

While most modern-day braille displays have a Perkins-style keyboard and cursor router buttons, they also have some buttons that make them unique and are configured to help make your life easier in various ways. For example, some buttons may scroll in a certain direction and be located so that you can operate them while keeping your hands on the display.

While the manual or the various commands listed on are great, it’s not always convenient to pull up such a list. Fortunately, iOS has you covered.

From anywhere in iOS, press space with K to activate VoiceOver help. This will allow you to press buttons and keyboard combinations to find out what they do and let you practice gestures and keyboard commands for a Bluetooth keyboard.

This information will flash briefly in braille and then disappear. You can press space with N (as I wrote in Part 1) to read it again at your own pace if you didn’t catch it the first time. To exit keyboard help, press space with B to activate the back button. You will be returned to where you were before entering this mode.

(Please note: When there is no message flashing, the braille display will still show the last text that was on it before you entered keyboard help. This is a known bug that has been reported.)

7. Hurry Up, Why Don’t You?

In iOS 7, there have been many changes to the user interface. While most of these do not impact braille users directly, there is one that can affect the performance of your device. This is called Reduced Motion.

Go in to Settings > General > Accessibility, and under the Vision heading, turn on “reduced motion.” This will cause less battery drain and should also speed up your device a bit more, as there is less demand on the processor when this feature is turned on. For additional ways to conserve battery power, read Tips For Improving Battery Life in iOS 7 by David Goodwin.

8. But Can Do? I Don’t Think So!

Some readers may be shrugging their shoulders at the title of this tip, but anyone who knows contracted braille will understand. Some braille users enjoy using contracted braille, but their typing speed may be slower than the iDevice likes. If you wait too long between letters when typing out the word “float,” for example, you may end up with the non-word “fromlikeoathat.”

Why does this happen? After a few seconds, the Apple braille driver assumes that when you enter a single letter, you want that to be the contracted braille one-word equivalent. In iOS 7, there is a feature that allows you to turn off this Automatic Braille Translation.

Go into Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Braille to turn this feature off, which will ensure that nothing is translated until you press either space or backspace. The drawback is that you cannot see words as you type them; in addition, editing becomes rather cumbersome, since you must hit space with dots 4 and 5 in order to translate without hitting the space bar.

While this may be a good feature for users who can keep track of what they’re writing, it’s a feature I’d use only when writing a document. You can always re-enable Automatic Braille Translation during the editing process. Alternatively, pressing space with G from anywhere within the operating system will toggle between contracted and uncontracted braille.

While it may take slightly longer to type out uncontracted braille, you may find it actually saves time in the long run, since you will not have to go back and correct all of those mistranslations. Turning contracted braille on and off is a feature with all versions of iOS that have braille support.

(Please note: If you choose to type in uncontracted braille, you will need to use the computer braille symbols for punctuation marks and numbers, such as the period (dots 4 and 6) and the question mark (dots 1-4-5-6).

9. The Braille Master is at the Controls

Also new in iOS 7 is the Control Center, which gives you easy access to what Apple feels are essential controls that require convenient access, such as WiFi, Bluetooth, and Do Not Disturb, for example.

While touch screen users must tap the Status Bar and then swipe up with three fingers to reach the Control Center, a braille user can simply press space with dots 2 and 5 from anywhere in iOS. Press space with B to exit the Control Center.

10. Get Notified

Similarly, touch screen-only users can tap the Status Bar and then swipe down with three fingers to pull up the Notifications Center. As a braille user, you can pull up your Notifications Center instantly by pressing space with dots 4 and 6. Press space with B to exit the Notifications Center.

Additional Information

For more information, you can contact Scott at