Fred’s Head from APH, a Blindness Blog

Fred’s Head, offered by the American Printing House for the Blind, contains tips, techniques, tutorials, in-depth articles, and resources for and by blind or visually impaired people. Our blog is named after the legendary Fred Gissoni, renowned for answering a seemingly infinite variety of questions on every aspect of blindness.

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Monday, October 17, 2011

Refreshabraille 18 and the iPad

I've known, for some time now, that the IOS devices will support a braille display. I had never tried to connect one to my iPad to see how it worked until last Saturday.

While working in the Product Showcase area of the APH Annual Meeting, I decided to give it a try. Would I be able to connect a Refreshabraille 18 with my iPad running the latest version of Apple's IOS software? I took out my Refreshabraille 18, made sure it was charged and turned on the iPad.

I had connected other bluetooth devices to the iPad, wireless keyboards and headphones, so I knew where to go to get started. My finger glided over the various apps on my startup screen, then found and double tapped "settings". When the options screen opened, I found bluetooth and tapped to open it. I found a list of the devices that I had previously connected to the iPad and a list of items that were currently available to pair. My wife's cell phone was there with a few others that I didn't recognize. The one device that I didn't see was my Refreshabraille.

"Very strange," I thought. "Why wouldn't my Refreshabraille be showing up in the list of available devices?"

I thought something was wrong with my display, so I tried the unit on the table next to me. It didn't show up in the list of devices either.

Well, i knew exactly where to go for help. Like so many who are blind or visually impaired or sighted people who want to learn about blindness, I went to the Fred's Head account on Twitter. I asked the followers of the @fredshead account if they could help me figure out why the display wasn't showing up. Within minutes, I received a tweet from the Alaska Center BVI (@alaskabvi) that said "Look under Accessibility > VoiceOver > Braille, it'll search for the Braille display."

So, I went back to my settings screen, double tapped "accessibility", then "Voiceover" and found a button labeled "Braille".

As soon as I double tapped that Braille button, I saw the Refreshabraille! I double tapped its serial number and immediately the two devices connected!

It was really cool to navigate the various apps on the iPad with a braille display. I could access all the menus and links and when I landed on an edit box, I could enter text in grade II braille and it took my entry exactly as it should!

To see a list of the available keyboard commands (chords) that can be used with Voiceover, click this link.
To see a list of commands specific to the Refreshabraille 18 with the iPad, click this link.

APH’s Refreshabraille 18 Becomes a Teaching Tool!

Here's a YouTube video about using an iPad2 with APH's Refreshabraille 18:

Demonstration of how the iPad and a Refreshabraille 18 can be used as an instructional tool for parents and regular education teachers.

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