Tech Tips

Welcome to our Technology Tips section! The NFB Jernigan Institute Access Technology team is always on the lookout for new and better ways to give blind people access to technology, as the ever-growing International Braille and Technology Center attests. In these tips we want to share some of the pointers manufacturers and developers share with us to help you learn about new applications and new programs, and to help you find new functionality in familiar products. The Access Technology team works with the relevant manufacturers and developers to obtain the tips listed here, to make sure that you get the best and latest about anything new in the world of non-visual access technology.


If you have any feedback on the tips, please contact Clara Van Gerven at

Smartphones and Smart Hal

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Smart Hal is a screen reader for Windows Mobile 5 and Mobile 6 Smartphones.  The first thing you might think is "Wonderful, I can access my phone!" The second thought you might have is, "What is the difference between a Smartphone and a cell phone?" This article will take you through what you'll find on a Smartphone and how Smart Hal works with these great features.

Dolphin Tips on Forms Mode, Application Notes and Magnification Modes

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Tip:  Using Forms on the Internet

Turning on Forms Mode

Did you know that when using virtual focus, turning "forms mode" on in Supernova/Hal 6.03 or later will allow you to type text in web page forms? To turn on "forms mode", either (a) press Caps Lock and Enter whilst on a web page or (b) go to the Supernova/Hal control panel, select the "File" menu, select "Situation Settings" and then select "Forms mode" by highlighting it and pressing the SPACEBAR. Now you will find as you tab around a web page in virtual focus you will be able to enter text into forms, search and other edit areas.

HumanWare's BrailleNote mPower and BrailleNote PK can now access RFB&D AudioPlus DAISY Books

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

HumanWare's US customers can now use their built-in BrailleNote DAISY book reader to access the more than 100,000 AudioPlus'  books available from RFB&D®. Because these books are password protected, they require special software to play. This software is enabled in KeySoft 7.21 build 54.

When you have installed the software, follow these steps to play the RFB&D® AudioPlus® books on your BrailleNote:

1. If you are not already a member, apply for membership of the RFB&D® library. The application forms are available at

Working with Documents in Dolphin SuperNova and Hal

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Reading and editing documents with SuperNova/Hal couldn't be easier. As you navigate through the text, SuperNova/Hal reads the text underneath your cursor out loud one letter, word or line at a time, depending on which navigation keys you press.

Move the cursor left or right and each character will be announced.  Move one word at a time by pressing CONTROL + CURSOR LEFT or RIGHT and each word will be announced.  And, by moving to a new line using CURSOR UP or CURSOR DOWN the line will be announced.

Do you want more information? SuperNova/Hal contains an array of speak keys that go beyond giving you just the character, word or line announcement.  These are all multikey commands.

Victor Reader Stream: FAQ

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Q. Are NLS books now available for download?

A. NLS has recently opened an expanded pilot download site of digital talking books and magazines for NLS patrons who are registered for NLS service by their local library, who have a computer and high speed Internet connection to download the books, and who also have an NLS authorized digital book player capable of playing the NISO books downloaded from the NLS server.    

Q. Who qualifies for NLS talking book service?

A. Only residents of the United States or American citizens living abroad who are unable to read or use standard print materials as a result of a temporary or permanent visual, physical limitation may receive NLS audio book services.  Each individual must be certified first before accessing the NLS audio book services. 

Freedom Scientific Braille Displays: Using Whiz Wheels for Greater Productivity

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Freedom Scientific's Focus 80 and 40-cell Braille displays and PAC Mate Portable 40 and 20-cell Braille displays are affordable, versatile refreshable Braille displays, and when used with JAWS' screen reading software, they are packed with advanced features and options. One of the unique features available on both of these Braille displays is the programmable Whiz Wheels. The Whiz Wheels, placed at either end of the line of Braille cells on each Braille display, have been positioned to promote the greatest comfort and economy of hand movement. Using the Whiz Wheels, it is possible to navigate quickly and efficiently through files, dialog boxes and menus without ever removing your hands from the Braille display.

Eliminating the Pains and Strains of Computer Use

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Most would agree that computers are not inherently user-friendly. Many find using a computer to be painful, while others find daily computer use requires significant effort. These pains and strains of computer use are even more pronounced when the user is dealing with low vision or blindness. 

Most programs, however, can be controlled with keyboard shortcuts which often simplify the interaction.  Of course it would be overwhelming to try and learn them all. Instead, start with the most useful shortcuts in your most used programs and as well as some basic desktop shortcuts.

The USDA TARGET Center will be presenting a series of these shortcuts in this space.  More detailed trainings are also available online and in-person through the TARGET Center. 

Victor Reader Stream Tips and Tricks

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Q. If I lose my reading place, how can I get back to it quickly if the DAISY or NISO book has no page numbers?

Setting up the Apex as a Braille Display for your Mac computer

Blog Date: 
Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Connecting via the USB client port

1- From the Apex main menu, follow the steps described in the section “Set your BrailleNote Apex to Terminal mode”.
2- Insert the larger end of the cable into one of the Mac's USB ports. If the Apex does not display the item on the Mac, then reset the Apex. Again, choose "terminal for screen reader" from the main menu, and press the Enter key.  Items from the Mac should then be displayed on the Apex.
Connecting via Bluetooth
To establish the connection, do the following:

RealSpeak Solo Direct Voices for Freedom Scientific Products

Blog Date: 
Friday, September 9, 2011

From the JAWS help menu, you can either down arrow to move to, or press the letter R to open the Web Resources menu.  Once this menu is open, you can again either down arrow to, or press the letter R to activate the shortcut to the RealSpeak™ Solo Direct voices.

Use this page to download one or more Nuance® RealSpeak™ Solo Direct voices that work exclusively with 32-bit and 64-bit versions of JAWS 10 or later, MAGic 11 or later, OpenBook 9 or later, and WYNN 6 or later. These voices are available at no charge and will also work with demo versions of JAWS, MAGic, OpenBook, and WYNN that support the RealSpeak Solo Direct synthesizer.