As of the release of iOS 5.1 last week, the Brailliant Braille displays from Humanware are now supported by iDevices, and they are supported very well. I connected a Brailliant 32 to my iPad, and iPhone, and was impressed by a couple of neat features. First, the 2 sets of 3 keys that flank the display can be used together to handle all of the “chorded” (space and dot combination) commands on the iOS platform. So to go to the top of the screen a person could do a 1-2-3 and spacebar combination, or they could hit the three buttons to the left of the display together without the spacebar. It’s a pretty slick way to implement the command structure if you ask me. The other extremely beneficial feature of the Brailliant with iOS is just how easy it is to invoke the initial pairing. A user would connect to the Brailliant in the usual way, by going to General>Accessibility>VoiceOver>Braille and double tap Brailliant BI <serial number>. After this, the iDevice will pop up with a message stating that the Brailliant would like to pair with the iDevice. It asks if a numerical code is shown on the device, and if you answer yes, the display connects to the iOS device. It is the easiest pairing I have seen, and I hope that other manufacturers will follow suit with their new devices. It is also quite responsive about re-connecting after the iDevice has gone to sleep, and really it just works very nicely.
The only thing that holds it back from being the nicest portable Braille display I have ever used is the stiff spacebar which makes writing a lot less pleasant than on some others I have seen. That being said, it’s very in tune with the Apple software, and it works quite well.
Apple has a partial list of Braille commands for iOS, and on that page they have special commands for the previous generation Brailliant displays. With the exception of the missing joystick, most of these commands work in the same way on the new model.
Just as an aside, Apple has sadly not yet released the Mac drivers for the Brailliant, though it is hoped that it will do so soon.