Freedom Scientific Braille Displays: Using Whiz Wheels for Greater Productivity

Blog Date: 
Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Overview
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.

Features and Tips
Movement within a File
Pressing down on a Whiz Wheel, in the same way you press a button will cause the movement setting of the Whiz Wheel to cycle through four available modes. Within a file, you can program the Whiz Wheels to let you move by line, sentence, or paragraph, or to pan through the file, allowing you to read continuously through the text. Moving the Whiz Wheel 'down' or toward you will let you navigate towards the end of the file and moving the Whiz Wheel 'up' or away from you will let you navigate towards the beginning of the file.

Movement within Menus
In menus, moving the Whiz Wheel towards you will let you navigate towards the end of the menu and moving the wheel away from you will let you navigate towards the beginning of the menu. Pressing down on the Whiz Wheel will select a menu item.

Dialog Boxes
As in Menus, moving the Whiz Wheel towards you will let you navigate forwards through the controls and moving the wheel away from you will let you navigate backwards through the controls. Depending on the control, the Whiz Wheels will function differently when pressed. In list views, combo boxes, radio buttons, tree views and check box control groups, pressing the Whiz Wheel down will put it in List Mode. In this mode, rolling the Whiz Wheel lets you scroll through the items. You can press the Whiz Wheel again to exit List Mode. For individual check boxes or buttons, pressing the Whiz Wheel toggles the state of the check box from checked to unchecked (or vice versa) or activates the button.

Tips
Remember that each Whiz Wheel is independently programmable. When reading text in a document or a web page, it is often very helpful to set one Whiz Wheel to Panning Mode and the other to move by line sentence or paragraph.
This allows you to read smoothly through the document using one wheel to pan forwards or backwards and the other wheel can be set to let you skim text, perhaps moving through the text reading only each paragraph's first sentence until you have located specific material in which you are interested. Also, taking advantage of the various modes available in menus and dialogs will let you locate and quickly select menu and list items or configure your PC's settings or the settings of an application by quickly locating and interacting with check boxes and buttons while never having to move your hands to the keyboard.

With the release of JAWS 9, Freedom Scientific has added more functionality to allow tracking of only the Braille cursor.

  • Pressing down on both wheels simultaneously switches from Track Focus mode to Track Braille Cursor mode.
  • Use the left wheel to move up and down, just as traditionally one might use the left hand to track line position on a Braille page.  Use the right wheel to pan left and right without wrapping to the next line'no more confusion as to where the line starts and ends. To learn more visit Freedom Scientific Braille Displays.

Freedom Scientific has put together a significant amount of technical and how-to information on our software and hardware products.  We encourage you to bookmark these pages, and visit them frequently when you have a technical issue, or simply wish to learn how to accomplish various tasks with your Freedom Scientific products.  These include:

Training resources for blind and low vision products
User manuals, keystroke guides, quick start guides and much more for your Freedom Scientific products
Frequently asked questions and technical support notices for Freedom Scientific products

Finally, keep up with what other JAWS users are saying and doing! JAWS user groups exist not only in the USA, but in the United Kingdom, Germany, Russia, and other locations around the world. Join one of the many JAWS user groups.