The State of Refreshable Braille Support — Summer 2017

By: Amy Mason

Refreshable Braille displays are undergoing a renaissance. New devices with many different form factors, price points, and features are either on the market, or on their way. Therefore, the access technology team knew it was time for a review — not of the devices themselves, but of their support across different combinations of screen readers and operating systems, because a Braille display is only as good as the software driving it.

The majority of this data was collected in February 2017 for CSUN, and completed prior to the Access Technology Seminar day at this year’s national convention. The operating system and screen access software combinations that we examined are as follows:

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National Federation of the Blind Reviews Phones for Low Vision and Blind Seniors

The National Federation of the Blind Access Technology team made its presence known this year at the CSUN Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference. As in years past, we presented on topics of interest to blind technology users. Below, you can download the slides from the presentation on Phones for Low Vision and Blind Seniors by Clara Van Gerven and Amy Mason.

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CES Las Vegas Highlights Accessible Technology for the Blind

By: Clara Van Gerven, ‎Manager of Accessibility Programs at National Federation of the Blind

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The Future of Braille is Refreshing: How the National Federation of the Blind is Making Refreshable Braille Displays Affordable with the Orbit Reader

By Amy Mason

Every year on January 4 we celebrate Louis Braille’s birthday because of his invention of the Braille code—the most powerful and successful reading and writing system designed for the blind. It has given us freedom that only a scant 200 years ago we couldn’t have imagined. It allows us to study the sacred and mull the mundane. From Christmas cards to Coraline, The Great Gatsby to grocery lists, the Bible to the beer menu, and everything in between, Braille has changed the fortunes of the blind by opening the written word to us.

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My Experiences Switching to Android, Part 2: Tips, Tricks, and Lessons Learned

By: Karl Belanger

Editor’s note: Karl is a blind Android user and a member of the National Federation of the Blind’s Access Technology team. This post is a follow up to Karl’s September 6, 2016 post entitled My Experiences Switching to Android.

It’s been a little over three months since I’ve started using Android as my only mobile platform. In that time, I’ve found a lot of useful apps, tips, and tricks that have only improved my enjoyment of using Android.  If you haven’t read my initial post, I suggest you do so.

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Commitment Is More Than Checking a Box: Uber Fails to Get It

The National Federation of the Blind is the leader in nonvisual accessibility. We work diligently to assist those in government, education, and the private sector to gain a true understanding that accessibility is not an expensive burden that stifles innovation. Accessibility is an enhancement that makes products and services available and usable by people with disabilities, while simultaneously making the same products and services better and easier to use by everyone. The ever-growing integration of devices that talk and devices you can operate with your voice are examples of the innovation that emerges while striving for accessibility. We realize that in order to be successful, it is essential to consider accessibility throughout the lifecycle from concept, to design, to development, to implementation. Consumer involvement in this process at every stage is essential.

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My experiences switching to Android

By Karl Belanger


I’ve used Apple devices since 2010, first an iPod Touch, and then several iPhone models. Over the years I’ve played with Android several times and have always been disappointed and frustrated with the experience. Recent updates to Talkback and Android have changed things considerably. As I detailed in my post in May, gestures are much more responsive, web navigation is much better, and the whole Android experience is the best it has been. So, I decided to take the plunge and switch to an Android phone full time. I settled on the Motorola Moto G Plus 4th Generation, as I felt it had reasonable specs, and a nearly stock (original) version of Android. Plus Motorola has a reputation for getting updates out faster than most other manufacturers.

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BrailleNote Touch: accessing and using third party apps

By Karl Belanger

The BrailleNote Touch (Touch) from HumanWare has full access to the Google Play Store. Many third party apps are made available in a notetaking device for the first time. While this provides a lot of opportunity, there are also many chances for things to go wrong when developers haven't made their apps accessible. The Touch handles many third party apps very well, but sometimes the Braille keyboard interface can cause some interesting interactions, and there are also the expected issues when encountering partially inaccessible apps. In general, the TalkBack gestures translate well to keyboard commands either with TouchBraille or the physical keyboard. It is also possible, by pressing the previous and next thumb keys together, to turn on explore by touch mode and access many of the usual gestures that Android users will be familiar with.

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The BrailleNote Touch as a Braille Notetaker- How Does It Stack Up?

By Amy Mason

The BrailleNote Touch is an impressive feat of hardware and software engineering. It is an Android tablet with full-fledged Braille support, a skinned and simplified interface running custom-built accessible programs, full visual display, and the option, but not requirement, of using an external Braille keyboard. It is also a Google certified Android device, capable of running the vast majority of applications in the Play store. Furthermore, it does what it sets out to do quite effectively. The BrailleNote is indisputably ambitious, and in some ways it is already an impressive device. That said, how does it handle the traditional tasks of a Braille Notetaker? Is it worth the $5500 asking price? Let’s take a closer look.

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KNFB Reader: The Convention Chronicles

From the Editor:

The KNFB Reader can be used in a variety of situations. Keep reading to learn how one might use the app at national convention. The KNFB Reader is a smartphone app which converts printed text into synthetic speech or Braille. Moments after taking a picture with the camera of a mobile device, the content of previously inaccessible documents can be read with ease.  As you will see below, KNFB Reader is a game changer for anyone who is blind or otherwise print disabled.  To find out more about KNFB Reader, go to


By Joel Zimba

I was relieved to find the schedule for the airport shuttle on the company website.  I was only mildly dismayed to find it was an inaccessible PDF document.  One pass through KNFB Reader and I was good to go.



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