Full Issue: AccessWorld January 2022

Editor's Page: Celebrating the Birthday of Louis Braille

Dear AccessWorld readers,

Once again, we come full circle to our braille focused issue of AccessWorld. We focus this issue on braille in particular as a celebration of the birthday of Louis Braille (January 4th, 1809). Last year, I focused this page on my own braille journey as well as the contemporary issue of braille literacy. For this year's page, I thought I would bring you a couple of braille facts that you may not have been aware of before.

You may have noticed that the braille alphabet follows a specific pattern in how each letter is formed. From A to J, each letter is made up of a different combination of the first two rows of cells (1, 2, 4, and 5) but starting with K, the pattern (dot 1 in this case) is repeated with the addition of the cell in the bottom left (dot 3) also being raised. This continues to the letter T whereupon the pattern repeats again with U, this time with cells 3 and 6 both containing dots. This means that U, V, X, Y, and Z are A through E with the addition of dots 3 and 6. You'll notice that the letter W is left out and that its dots (2, 4, 5, 6) don't follow the established pattern at all. Since we derive the English braille alphabet from the French one, W is placed at a different place in the french braille alphabet (after a series of accented characters) making its symbol different from the other letters used in English. I know that personally, I didn't pick up on this pattern until it was pointed out to me. Once I learned of the pattern, it seemed quite elegant and could make it easier to learn the braille alphabet. When I learned braille, I personally memorized each letter holistically without focusing so much on specific dot combinations. For example, unless a letter has dots with a noticeable space, E, I, K, etc., I picture the shape of the letter as an unbroken line. I'm curious if you, AccessWorld readers, were aware of this pattern before? Was it taught to you as you learned braille, did you notice it on your own or was it described to you later? As minor as it is, learning how and when someone learned of the braille letter pattern could say some interesting things about the way braille is taught. Also, this could just be common knowledge and I was just unobservant.

In modern times, braille is seen as the only alphabet used by people who are blind. I often see the idea that the first thing someone who has lost sight will learn is braille, no matter their age or circumstances, in the popular consciousness. I was interested to learn that even as late as the early 20th century, there were other alphabets in use by people who were blind and that the dominance of braille wasn't a foregone conclusion. By the late 19th century, there were 2 codes in the United states that were being used by people who were blind: New York Point and American Braille (a braille-like system that shuffled letters around so that those occurring most frequently had fewer numbers of dots). After a number of bitter arguments, tests and meetings over decades, we concluded with English braille, using the french braille alphabet. The saga is long and detailed, and AFB has an excerpt detailing it that I personally found a fascinating read.

Even though I find myself reading primarily using text-to-speech these days, I will always be incredibly thankful for Louis Braille and the braille code. I feel very fortunate that I learned it in my formative years and still find it useful today even with advances in technology, for example editing, reading a foreign language, labeling, etc.

I hope that you all have had a great start to the new year and as always, thank you for being readers of our magazine.


Aaron Preece
Editor and Chief
American Foundation for the Blind

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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Hadley’s New Braille Workshops

Steve Kelley

The first of Hadley's new tactile braille workshops has just launched and it’s going to make teaching and learning braille a lot more engaging for the older adult! Like Hadley’s other workshops, they are available, at no cost to registered learners. Registration is free, and can be done online at Hadley.edu, or by calling Hadley’s Help Desk at 800-323-4238.

In a recent conversation with Kim Walker, from Hadley’s Research and Development team, she outlined the newest braille workshops from Hadley, which will be available within the first quarter of 2022. Currently, the first of these workshops is available. Nearly two years of research and testing went into the design of these new Tactile Braille workshops. Walker explained that after looking at the data, it was clear that only 15% of the learners who started the traditional Hadley braille courses delivered in the mail on Daisy Talking Book cartridges and braille booklets, actually finished them. To understand this better, they turned to the very same older adult learners who chose not to finish the courses, to find out why, and what needed to improve to make the new Tactile Braille workshops more engaging for learners.

Walker explained that learners reported difficulty with deadlines, challenges with the audio player, and some even reported being overwhelmed with the contents in the box, when they first received the former Braille Literacy 1 course from Hadley. “We heard all kinds of things,” Walker explained, “but the one word we kept hearing was, ‘overwhelmed.’” Their research also discovered that 80% of those adults taking the braille course, had remaining vision, and some reported they were reading the braille visually. “So, we thought, what if we do a dual media, both large print and braille? But we kept in mind that we’re going to have people with no vision.” The team ultimately developed a workshop series delivered online in a series of videos, or by telephone as audio, with workbooks to accompany each series.

The first series of workshops that is currently available is letters of the alphabet. This will be followed by numbers and punctuation, and finally, contracted braille. Workshops will follow a similar format and a great deal of emphasis was placed on the tone and language of the audio as the workshops were developed. “Sometimes what we take for granted is the voice itself,” Kim remarked about the audio delivery for the workshops. “Learners reported finding the voice and tone, both encouraging and supportive. One learner remarked, ‘This is the most effective method I’ve found for learning braille. In the other book, no one was saying, ‘We’ll get through this together.’” This is a reference to the use of inclusive language and “we,” used throughout the workshops. Walker continued, “We found out that language was huge—that feeling was attached with language. The tone is really important, we don’t want to be talked to like a child. They felt like we weren’t telling them what they had to do, we were with them guiding them through it.”

Audio Delivery

Like Hadley’s existing braille workshop series, “Basic Braille by Sight: Reading,” and basic Braille by Sight: Writing,” the new workshops will be available on the website, as a series of videos. The video immediately refers learners to the dual media workbook sent out after registering for the workshop. Workbooks will contain both large print and braille (more on the workbooks below).

Hadley will introduce a new feature with the Tactile Braille series—learners will be able to access the workshops using their phone, and a smartphone is not required. This is not an app, so a landline may be used. Menu options are selected using the number pad, like choosing the desired workshop, to replay a workshop or get the next one. In addition, during business hours, a user can press zero to connect with one of the Braille Learning Experts, if there are questions about the workshop material.

Workshops are composed of slides, which correspond to a page in the workbook. Learners are prompted to go to the next page when slides are completed. Whether navigating by phone or web, learners may repeat a slide, move to the next or previous slides, and pause recordings as needed.

Dual Media Workbook

The new workbooks were literally designed from the ground up based on comments from learners and pilot tests. It was designed to be simple and feel safe for learners. Walker explained:

We know as professionals, there are times when you will use your remaining vision, and times when you will not. This really gives the person a choice… Teaching that skill and pairing it with something known, like the print alphabet seems to work. There’s a lot of research on paired association and how that would work. What we’re seeing with the pilot testing is that it worked. All the workbooks up to uncontracted braille will have the same, familiar layout. In the top left corner of the page will be braille. Beneath it a large print illustration of the braille cells being covered. About halfway down the page, a distinctive tactile line across the width of the page, and below this, several lines of tactile braille examples. “Some people might look at the braille in the large cell, but our entire goal is to teach these learners to be tactile readers. But we had to do this in a very safe way,” Kim explained.

Inside the front cover of each workbook, in large print, is the phone number to use to access the braille workshop on the phone, and the web address, for those wanting to watch the workshops online. Each page of the workshop corresponds with a slide on the video or audio. Each workbook also contains a set of stickers that corresponds with the letters in the workshop. For example, in the workshop for letters a-c, there are several braille stickers included for each of the three letters. Learners are encouraged to try labeling various items around the house. Walker explained that pilot testers were eager to learn letters right away, and using the stickers is a practical way to reinforce this. She also reported that the final draft of the workbooks was well-received by pilot testers. One tester exclaimed, “Wow, this is for me! I’ve actually opened something I can read right away. When things come to me, I often feel excluded. This makes me feel like I’m included…like they thought of me.” 

Series Overview

The first series available is the Braille for Everyday Use Series for letters. The series contains a total of eight workshops, each with an accompanying workbook. As learners progress through the series, subsequent workbooks will be mailed out to them. After the second workshop, learners interested in creating their own stickers and braille can request a slate and stylus. Following completing the seventh workshop, which includes a simulation of a pill box using braille labels, learners will receive their own pill box. For those who continue on to the next series, on numbers, a braille labeler will be sent after completing the series. There is no charge to learners for these items.

Walker explained that the dual media workbook design will not be used in the contracted braille series, “We feel by the time a person commits to that, they have enough under their belt that they’ve become a pretty good tactile reader. Same format, same booklet—we keep that middle line in for quite a while.” Another feature planned for the series is the opportunity for synchronous learning in groups. “We heard people saying, “Sometimes you just want to talk to someone else learning braille,” Walker said. “As this develops,” she explained, “the hope is that synchronous learning groups will develop. For example, all those working on certain workshops may have the opportunity to join in with a group of learners also working on the same workshops.” This group learning may look similar to Hadley’s current monthly discussion groups, in which participants are actively engaged in sharing tips and information with one another.

Final Thoughts

The research on design and development, and the responses from pilot testers has Walker and the Hadley staff eager for this latest series to the growing list of over 500 workshops Hadley now offers. At a time when face-to-face braille training with local and state agencies may be less available, this series may quickly become a useful tool for professionals in the field as well.  “I was thinking about the TVI (Teacher of the Visually Impaired) and the rehab counselor,” Walker said, “They’ve got pretty big caseloads. How wonderful if you had this instruction, and you’re the facilitator. You can get your person started…because it is designed for them to be very independent. “Walker was clear, however, that this new Tactile Braille series was designed specifically for the adult learner, and that it would require additional literacy elements for younger students.

Walker ended the interview sharing the story of one pilot tester, who she hopes is an indicator of the reception Braille for Everyday Use will have with adult learners. This individual reported at the outset of the pilot testing that she had no interest in learning braille. She didn’t feel she needed it because she had some remaining vision. After agreeing to pilot test the workshop on letters a-c, she said:

"You know, I’m left with the feeling that I’m excited to learn more. I didn’t feel like I needed this, but this is a good time to learn this. I am very positive this is something I do need, want, and can learn. Even with low vision you can use this. This would be a great asset to me. I was fighting learning braille, but it really is for everyone."

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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The Braillists Foundation: Taking Giant Steps Toward Increasing Braille Literacy

Judy Dixon

The mission of the Braillists Foundation is only two words, but they are powerful and resonate with braille readers everywhere. Those two words are "More Braille."

A Word about the Word "Braillist"

In the United Kingdom, a braillist is typically a blind person who reads braille by touch. In the United States, a braillist is typically a sighted person who transcribes print material into braille. In this article, the word "braillist" is used in the U.K. sense and refers to blind readers of braille.

What is the Braillists Foundation?

The Braillists Foundation is a U.K. charitable organization with three primary goals:

  1. Promote the value of braille as a proven literacy tool that enriches the lives of blind people.

  2. Support efforts to make affordable braille and tactile reading technologies available to all blind people irrespective of education and employment status. and

  3. Provide an open forum for the exchange of ideas about the development of future braille technology.

With these three goals, a small group of dedicated braille advocates has grown the organization into a very impressive endeavor that is providing braille instruction and informational seminars to hundreds of braillists in the U.K., as well as many others outside the country.

The idea for the Braillists Foundation grew out of a focus group for Bristol Braille Technology, makers of the Canute 360, a nine-line braille e-reader. As the members of this focus group were discussing braille, they became aware of the challenges around the need for braille training for blind adults, locating braille writer repair services, finding reading material in braille, and so much more. They realized there was a need for an organization to help with these things.

In January 2020, the Braillists Foundation was officially incorporated as a small, nonprofit organization. Now, just two years later, they are a full-fledged powerhouse with a Board of Trustees, a massive website, and a packed calendar of events.

According to Dave Williams, the chair of the Braillists Foundation, their original plan was to hold in-person classes, and other meetings, but the pandemic that began a short two months after formation changed all that. Being the incredibly resourceful organization that they have shown themselves to be, they immediately pivoted to offering Lockdown Lessons from the Braillists via Zoom. At first, these consisted of community calls but by September 2020, they had evolved into courses for beginning braillists, and various informational and practice sessions. Barely two years later, they are now offering a whole spectrum of events that is reaching thousands. All courses and events are free of charge and open to interested persons from the United States. Donations to the Braillists Foundation to assist them with their work are, of course, welcome.

Braille for Beginners

Beginning in January 2022, the third Braille for Beginners course was begun with over 100 adult learners. Students are expected to study independently, but are supported by an experienced instructor on Zoom for an hour per week, by physical course material that is sent through the mail, and by peer support on an email forum.

During the sessions, the instructor guides the students through pre-braille skills and activities, provides detailed descriptions of the physical course materials, shares tips for memorizing dot patterns, talks through word and sentence examples, offers advice on finger and hand position and reading technique, and leads quizzes to test student knowledge. There's also time within the live sessions for students to ask questions and raise any issues they may be having.

In previous courses, they used Fingerprints, a multi-volume self-study braille course for adults produced by the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). Now, the Braillists Foundation has developed its own 16-page set of learning materials designed to teach tracking skills, the alphabet, numbers, and some punctuation.

Students who register for this course are invited to join a Google group where they can ask questions, and discuss their progress. As issues are raised, other members of the group are quick to provide helpful advice and encouragement to their fellow students. After each lesson, a summary of material covered is mailed to the group, and a recording of each lesson is made available so course participants can review the material at their leisure.

There is not a formal assessment nor certification. But anecdotally they have received feedback that this kind of model provides motivation, reduces isolation, offers kinship, and delivers a pathway through all the different offerings from the Braillists Foundation. These include the Braillists Book Club, Braille Bar and Master Classes that keep people going with braille beyond the beginners course, when other courses pretty much leave students on their own once they have finished. These events will be described in detail later in this article.

The response to this course has been overwhelming. Here's a quote from an enthusiastic course participant after two sessions: "it's great, I can't believe how quick I'm picking it up, I came down stairs after the session and read out the words and sentence at the bottom of the page, I have an image in my head of all the letters we've learnt so far, I didn't expect to be able to remember them so easily, thank you so much."

Braille Bar

Held on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month at 7:30 PM British time, the Braille Bar is an informal question-and-answer session on all things braille. With several braillists on hand who are knowledgeable about strategies, resources, and materials for those interested in braille, this is a great opportunity for those taking the Braille for Beginners course as well as anyone with a burning question on a braille-related matter. Frequent topics include: using a braille display, where to obtain books in braille, labeling materials and strategies, using braille with an iPhone or iPad, questions about specific braille contractions, and many more.

Braille Book Club

Every Thursday at 6:00 P.M. British time, the Braillists Foundation holds a Braille Book Club. This is not an actual book club in the traditional sense, but more like a reading group. It consists of one-hour reading practice sessions held via Zoom.

As participants arrive in the Zoom waiting room, if they are new to the group they are invited to a brief discussion with the leaders to determine their current braille reading level. This is primarily a matter of their knowledge of and comfort with contracted braille.

Using Zoom breakout rooms, three groups read simultaneously, each with their own helpful, encouraging group leader. The beginners read predominantly uncontracted braille while the intermediate and advanced groups both read contracted braille. Each braillist reads aloud for a few minutes and the group leader provides assistance as needed. Each week, the group members pick up reading their group's book where they left off last week. Some readers use electronic braille displays and others read from hardcopy braille. As readers become more proficient, they are promoted to the next reading level.

All participants are invited to join a Google group. Through this group, they learn of the next book chosen for their group in time to obtain a copy in their preferred medium. This is also a venue for group members to provide support and encouragement to one another.

The Braille Book Club is another great opportunity for braille readers of all levels to practice reading with others. It provides a way for those who have completed the Braille for Beginners course to continue practicing their new braille skills in a supportive environment with knowledgeable assistance.

Master Classes

Held on the first and third Tuesday of the month at 7:30 PM British time, Master Classes is a series of one-hour, informative presentations on a wide variety of braille-related topics. Recent sessions have included: Choosing and Setting Up a Braille Embosser, Leisure Reading with Refreshable Braille, and Improving Reading Speed and Building Braille Mastery. The master Classes range from very technical topics such as What is a BRF and Why would you Want one? to very practical ones such as Braille in the Kitchen.

Recordings of Master Classes are available in the Media section of the Braillists Foundation website, and every session is aired on the BrailleBits podcast.

Participation in Master Classes requires registration but this is a one-time process that is simple and straightforward and only takes a few minutes.

The Braillists Foundation Website

The website, www.braillists.org, of the Braillists Foundation is a rich resource of information about braille. In addition to a basic description of braille which includes links to several classic BBC radio episodes and other podcasts about braille, there are also listings of braille equipment, braille consumables, and braille communities that includes email lists and Facebook groups. All upcoming events are listed on the Events page, and recordings of past events are listed on the Media page.

The organization has many ways for interested persons to stay abreast of its happenings. You can


The sheer volume of the available classes, presentations, and resources from the Braillists Foundation is nothing short of amazing. Much of the success of their efforts can be attributed to the logical progression of their offerings-from learning braille followed by opportunities to practice, get help and questions answered, and then additional opportunities to learn more.

Furthermore, the role of peer support and encouragement cannot be underestimated. This keeps people motivated and engaged. At a time when many people are feeling discouraged because of dwindling eyesight, an opportunity to learn a skill like braille that is so rewarding in itself because of the transformative power it brings to its users can be a huge benefit for many people.

But the Braillists Foundation has ambitious plans for the future. They are hoping to offer an on-demand version of Braille for Beginners so people will not be tied to a specific class schedule. They are also planning to enhance their braille learning classes to include contracted braille, and perhaps even a braille math course.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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Entering Text on an iPhone, Part 2: Using External Hardware Devices

Judy Dixon

In part 1 of this article, we took a thorough look at the many ways to enter text on an iPhone using the phone itself. In addition to the onscreen keyboard and many of its settings, we also looked at Braille Screen Input, Handwriting, and dictation.

In Part 2, we will look at the range of external devices that can be used to input text. Some of these are mainstream devices while others are devices specifically manufactured for blind users. Certainly, inputting text from the phone itself can be convenient, no second device to carry around and keep charged, but using an external input device can be much faster and, yes, after the initial setup, much less stressful.

Most hardware devices connect to an iPhone via Bluetooth, a wireless connection that functions over short distances. It is possible to connect a USB keyboard or an hid-capable braille display via USB cable using an Apple accessory called a Lightning to USB Camera Adapter. Many USB keyboards require the USB 3 version of this accessory which has a lightning port for supplying additional power to the keyboard so its use may not be terribly convenient.


Before we dive into looking at true hardware devices, let's have a look at a low-tech product that can definitely help with entering text on an iPhone.

SpeedDots are tactile overlays for the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. They are essentially transparent screen protectors with dots on them that stick on with an adhesive backing. They are designed for VoiceOver users, and not only help with text input but also screen orientation and navigation.

SpeedDots are available for all four of the iPhone 13 models as well as for models back as far as the iPhone 5. Versions are also available for many models of the iPad and iPod touch.

For the iPhone, four separate layouts are offered: Standard, Advanced, Phone Keypad, and Braille Screen Input. Standard and Advanced layouts contain dots to help navigate most native iOS and many third party apps. Standard has dots for every key on the keyboard except F and J while Advanced only has dots for F and J. The Phone Keypad layout is helpful for people who use telephone functions a lot. The Braille Screen Input layout is great for people who do a lot of typing with braille screen input in screen away mode, that is wrapping your fingers around the ends of the phone to input braille. A complete description and ordering details are available on the SpeedDots Website.

Mainstream Devices

Bluetooth QWERTY Keyboards

Bluetooth keyboards are certainly the most widely used phone accessory to assist with input. For many people, they offer an opportunity to enter text with a familiar QWERTY keyboard layout. The first time you use a Bluetooth keyboard, you will need to pair it with your phone. This one-time process takes only seconds. Some keyboards will enter pairing mode when you turn them on while others have a dedicated key or switch to enter pairing mode. With your keyboard turned on, go to Settings, then Bluetooth, and double tap on your new keyboard's name, usually at the bottom of the list. Older keyboards may require you to enter a pairing code at this point but this practice seems to be all but gone.

With hundreds of models of Bluetooth keyboards available, they vary considerably one from another. They vary in price from less than $20 to well over $100. But most importantly, many don't have all the keys you might expect. Some keyboards don't have function keys; many don't have an Fn (function) key that is often used for changing keyboard layouts so it can be used with a variety of devices.

Make sure when selecting your hardware keyboard that it has all the keys you need.

Bluetooth keyboards are also available in many sizes from full-size ones complete with a numeric keypad to very tiny ones with keys about the size of a Tic Tac. Some can be folded small enough to fit in a pocket and some are flexible enough to be rolled and stuffed into a backpack. For iPads, there are many covers and cases that include a keyboard.

When VoiceOver is on, there are numerous commands available on the keyboard which allow you to navigate your phone. Generally, these are executed by pressing specific keys on the keyboard with the VO key. the default VO key is Control+Option. If you wish, you can change the VO key to Caps Lock or have both. For a complete list of VoiceOver commands for a Bluetooth keyboard, see Use VoiceOver on iPhone with an Apple external keyboard. Even though this document is titled Apple Keyboard, these commands will work on all Bluetooth keyboards.

The Tap Strap 2

The Tap Strap 2 is a mainstream device designed for quick and flexible text input on an iPhone. It is a wearable Bluetooth keyboard that consists of five rings held together by a thin strap. The rings slide onto the five fingers of one hand much like jewelry. It can be used on either hand.

With the strap of rings securely on one hand and the device paired, you can input text by tapping on any reasonably hard surface. You tap with single fingers or combinations of fingers to get all the letters, numbers, and symbols of the keyboard. For example, a single tap with the index finger is the letter e; the index finger and the middle finger together is the letter t; and the thumb, index finger, and ring finger together are the letter F.

Representatives from Tap Systems, Inc. showed the Tap Strap at several blindness conferences in 2017. The Tap Strap 1 began shipping in spring of 2018. They have taken an active interest in how the Tap Strap can be used with VoiceOver. They have created a VoiceOver mode with taps for the most commonly used VoiceOver functions. For example, a double tap of the index finger is Activate.

They have also created a series of tutorials specifically developed for VoiceOver users that can be played from the Tap Accessibility page.

In addition to iOS, the Tap Strap can be used to input text on Windows, Mac, Linux, ChromeOS, and Android devices.

The learning app for the Tap Strap, TapGenius, is not accessible with VoiceOver but the company has developed an app for VoiceOver users called TapAloud that offers instructions, lessons, and games for learning to use the Tap Strap. The app for managing the Tap Strap, TapManager, works well with VoiceOver and is used to set preferences for the Tap Strap.

The five rings, connected with their cord, fit into a charging case. The case can charge the Tap Strap eight times before needing to be charged itself. The Tap Strap lasts for eight hours of use and seven days on standby.

The Tap Strap is available in two sizes, small and large. For more information about the Tap Strap or to purchase one for $199, go to the Tap Strap 2 website or Amazon.

Input Devices Designed Specifically for Blind Users

A number of input devices have been developed specifically for blind users that can be used to enter text on an iPhone. Not surprisingly, they tend to be more expensive than mainstream devices but many of them are multifunctional and can make the process of using a smartphone much easier.

Traditional braille displays have been available for more than forty years. In the early years, they connected to computers via serial ports. More recently, with the development of smartphones and their Bluetooth connectivity, braille displays now all have Bluetooth capability allowing them to connect quickly and conveniently on the go.

Because many blind and visually impaired smartphone users find the onscreen keyboard difficult to use, a number of companies have developed input devices to make this process easier. Most of these are braille-oriented devices. it is a huge boon for blind users that braille input devices can be made in such small packages. This is possible because braille input needs only eight keys.

An input device not oriented around braille is the Rivo 2. This multifunction device is unique among input devices, and stands alone as a specialized input device for those blind persons who are not braille users. The Rivo 2 will be discussed thoroughly in the next section.

The Rivo 2

Rivo 2 is a multifunction input device created specifically for VoiceOver users.

It is 3.7 inches long, 2.1 inches wide, and 0.5 inches thick (94mm by 52mm by 12mm). It is about the size of a thick credit card and weighs 2 ounces (54 grams). It can connect to up to six Bluetooth devices and switch among them with a keystroke. The device can be used with iOS, iPadOS, and Android devices.

It is made by Rivo, Inc. in South Korea and is available in the United States for $329 from LS&S Products and Independent Living Aids. The first version of this keyboard, called Rivo, came out in 2012. The Rivo 2 was completed in the spring of 2018 with many improvements.

Rivo 2 has 20 keys arranged in 4 rows of 5 columns. These keys are pressed individually or in combination, and can be used for inputting text, navigating the device, controlling media playback, dial phone touchtones, and more. In iOS and iPadOS, it supports 27 different languages. In Android, it supports English and Korean.

The Rivo 2 does not support braille input. However, there are several ways to enter text. Rivo QWERTY is a special mode that groups letters on keys according to their relative position on a QWERTY keyboard, and how frequently they are used. A more traditional ABC, telephone-style, input mode is also available.

The Rivo 2 has a speaker and a microphone. You can route all audio from the iDevice to Rivo's speaker.

You can also make and receive phone calls directly from Rivo and even put a call on hold, answer a second incoming call, and switch between them. During a call, you can enter touchtones from the Rivo keyboard for interacting with banking, voicemail, and similar systems that require touchtone input. You can also activate Siri and use it with the built-in microphone and speaker.

You can get more information about the Rivo 2 from the Rivo website.

Braille displays

There are many configurations of braille displays, all of which can work with an iPhone. These devices vary in size, in available features, and in price. Most braille displays have 10 or more hours of battery life, and offer much longer standby time.

Most braille displays on the market today contain a Perkins-style braille keyboard. A few have a QWERTY keyboard. Either style can be used to input text just like a Bluetooth keyboard. Just as with the onscreen or hardware keyboards, you can type text into any edit field, password field, or anywhere else that allows the input of text.

When used for the first time, braille displays also have to be paired with your iPhone. In almost all cases, this pairing is not done in the Bluetooth part of Settings but rather in Accessibility then VoiceOver then Braille. Usually, a pairing code is required.

In addition to typing text, you can use the display's keyboard to perform all the VoiceOver gestures. This means you can navigate your iDevice as well as summon Siri, do a long press, and even a double tap and hold.

The keys on the various braille displays vary greatly from device to device but Apple has created a set of navigational commands. A full list can be found at Common braille commands for VoiceOver on your iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. You will usually find that other keys on a particular display have been mapped to additional functions.

Orbit Writer

The Orbit Writer is a Bluetooth braille keyboard from Orbit Research. It measures 6.3 inches long by 2.6 inches wide by 0.3 inches thick, (160mm by 65mm by 8mm), and weighs 3.2 ounces (90 grams). It has a battery life of more than 3 days. The six-key Perkins-style keyboard plus dots 7 and 8, and cursor cross layout on the Orbit Writer is identical to that of the Orbit Reader.

On an iPhone, the Orbit Writer is paired under the Braille section of VoiceOver settings, and mimics a braille display. It can be used to enter text and navigate the phone.

In addition to iOS, it can also work as a keyboard for Windows, MacOS, Android, ChromeOS, and Amazon Fire OS. It can connect to 5 devices simultaneously over Bluetooth and to one more over USB and allows switching between devices with a simple key combination.

The Orbit Writer can be purchased for $99 from A T Guys, National Braille Press, Orbit Research, and other vendors of assistive technology.

Hable One

The Hable One is a small Bluetooth braille keyboard manufactured by Hable One B.V. in the Netherlands. This device pairs with an iPhone in the Bluetooth section of Settings. It measures 5 inches long, 2.5 inches wide and 0.75 inches thick (127mm by 63mm by 19mm), and weighs 3 ounces (85 grams). It has a battery life of 50 hours. It can be used with iOS, Android, Windows and Mac devices. It supports 10+ languages.

The keys on the Hable One are oriented vertically in two columns of three keys each. There is one larger key on either side of the columns. It is meant to be used by holding with both hands in the air, not on a table. The fingertips of both hands are facing each other, very like using Braille Screen Input in screen-away mode. If you do prefer to use it flat on a table, you can reverse the braille dots to make the keyboard more comfortable to use in this orientation.

Most of the default shortcut keys are not consistent with the usual VoiceOver shortcuts on a braille display but they are logical and easy to remember. The Hable One includes a contracted braille translator so it is possible to type in contracted braille.

You can order a Hable One directly from the Hable One website for €249 which includes shipping and taxes.

Bdot and Tdot

Bdot and Tdot are Bluetooth braille keyboards manufactured by Kunyoong IBC in South Korea. They can both be used as keyboards for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac. Both units can be connected to up to 3 Bluetooth devices. In iOS, with both devices, it is possible to input text, navigate the phone, and perform all VoiceOver functions. An iOS app, doTnB, allows the user to easily update firmware and adjust settings such as low battery alarm, power save time, and default language.

The Bdot is a wearable Bluetooth braille keyboard. It is a flexible band of keys and is designed to be conveniently carried on a wrist. In the middle of the band is a 1.75-inch (43mm) square section that folds out to reveal two spacebars. When unfolded the unit automatically turns on and connects to the paired device. Along each side of the band are four rubber braille input keys, making a total of eight. The Bdot has a battery life of 40 hours with a standby time of 70 days.

When opened, the Bdot is 10.2 inches long, 3.39 inches wide, and 0.22 inches thick (260mm by 86mm by 5.5mm). It weighs 1.3 ounces (36 grams). When closed, the Bdot can be comfortably fastened around a wrist using its Velcro backing. The unit cannot be used while it is on your wrist.

The Tdot is a folding Bluetooth braille keyboard. When folded, it forms a compact triangle that is 5.1 inches long and 1.2 inches on each of its three sides (130mm by 30mm). It is a triangular prism, shaped like a Toblerone bar. It has a single attachment point at the top for a lanyard. Two flat "wings" fold out from the triangle making the Tdot roughly T-shaped. Each wing at the top of the T contains four braille keys.

When unfolded, the Tdot is 8.7 inches long, 5.9 inches wide, and 1.2 inches at its thickest point (220mm by 150mm by 30mm). It weighs 2 ounces (59 grams). In the center at the top is a 5-way joystick. Coming down the center column is the spacebar, Shift, Control, and Mode keys. The battery life of the Tdot is about 35 hours of continuous use and about 50 days of standby time.

Kunyoong IBC plans to make both keyboards available for purchase through Amazon. You can get more information and current pricing for these keyboards from the Kunyoong IBC CO., LTD website.


MyKey is another small Bluetooth braille keyboard being developed by the German company BBTF. It measures 6.3 inches long, 1.8 inches wide, and 0.8 inches thick (160mm by 46mm by 20mm) and weighs 4.3 ounces (122 grams). It has a battery life of more than 100 hours.

MyKey has eight braille input keys along the back edge of the top of the device, and four additional keys along the front edge of the top. The additional keys are used in combination with each other and the braille keys to enter text and navigate the device. On the front two corners, MyKey has two attachment points for a lanyard.

MyKey functions as a standard Bluetooth keyboard. It can be used to wake up an iPhone and optionally automatically send the passcode. Also, the phone can be turned off directly from MyKey.

The firmware and configuration files can be easily updated from a PC or MAC.

You can get more information about MyKey and its current availability at the MyKey website.


There is a vast array of input devices that can be used with an iPhone. Most are quite straightforward and traditional while a few are unique and clever. With more being developed all the time, there is no shortage of options.

If you are uncomfortable inputting text with any of the methods used on the phone itself, then have a good look at the external device options. They may be just what you need to make your iPhone experience all that you had hoped it would be.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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An Overview of macOS Monterey

Janet Ingber

In late October, Apple released macOS Monterey, its new operating system for the Mac. Monterey offers a number of VoiceOver additions and mainstream features. Many of the new features can be accessed through your Mac and other iOS devices.

Apple has put together a list of Macs that can run macOS Monterey. For this article, I used an M1 MacBook Air running macOS Monterey 12.1.


In Monterey, VoiceOver has received a few updates.

More information in VoiceOver Cursor

VoiceOver will indicate if more information is available than just in the VoiceOver cursor. If there is more information, type VO-Command-/ to hear it. If you do not want this feature enabled, go to the VoiceOver Utility (VO-F8) and select the Verbosity category. Go to the Hints tab. When you get to the pop-up menu for when an item has more content, open the menu and choose Do Nothing.

VO-F Command

When you search for a particular word or phrase with the VO-F command, VoiceOver reads only the text entered in the search box. To read surrounding text, you now need to use arrow keys or Option-Right Arrow or Option-Left Arrow.


Markup can be used to label images. For example, if you write a description for an image in Preview, you can hear the description by typing VO-Shift-L. You can also use Markup to label different signatures. To create a signature, select the description menu and choose an option.


If you choose to download additional languages into the Voices pane in the VoiceOver Utility, it will enable VoiceOver to switch between languages while reading. In other words, if a document starts out in English and then switches to Spanish, VoiceOver will make the transition.

Voice Control

Some new languages are now available in Voice Control. They include Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, and French.

Audio Graphs

VoiceOver now supports audio graphs, which use tones and pitch to create an audio representation of trends and data. Find an audio graph by using the web rotor. If an audio graph is on the page, there will be an audio graph option.

VoiceOver Rotor

There have been some changes for navigating web pages with the VoiceOver rotor. Web Spots and Images are no longer in the Rotor by default. Frames have been added to the default items. Customize the rotor by going to the Web category in the VoiceOver Utility. Then make a selection in the Web Rotor tab.

VoiceOver automatically creates window spots, such as toolbars or sidebars, for additional items in app windows.


According to Apple’s Monterey support documentation, “When you use a braille display with VoiceOver, you can select text by pressing and holding the Shift key on the keyboard at the same time you press router keys above the text you want to select. You can also assign a VoiceOver command to use the Shift key on a braille display.”

Alternative to Function Keys

If you prefer not to use the Function keys, use VO-FN-the number key for the corresponding function key. For example, if you want to access the VoiceOver Utility, you can now use VO-FN-8. The standard key command is VO-F8.

Low Vision

Monterey now has customizable mouse pointers. The outline and inside colors can be changed as well.

Mainstream Features

Apple has added many mainstream features for the Mac. Apps such as Notification and Focus can be shared with your other Apple devices.

Notifications & Focus

There is a new pane in System Preferences called Notifications and Focus. Use the Notifications tab to give permission for an app to send you notifications and for you to choose their alert style. From the Notifications tab, VO-Right-Arrow to the Applications table. After choosing an app, Vo-Right Arrow to find a list of notification options.

Use the Focus tab to choose when you do not want to be disturbed and who can contact you even when you have a focus activated. The first option is a list of only two items: Do Not Disturb and Driving. If you VO-Right Arrow a few times, you will hear a button labeled Add Focus. Selecting this button offers additional options including Custom, Mindfulness, and Personal.

After you select your focus, it will be in the Focus list. From there, VO-Right Arrow through the various options and make your selections.

If you have Notifications and Focus set up on your iPhone and iPad, check the Share Across Devices button and those settings will also apply to your Mac. Conversely, if you set up Notifications and Focus on your Mac, check the same button on the Mac and your choices will be on your iOS or iPadOS device.

Voice Memos

You can now change playback speeds and skip silences in Voice Memos recordings. Open the Voice Memos app and go to the Library table. Select your recording. Tab to the Playback Settings button and select it.

The first control is the Playback speed slider. Speed options range from 0.50 to 2.0. Next is a Skip Silence switch, which is off by default. The final control is an Enhance Recording switch, which is off by default.


When you have iCloud, you automatically get 5GB of free storage.  iCloud+ offers premium features. such as Hide My Email and  Private Relay. A list of pricing plans are available.

iCloud+ offers some new services such as Hide My Email and Private Relay. Go to System Preferences and select your Apple ID. Next, go to the iCloud Services table.

Hide My Email tells Apple to generate a random email address that forwards to your designated iCloud email. Therefore, the sender cannot see your real email address. Select Hide My Email from the Services table. There is information about Hide My Email plus a list of previous random email addresses created by Apple, for example, those created when you used Sign In With Apple. Make sure the feature is turned on. You can reuse a previous Hide My Email email address or create a new one.

You can also use Hide My Email through your email app. Tab to the From section of the email. In Apple Mail, it is the last option before the body of the message. Choose Hide My Email from the pop-up menu. If you have more than one email account, make sure to choose the email server related to your Apple ID.

Private Relay is also in the iCloud+ Services table. It encrypts your web browsing so your IP address and browsing are not visible. Private Relay lets you decide whether you want your IP address to display your general location or just your country and time zone.


Passwords now has its own pane in System Preferences. It is located after  the Internet Accounts tab. The interface has not changed.


FaceTime calls now have Spatial audio. If you are on a call with more than one person, you will hear participants’ voices coming from different locations.

When you open the FaceTime app, VoiceOver will say, “Create link.” Because of this new Create Link feature, people using Windows computers and Android devices can now participate in FaceTime calls. Share the newly created link with anyone you want on the call.


Shortcuts were previously only available on iOS devices. With Monterey, they are now also available on the Mac. Shortcuts combine tasks to make it easier to get things done. If you have Shortcuts on your iOS device and both your iOS device and the Mac are signed into the same iCloud account, your iOS Shortcuts will also be on your Mac. Be aware that not all iOS Shortcuts will run on the Mac.

The Mac’s Shortcuts app is in the Applications folder by default. You can put it on the dock with Control-Shift-Command-T. Once the app is opened, you can tab to where you can set the view to Icon or List. On my Mac, Icon was the default, so I switched it to List.

The first table you encounter has a list of the shortcuts you created on your iOS device and then a gallery of pre-made shortcuts. In the gallery list is a section called Starter Shortcuts. Exploring these shortcuts will give you an idea about how shortcuts are laid out on the Mac. Selecting an item from the table will bring you to the Actions table. Information about the shortcut is in this table. After you hear the Shortcut’s name, VoiceOver will say, “Play button.” Activate the shortcut with VO-Spacebar. You can also create your own shortcuts for the Mac.

Apple Music Voice Plan

This plan gives you access to Apple Music’s extensive library via SIRI. The cost is $4.99 per month. You cannot create your own playlist and your songs will not have Lossless Audio and Spatial Audio. You do have access to all of Apple Music’s many playlists. Apple Music will be available across all your Apple devices.

Mac Rumors has an excellent explanation of this new Apple Music offering. Go to: https://www.macrumors.com/guide/apple-music-voice-plan/


MacOS Monterey has both new features and security updates. Not to mention, Apple has included updates to accessibility features as well. I personally have found the update definitely worth installing.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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The Consumer Electronics Show 2022: What Caught our Interest at this Year's CES

Gena Harper

Editor's Note: This article is brought to you by AFB board member Gena Harper. If you would like to learn more about Gena, you can check out her bio here. She has also been featured on AFB's Inform and Connect podcast.

Imagine attending the world’s largest Consumer Electronics Show (CES) for the very first time. CES is held in Las Vegas at the sprawling conference center plus multiple hotels. This year, due to COVID, there were approximately 40,000 attendees plus a few thousand companies showing off their products, a quarter of previous attendance. Imagine having to figure out how to sign-up, use the app, plan which companies you’d like to see as well as figuring out how to navigate to all of these places while being blind. Well, this year, I took on the daunting and exhilarating challenges of figuring all of this out.

One of the really unique things this show offers is that you can request a guide for the entire time of the conference. My experienced guide was awesome. I had a set of companies I planned to visit, but it was fun discovering companies I didn’t know existed with unique and interesting products as we walked the exhibit isles. Below is a dozen of the companies I found interesting, of the scores I visited, as a blind woman at CES for the first time.


ResonX is a modular device that can be attached to the back of a chair to turn the chair into the diaphragm of a speaker so that you can feel and hear every sound for maximum immersion.

This Bluetooth speaker is a compatible portable speaker which can be attached to any surface and works with all devices. 

This company produces a range of wireless Bluetooth earphones that use the MyJuno translation app to provide live translation using the headsets.

Smart Home

This appliance has rubber rollers to address dog hair without the complications you may face when using a more traditional vacuum's brushes. The device also has a mopping feature, and an auto empty doc where it goes to empty itself. Overall, it is self-washing, self-refilling and self-cleaning.

This is an Aura Smart Table Lamp. You can Personalize simple color patterns and the lamp already comes pre-configured with 20 different scene options. The lamp is hands free and equipped with voice control through Alexa or google assistant. You can use a timer schedule to turn the lamp on/off and the lamp also syncs to music. $64.99 but may be lower due to sales.

The company has produced a 24” oven that works with Alexa, you can verbally tell the oven to cook, what temperature to bake and for how long. They have also developed refrigerator that keeps track of your food and offers up suggestions on what you can make with the ingredients you have in the fridge as well as a dishwasher that can figure out what is in the dishwasher and what setting it needs to use to clean those specific dishes. You can also make favorite settings such as lasagna night and it knows what types of dishes you will be putting in it for that specific dish.

E-mail: Robbie Cabral rcabral@benjilock.com

This company produces fingerprint locks that can also be opened using a keypad or a traditional key. Different locks are available, for example, a door lock and a padlock. Array by Hampton is the app that operates the locks.


Note that the website for this product is not in English. This is a bracelet for security such as falling. It will send a message to all of your contacts. It can also send a follow-up text saying you are okay. I personally found it to be a very attractive looking bracelet. The device includes GPS tracking, alarm and audio.

This device allows you to track 24/7 health data. The device includes a sleep and steps tracker, biometric heart rate sensor, and an oxygenation censor. The ring comes in silver, black, gold, and rose gold. The product is currently scheduled to come to market in March of 2022. The ring will be priced approximately $259, pre-orders are available. 

Automatically track your heart rate, distance traveled, calories burned, time spent active, all accessed through the app. Bands in multiple colors are available. The device has a ten-hour battery life. The device should retail between $50-$70.

This device is an air purifier, which has 7 filters and offers a subscription plan and can be used with an app. However, the app is not required for the purifier to function.

This is a respiratory device/protective mask to filter everything from microparticles to bacteria. Charge the mask with a USB connection which will allow the mask to function for 8 hours. The mask is being developed by a French company. The product will retail for roughly $350 and will be released in March 2022.

App connected Products

This is a game console with 4 hand-held controllers. The games for the console can be played without a screen as the console is meant to bridge the gap between traditional active play outside with the interactivity of traditional video games. The controllers make sounds, have lights and vibrate. The devices can be purchased through Picoo. The company is working with a Dutch organization that works with visually impaired children. There is also an app to choose different games. Launched on January 5th, the product is priced at roughly $250.

This is a Swiss army knife of a flashlight. A dog collar accessory and junior model are in development. The light is flexible and magnetic. Nineteen LED lights are controlled in the app, each can be set independently to a range of 256 colors and brightness. Seven preset modes are included, SOS mode, 100%, 50%, 25% brightness, night rider, party, and compass modes. The flashlight is also waterproof. The product will become available the last week of March.

This is a self-heating lunchbox. Tactile dots allow you to set 5 minutes of heating and other features. the box should allow you to have a hot meal anywhere, anytime. The box is rechargeable, uses an app, and weighs 3 pounds. The lunchbox will cost $230 in April, though the presale price is $189. 

The company claims that this is the first biometric health collar for dogs and will be ready this summer. It has an app and retails for $99 with an additional $13/month fee.

The company claims that this device will allow you to make clear and reliable phone calls to your pet on AT&T‘s network. You can also stream music to your dog. no SIM cards are required and there are no activation fees. GPS tracking and training techniques such as clicking, beeping and pain-free vibrating are also included. Data bundles are $10/month for 1 GB data, 500 minutes of calling, 2000 minutes of music, or $15 for unlimited. The collar retails for $199.

The Bottom Line

In addition to myself, I know there are a number of other disabled people who continually try to educate and inform individuals and companies about the importance of accessibility and accessible design in their products. I was in awe when I met a small-business owner named Robbie Cabral (see BenjiLocks above). He had an idea to start a lock company with accessible locks. When I was visiting his booth, his commitment to accessibility was totally clear. I intended to discuss accessibility with each company I visited. After I had inquired with about 15 companies it became very clear to me that I wouldn’t have enough time to visit very many companies if I kept this up. I was pretty dismayed with the responses I received. Most companies didn’t have a clue about what I meant when I inquired about accessibility. Some companies said they were very committed to accessibility but didn’t really have anything which would show that their company was truly embracing accessibility. When I had access to the president of the company or a senior manager type, I would take the time to discuss accessibility as well as show them how VoiceOver works and what an accessible app looks like and how they work. I did gather names and email addresses so I could follow-up with some of the companies. I think we all need to be vigilant and continue to try to increase awareness in companies as it relates to accessibility. Even though progress has been made in this area, we still have a long way to go!!

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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<i>AccessWorld</i> News: What’s New in JAWS 2022

Jamie Pauls

At the end of every October, many blind people who use the ubiquitous JAWS for Windows screen reader know to expect a major new release of the product. Depending on what a particular user is hoping for at any given time, the anticipated release announcements can bring joy, disappointment, or perhaps neither of the above. To be fair, reading over the list of new additions, bug fixes, and enhancements to existing features should make it apparent to any fair-minded person that the developers of the product have put a lot of work into the latest version of the software. In addition to major releases, Freedom Scientific/Vispero, makers of JAWS for Windows, releases regular updates to the program—about every six weeks or so—that continue to improve screen reader support to Windows, the Web, and many popular applications including Microsoft Office. With the release of Jaws 2022 about three months behind us, let’s take a look at what JAWS 2022 brings to the table.

Anyone who has upgraded JAWS versions knows that it can take a bit of time to get all your old settings back the way you want them, unless you choose to import earlier settings. With JAWS 2022, this happens automatically when you have versions 2021 or 2020 on your system. There is a checkbox that allows you to install without migrating old settings, something I have always chosen to do anyway. I like the clean fresh approach, myself. I ran the public betas of JAWS 2022 when the checkbox to install fresh was not present, and so I can’t comment on installing JAWS 2022 after the public release.

You can also easily reinstall JAWS factory settings once you have made customizations or migrated older settings, something that might come in handy should you not like the changes you’ve made to JAWS and you find it difficult to get things back the way they were.

One particularly notable new feature in JAWS 2022 is the ability to route JAWS to one ear and other audio to the opposite ear. As an example, you could route JAWS to your left ear and a Zoom conference to your right ear. The idea is that separating your screen reader output and other audio when wearing headphones might make it easier to distinguish one from the other. Press Jaws with Space, V for volume, and B for balance. Then press the left arrow to move JAWS to your left ear and all other audio to the right, or right arrow to reverse the process. Up arrow brings all audio back in balance. As cool as this new feature is, I must confess that I never think to actually use it. Perhaps I will now that I have written this article.

Another layered keystroke, Jaws with space, V and then C, allows you to move through a list of existing sound cards on your system in the event that you lose speech because Windows has switched your audio. This is a feature I haven’t needed yet, but I am glad it exists, and I have had times in the past where I certainly could have gotten good use from that feature. JAWS continues to see more robust functionality in its Siri-like voice assistant which can be invoked with the phrase “Hey, Sharky.” You can change speech rate, check the time, and a whole lot more using just your voice.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the feature enhancements in JAWS 2022, and a look at the complete list of what’s new in JAWS 2022 is in order if you have already upgraded, or are thinking about upgrading to the latest version of JAWS. With the introduction of the $99 yearly license option instead of a maintenance agreement, it is much easier to stay current with your copy of JAWS than it has been in the past. Also, you can add JAWS to your list of screen reader options if you so choose.

This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.

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