Choosing a Braille Display – TTT Companion

Image of someone using a braille display.

Don’t want to read?

Written By Daniel Geisen

Here at eye.t, Daniel primarily works on providing written resources for TVIs and educators. As an educator himself, Daniel knows how important it is to be able to provide equal opportunities to all learners. This is one of the many reasons, Daniel is all in with eye.t. When Daniel is not working alongside the eye.t team, he really enjoys being outdoors and dabbling in creative writing. P.S. Daniel is also an avid fan of the Cincinnati Reds.

Published on

April 23, 2024

Prerequisites

✔︎ CHECK Before moving on, does your learner even need a braille display? Before deciding WHICH braille display matches your learner, it is important to consider if a braille display will even help. Sometimes it doesn’t. To best guide your learner, complete the previous Tech Tip Tuesday Companion:
Do I Need a Braille Display?

Introductory Story: A Good Fit (Part 1)

✔︎ READ the following story aloud to your learner.


When we last heard from Q, he was deciding whether or not a braille display would provide a better experience to his English 7 class. Q is really familiar with Chromevox, the screen reader he uses on his Chromebook. He realized right away that keeping up with both his screen reader and the teacher’s instructions was going to be tricky, so he recognized that a braille display could give him confidence during class . 

Today, Q is browsing the internet with his parents to determine which braille display will ultimately work for him in his English 7 class. As his family browses the many options, it becomes clear that he has a lot to think through. There are braille displays with as little as 14 cells and then there are some reaching towards 80 cells, and there are two different styles of keyboard. 

He wants to make his experience in English 7 more efficient, not more complicated. Overwhelmed with the many options he needs to consider with braille displays, Q takes a break and plans to return to the question later with his parents.


✔︎ DISCUSS the guiding question, “In what ways can a brailler help you in your everyday learning experience?”

Content

What Matters Most

✔︎ PLAY from 0:18-0:36

Teacher’s Notes: There are so many factors to consider with braille displays, but let’s  pin it down to two major considerations—the size of the braille display and the keyboard style. This makes the task much more manageable. . With that in mind, let’s unpack what these two categories do to help narrow down the selection.

Check-in:
  1. How familiar are you with braille displays?
  2. Have you had a chance to try one out before?

Braille Display Size

✔︎ PLAY from 0:37-3:01

Teacher’s Notes: If we were to make a scale from tiny to massive, we would see braille displays that have anywhere between 14 cells to 80 cells. If your learner is planning on using a braille display in different settings, such as multiple classrooms or at home and work, then they might lean towards a smaller braille display. Other factors that might lead them to a smaller display include whether or not they are using it on-the-go and if it would fit in their bag. However, if your learner plans to use it in one setting, or they need to read or edit long passages of text,  they might consider a braille display with 32-40 cells, for example. A larger braille display is generally easier to navigate because you can see more braille cells at once, making the navigation more streamlined.

Check-in: 
  1. Where in your life would you benefit most from a braille display? A particular classroom? At work? Or at home?
  2. How many cells do you think the Orbit 20 has? How about the Focus 40?
  3. Do you imagine that you will be using your display in one place, or will you need to bring it with you? 

Keyboard Style

✔︎ PLAY from 3:02-5:12

✔︎ UNDERSTAND: There are two keyboard styles for braille displays. One is the QWERTY keyboard, which is named after the first six keys of a traditional computer keyboard. However, your learner might discover that their options are limited because the APH Mantis Q 40 is one of the only options for QWERTY keyboards.The other popular option is the Perkins-style keyboard. This one is different in that it is not set up like a computer keyboard. Rather, it contains six keys in the middle for the six braille dots. Additionally, you will find traditional buttons for backspace, enter, and a space bar. Perkins keyboards also contain modifier and function keys. One example of displays with Perkins keyboards are the Brilliant BI 20X and Brailliant Bi 40X from Humanware.

Check-in: 
  1. Have you used a Perkins Brailler before? What did you think of it? 
  2. Have you tried the QWERTY keyboard? What was helpful or challenging about that? 
  3. Do you have a preference between the QWERTY style and the Perkins Brailler?

Conclusion: Best Fit (Part 2)

✔︎ READ the remainder of the story aloud to your learner.


Q took a break to listen to some music and gather his thoughts. After a little time away, Q is ready to approach the question of which braille display will work best for his needs. He sits down with his parents and this time, they bring Q’s TVI into the conversation on a phone call. The TVI guides Q and his parents through the options and reminds Q that he really tends to favor the QWERTY keyboard and therefore, he would potentially benefit from using a braille display that is similar. 

Q’s mother observes that he would likely do well with a keyboard with 40 cells. It’s a decent size and meets his needs. This brings up the question of whether or not Q needs it for more classes and if he has the right desk space for the brailler. After some discussion and reassurance from the TVI, Q’s family decides that a braille display with a QWERTY keyboard will be best for his needs. 

Q now has the opportunity to benefit from a braille display in English 7, which is the primary class he will use it in. Listening to the teacher’s instructions while using his computer to follow is now more efficient with his brailler. It’s a relief to Q that he now can manage multiple tasks with comfort and confidence in his class.


Activity

Part 1: Research—first, invite your learner to do some research. Have your learner do a search for a Perkins Brailler in the Brilliant Series from Humanware. Then, have them find the APH Mantis Q 40 keyboard (this is a QWERTY keyboard).

Part 2: Pros and Cons—next, ask your learner to work in a document to create a list of the benefits of each keyboard as well as the shortcomings, or tradeoffs, with each. Ask your learner to think about the comfort level or familiarity they have with the type of keyboard. Also help them consider the practicality of each with things such as cost, size, and how easily it is transported.

Next Steps

With so many different choices when it comes to braille displays, it’s important for you to do some additional research and figure out which one best fits the needs of your student. If you want more help and trying to grow your knowledge of braille skills and how to best utilize your braille display, then check out our course Diving Into Braille Displays. Check out our other blogs and stay on the look out for our next Tech Tip Tuesday Companions!

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