Adjusting the Braille Settings in JAWS

Man wearing headphones using a braille display with laptop.

Don’t want to read?

Written By Cody Laplante

Cody M. Laplante is a certified Teacher of Students with Visual Impairments located in the capital region of the United States. With a Master’s Degree and Graduate Certificate in Assistive Technology, Cody founded eye.t to provide live and asynchronous training options to children, adults, professionals and parents to ensure that all people with visual impairments can have access to a computer.

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Published on

October 30, 2023

Ok, so you’ve connected your braille display to JAWS, but now, you look at the braille and …….. oh no! It contracted? I can’t read contracted braille! What am I supposed to do? It’s totally fine, today, I’m going to show you how to access the braille settings in JAWS so that you can change your braille code to contracted, uncontracted or even computer braille!

Why Change Braille Settings?

So first off, why do you even need to change the braille settings? 

  1. Change to Uncontracted

If you are changing your braille code to uncontracted or “Unified English Braille Grade 1”, this might mean that you are not completely comfortable with contracted braille, and guess what? That is totally fine! Unlike reading in hard copy braille, there is no space (or money) saved by reading uncontracted. Yes, you might need to scroll a little more and yes, you’ll have fewer words on your display at a time, but with a display, uncontracted braille is not at all unreasonable.

  1. Change to Contracted

So this one is a little obvious. You’re a confident braille reader, you want to read fast, so contracted braille is it. Just for you to know you’ll be looking for “Unified English Braille Grade 2”.

  1. Change to Computer Braille

So this one is for anyone in technology. That’s right coders, I’m talking about you. If you’re spending all day in a code editor, or with cybersecurity software, computer braille might be your avenue. The benefit of computer braille is that every print symbol has a braille counterpart. This means if what you are reading and writing is 1. not standard english or 2. requires precise punctuation, computer braille will be your best bet. (Check out this Tech Tip Tuesday on Computer Braille)

How do I change my braille code in JAWS?

Before we begin, disclaimer: As usual, I’ll be using key commands, but if you are a sighted instructor setting this up for a learner, feel free to use the mouse.

Step 1: Switch your program focus to JAWS

That’s right, this is Alt + Tab. 

Step 2: Get to the Braille Basics Settings Dialog

To do this we first need to get to the Options menu. If you know our pattern “Alt to Access Menus” you should be able to guess this key command….

That’s right! It is Alt + O. 

Didn’t know that pattern? Take a look at our Tech Tip Tuesday video on Using Menus with Alt

Now let’s go to “Braille”. Remember, navigate those menus with up and down arrow keys. Once you get there, press Enter.

Step 3: Let’s Get to “Advanced Settings”.

This “Braille Basics Settings” dialog box is what we use to Connect our Display. If you’re not sure about how to do that, take a look at our new course in the Screen Reader Curriculum, Diving into Braille Displays!

But, today, we have our display connected, so let’s Tab to the “Advanced” button and of course, when we get there, press “Enter”.

Step 4: Access the Tree View

If you know how to access a tree view, or if you are a sighted instructor using a mouse, you can move on to theat next section. 

Alright, for those of you who are still here, listen up!

A tree view is a navigation tool that allows you to access many different levels of items using just the arrow keys and the space bar. Here are a few rules that will help you to navigate a tree view:

  1. Move up and down the list with up and down arrow keys
  2. Open a level with right arrow key (this allows you to see the settings that are within that category)
  3. Close a level with the left arrow key Ithis allows you to skip the setttings that are within that category)
  4. Select or Change options with the Spacebar

It will take some practice to get the hang of it, but take your time. Once you get used to it, this method of navigation is really simple to use.

Step 5: Change Output and Input

For those accessing the tree view, you will:

  1. Go down to “General” and open it up (right arrow key)
  2. Go down to “Translation” and open it up. (right arrow key)
  3. Go down to “Output” and change your output mode (spacebar)
  4. Go down to “Input” and change your input mode (spacebar)

Remember Output is the braille that will appear on your display and Input is the braille you will be typing on the braille keyboard. Note that if you are using a QWERTY display such as the Mantis Q40, your input mode will not really matter.

All of the Steps in Order

  1. Switch program focus to JAWS (Alt + Tab)
  2. Go to Options Menu (Alt + O)
  3. Select “Braille”
  4. Tab to “Advanced”
  5. Arrow down to “General” and open the level
  6. Arrow down to “Translation” and open the level
  7. Change your Output Mode (Spacebar)
  8. Change your Input Mode (Spacebar)

Need More Info

Now, yes I know in this blog post, we assumed that you have a display that fits your needs, it is already connected to your computer and you know how to use it. If any of those does not describe you or your learner, well you need to check out our brand new course in the Screen Reader Curriculum, Diving Into Braille Displays. This 5-module curriculum will help you answer questions like 

  • Do I even need a braille display? 
  • Which Braille Display is right for me? 
  • How do I connect my display to my computer? and of course, 
  • How do I use my display?

This course is available in our All-Access Subscription and right now, for a limited time teachers can get the instructor edition for only $10 per month!

Now, if that does not describe you, no worries we want to continue to support your assistive technology journey as best as we can.

To understand and learn more, watch our Tech Tip Tuesday that is associated with this topic!

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