For many users, the cost of a traditional braille displays can be an issue. There are currently two options for small braille displays that cost around $500: APH's Orbit Reader 20 and the Braille Me by National Braille Press. Let's take a look at the differences between these two economical braille display options.
Comparing Braille Me to APH's Orbit Reader 20
|Braille Me||Orbit Reader 20|
|Number of Braille Cells||20||20|
|Number of Dots in a Braille Cell||6||8|
|Commands||Unique commands||Standard commands|
|Connectivity to Screen Readers||NVDA, BrailleBack and VoiceOver only||All screen readers|
Young braille students - with their smaller hands - often benefit from a smaller 14 to 20 cell braille display. There are several braille displays available in this size, including the more robust options from Humanware, Freedom Scientific, and HIMS. Note: The smaller braille displays are wonderful tools for young readers and for users who want a portable braille display to be used with a smart phone. Older students who prefer braille when reading large quantities of text will benefit from a braille display with more characters, such as a 40 cell display or larger.
Currently, there are only two options for small braille displays around $500: the Braille Me and Orbit Reader. The Braille Me costs $515.50 and the Orbit Reader is $449.00. The Orbit Reader is available on Quota Funds for students in the US.
6 Dot vs. 8 Dot Cells
A standard braille cell is composed of 6 dots. However, braille displays traditionally use dots 7 and 8 for the blinking cursor. This cursor indicates where the screen reader focus is. For students who are writing and editing materials, this is important! The Braille Me - which does not have dot 7 and 8, blinks the empty dots within the cell. Meaning, if the screen reader cursor is on the braille letter 'd', (d is dots 1 + 4 + 5) then the dots 2 + 3+ 6 would blink. For emerging or early braille readers, blinking dots surrounding a braille letter, may be confusing.
Braille displays typically use universal commands. Some braille devices may have an additional command that interacts with their unique interface, but the general commands are universal. However, the Braille Me has its own unique set of commands. Students who use the Braille Me will have to relearn these commands if they transition to another or larger braille device.
Braille displays typically have routing buttons that enable the student to quickly and efficiently move the screen reader cursor to a specific point. The routing buttons are a critical tool enabling the student to edit his work. With one press of the desired routing button, the student can efficiently move the cursor to the exact spot that he wants to edit. Without the routing button, a student has to go through multiple steps to be able to navigate through the text character by character or word by word. When reading longer sections of braille, the student navigates to the next 20 cells of braille using the panning button - the screen reader cursor does not move as the student pans. However, the student can sync the screen reader cursor to where he is reading by pressing the routing button. The Orbit Reader 20 is the only braille display that does not have routing buttons.
Connectivity to Screen Readers
Typically, braille displays are compatible with any computer, tablet or smart phone and with any screen reader. Currently, the Braille Me can only be used with NVDA, BrailleBack and VoiceOver. Currently, Braille Me can not be used with JAWS.
Note: Several Braille Me users have shared that the pins may be inconsistent - that they do not always pop up full height. This may be a deterrent for emerging and young readers.
For more details about Braille Me, Read NFB's Braille Me Review.
Orbit Reader 20
Paths to Technology series of posts on the Orbit Reader (includes videos)