BrailleSense Polaris: Using the Polaris as a Refreshable Braille Display with JAWS

This year, my student wanted to learn how to connect her Polaris to her Windows laptop with JAWS to use it as a braille display.

I downloaded the correct braille driver from the HIMS website and set HIMS Braille as the default braille device under Braille Basic Settings of JAWS on my student’s laptop, as well as my demo laptop. Specific settings were also set up under Advanced in Braille Basic Setting so UEB would render correctly on the display and the student could type using UEB. See instructions below:

Instructions to Adjust Braille Options

  • Open Jaws
  • Press Alt+O to open the Options Menu
  • Use the down arrow keys to go to Braille and press Enter
  • Use arrow keys to change the Default Braille Display to HIMS Braille.

If you are using a USB chord, navigate to Modify Settings and press Enter. Select USB as the output port. Navigate to Ok and press Enter.

  • Before restarting JAWS for the settings to take effect, navigate to Advanced using Tab and press Enter.
  • Go to Braille, General and Translation.
  • Under Output and Input, select Unified English Braille Grade 2
  • Set the Braille Grade to Structured
  • Display text in 8-dot mode should be disabled because you need 6-dot mode for UEB.
  • The Active Cursor follows the braille cursor should be enabled.

Next, I tested both laptops to make sure the Polaris connected. Based on past experience, I want my student to experience success to feel vested in using her Polaris as both a stand-alone device and a refreshable braille display across operating systems (iOS, Windows, Mac).

Instructions to Connect the Polaris to a Windows Laptop

  • Turn on the Polaris
  • Navigate to Utilities, then Terminal for Screen Reader. Select USB Port. Terminal mode will appear on the display.
  • Plug the chord into the Polaris and the USB into the laptop. If audio is on, you will hear “USB data mode on” as well as see it on the display  when the USB is connected.
  • Turn on JAWS

Once everything was configured, I wrote my student a letter with the Polaris explaining how to connect her Polaris to her laptop and use it as a braille display.

See attached letter to student here.

My student read the letter written on the demo laptop. She practiced toggling typing mode on/off with the command Backspace +  Space + T so she could use six key entry with the Polaris to write in a Word document. She edited her writing using the Polaris instead of the keyboard.

After initial practice with the demo laptop using the keyboard for navigation, while using the Polaris as a braille display to read, she practiced connecting her Polaris to her laptop with JAWS using the USB chord. She also used the keyboard to complete research for a U.S. History project. Once she located the webpage she wanted, she navigated by headings using H and with the arrow keys to the text she wanted to read. She read the main content using the braille display, which she preferred to using her auditory sensory channel when JAWS reads the text aloud.

When the student experienced technical difficulty scrolling line by line through a word processing document, we troubleshooting by using general key mappings provided by HIMS for the Braille Sense line of products and JAWS. Here are the commands we used:

  • Toggles Cursor- Dot 3
    • We pushed dot three until PC cursor rendered on the display.
  • Toggles whether active cursor follows the braille cursor- Dot 4
    • We made sure this was on.
  • Cycle Modes: Dot 1
    • We made sure the mode was set to structured mode.

Adjusting these settings on the student’s laptop allowed her to easily navigate to the previous and next line of text with the scroll keys and Space + Dot 1 and Space +  Dot 4.

I ended the lesson by having the student explain and demonstrate connecting the Polaris to her laptop and using Keyboard help to explore learning key mappings on her own instead of memorizing the commands.

When keyboard help was enabled, she tested each letter with the space bar to see if it was a command. She discovered that the letters j, w, and m had functions, while d, e, f, h, l, n, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, y, and z did not..

Key Mappings Student Documented

Space + J - brings JAWS in focus
Space + M - bring focus onto the menu bar
Space + W - toggles braille grade on/off

She also initiatively used navigation commands to go to the top or bottom of a document or next or previous line.

I can go on and on about my student’s positive experiences with the Polaris and JAWS, thus I will share more about using the Polaris as a braille display with JAWS in a future post.