Exploring the BrailleSense Polaris: Help Menu

Updated post: Documents added 8/3/19

As a TVI, one of my primary roles is to teach students with visual impairment self- advocacy skills. My students need to know how to identify when they are having technical difficulties with their technology, use troubleshooting skills, independently use help menus of devices and software, and accurately articulate the difficulties they are having with technology to teachers, support staff, and technical support to obtain assistance. 

Two of my students use the BrailleSense Polaris braille notetaker. To increase their independence in using these devices instead of relying on me, I am teaching them how to use the Help Menu. My high school student has a specific objective in her IEP to independently use the Help Menu built into the braille notetaker or a user manual to troubleshoot technical difficulties and search for a specific command to complete an action. 

The student is very tech savvy, as she has figured out commands to use different programs, download and use Android apps, and complete specific actions (insert time and date).  She has memorized the commands she uses on a regular basis, but relies on having me look up new commands and tell her commands she uses less often. I have created digitally accessible cheat sheets that are working documents for the student and staff to refer to that include a list of commands (i.e. navigation commands, editing, reading, and layout commands for the Word Processor, and general commands), as well as provided digitally accessible copies of the user manual. However, they are never used. User doesn’t need to remember every single command and key combination because they can be looked up using Help, Space + H. This opens a list of commands for the application you are presently using. By teaching my student to open the Help Menu in each application (i.e. Word, Processor File Manager, Media Player), she is starting to explore command menus and search for commands she needs on her own. 

After providing initial instruction on how to access the Help Menu from the Main Program Menu or within each application, I have given my student assignments to look up specific key commands in the Command Summary section of the Help Menu. When trying to find specific a command using Space + F in the Command Summary, search results may say “not found” depending on the text you type. However, if another word or set of words is used, one can usually locate the information he/she is looking for.  I test most of the commands I assign the student to look up to see what text is accepted or how to navigate through the search options.  

Previously, my student and I tested out the Help Menu to look up the command for “check battery status” with no success, even after typing in over 5 different search criteria including the word “battery”.  However, we were able to locate the command under the section “Basic Functions of BrailleSense Polaris” in the Help Menu where information about the battery was located.  We learned to check the battery power status: you press Space + Dots 1, 6. While my student completed an assignment exploring the Help Menu, she independently took the initiative to look beyond the Command Summary section to find specific commands she could not locate in it. She showed me that information was often located in a different section of the Help Menu and not always the Command Summary. 

Steps to Use Help Menu

  • Go to the Main Program Menu - F1
  • Navigate to the Help Menu  -use the scroll keys, Space + Dot 4 and Space + Dot 1, or initial letter navigation (H) to go to the Help Menu.  Press Enter. The Help Navigation Menu Dialogue opens with a list of headings you can navigate.  This is the BrailleSense Polaris User Manual that is installed on the Polaris. The latest user manual is installed when you complete a firmware update.
  • Navigate the headings in the Help Menu using the scroll keys, Space + Dot 4 and Space + Dot 1, or initial letter navigation. For example, if you want to go to the Command Summary, press C for Command Summary and then Enter.
  • To search for or find specific commands, use Space + F to open the Find Dialogue Menu. Type the key word(s) for your search and press Enter. Navigate between the choices that come up using Backspace + F.

Example Lesson Activity

  • Please use the Help Menu to identify the key command for each of the following. Most of them should be located in the Command Summary section of the Help Menu.  

Open the main program menu



Move to the next page


Voice on/off

Wireless on/off

Bluetooth on/off

Rename file


Read selected text

Read from cursor to end

Turn off Hey Polaris feature

Turn LCD on/off 

  •  Locate Daisy Player Commands in the Help Menu
  • Locate Calculator Commands in the Help Menu
  • Locate the Quick Launch Commands in the Help Menu
  • Locate the Troubleshooting Guide to locate the command to reset the Polaris when it is not responding
  • Read about using the Excel Viewer under the Extras section of the Help Menu
  • While using the Word Processor, go to Help and look up the command for Find and Replace.

Updated 8/3/19 in response to MMouse's question in the comments below

In regarding to cheat sheets or reference sheets, I individualize them for  each student. For example, I will make one with commands for the word processor when teaching the student how to use the word processor. I make a digital accessible copy, as well as a braille copy the student can use as a reference. As the student learns new skills, I add commands to their cheat/reference sheet. 

I also rely on the Help Menu to identify specific commands, as you can't memorize them all. H+Space is your best friend to find what you are looking for within an open application. Lastly, I look up commands in the user manual. They are organized by headings in the Commands Summary section at the end of the manual. I often copy, paste, and adapt the commands for my students as needed. 

Here are some example cheat sheets I have made, as well as Useful Key Stoke Document originally created by HIMS that I added too. I have also attached the latest user manual. 





Posted by R SaladinoFeb 27, 2019

Hi Phyllis,  According to the manual and release notes from HIMS, you can only emboss using the Notepad. You can not emboss documents from the Word Processor. The information below was obtained from the manual.  Print - Space-P supports only braille embossing. The document will be printed using a connected embosser. My students and are not printing or embossing from the Polaris, so I don't have first hand experience doing this.  I'd contact HIMS Tech Support if you need further assistance setting up an embosser to the Polaris.  R. Saladino 

Posted by MmouseJul 25, 2019

Hello R Saladino, I have just got the BrailleSense Polaris today for my 13 year old blind student. I have previously used the Humanware BrailleNote Touch with him. I am really interested in obtaining a copy of the "Cheat sheet" you referred to above for the BrailleSense Polaris. I would be very grateful if you were able to share it with me as I learn the features of his new device and subsequently teach my student. Any help you can give would be greatly appreciated Regards, David Milliken David.milliken@det.nsw.edu.au

Posted by Diane BraunerAug 03, 2019

David, the author responded to your question and shared four handouts on the BrailleSense Polaris. You can find her response at the bottom of the original post. Let us know if you have additional questions!

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