I was very impressed with APH’s two new refreshable braille displays that will be released this year. The Chameleon 20 and Mantis Q40 will be available on Quota funds for students. These braille displays were developed between a collaboration with Humanware and APH. Instead of replacing the Orbit 20 or Braille Trail, APH is adding to their line of available refreshable braille displays to provide students choice. APH took into account teacher feedback to create these two braille displays with students in mind. It is promising to hear that APH is building partnerships with experts/companies in the field to create products for our students more quickly than in the past.
The Chameleon 20
The Chameleon 20 is a twenty-cell refreshable braille display with cursor router keys. It has a Perkins style keyboard with a Backspace and Enter key, as well as two space bar keys located below the display. Along the front panel, there are four thumb keys and a center button in the middle similar to the Humaware braille devices. The keys were well spaced and more ergonomic than other 20 cell displays, such as the Orbit 20. The Chameleon has a SD card slot, USB port, and USBC charging port. The Chameleon easily switches between contracted and uncontracted braille using the command Backspace+G. There is a built in Editor, which is a limited word processor that reads .doc, .docx, .txt, .brf, and .brl files. Simple commands such as select, cut, copy, and paste can be used in the Editor, but the file would need to be formatted using another device, such as a laptop with a screen reader. Students can write and save files as .txt files that can be sent to their teachers to read in print. The Chameleon has built in Bluetooth and wireless connectivity. It has 16 GB of internal storage for saving files. There is a built-in library to download and read books from Bookshare or NFB Newsline. The Chameleon also has a built-in calculator. The Chameleon has 15 hours of battery life and is light weight. It can connect to up to five devices at one time. Audio is not presently a feature but will be coming out soon so student can either access information tactually or auditorily. Lastly, students will be able to choose from three different color cases for their device. According to the presenters, the Chameleon will include braille tables, such as UEB, etc. to look up symbols. Software upgrades can be completed wirelessly. The Chameleon has many promising features for our students to keep up with their sighted peers. During the presentation, emphasis was placed on providing students with visual impairments the same minimum tools as their peers to complete classwork, which includes a way to take notes, access to textbooks and print materials, a calculator, and a clock to tell time.
Image: Chameleon 20 refreshable braille display with cursor router keys, a Perkins style keyboard, backspace and enter keys, and two space bar buttons located below the refreshable display
The Mantis Q40 is a forty-cell refreshable braille display with a full QWERTY keyboard. It also has several standalone applications for productivity and efficiency. The Mantis was created to allow students to develop proficient typing skills while continuing to use braille. It was noted in the presentation that the Mantis helps fill the need for creating a braille product that can assist students to transition to the workforce with computer keyboarding skills as well as braille support. If desired, there is a toggle command that will allow students to input braille using six key entry with the keyboard. The Mantis Q40 was created based on results from a teacher survey and input from teachers last year. It includes many of the same features and applications as the Chameleon, such as an Editor, but will not have audio support.
Image: Mantis Q40 is a 40-cell refreshable braille display with cursor router keys and a full QWERTY keyboard
Lastly, APH announced that they will have two embossers available on quota funds by the end of 2020.