So Many Braille Displays, Which One is Right for My Student? Part Five

NOTE: Please see other posts in this series including

So Many Braille Displays Part One (focusing on the Brailliant BI 40 and BI 80 models)

So Many Braille Displays Part Two (focusing on the Brailliant BI 14 model and touching on the Braille Trail Reader LE)

So Many Braille Displays Part Three (focusing on the Braille Edge)

So Many Braille Displays Part Four (focusing on the Smart Beetle)

Many of us were surprised at the sudden removal of the Orbit Reader 20 from the APH catalog earlier this year.  What made this display particularly unique was the fact that it was significantly less expensive than other displays and it was available on the Federal Quota program.  

APH promised there would be a new display available on Quota and to “stay tuned for updates”.  Within a few months, units were shipped out to those who pre-ordered devices.  

Photo of the red Braille Trail Reader LE by APH, a small 14 cell Braille Display.What is the Braille Trail Reader LE?

You are most likely aware of the collaboration between Humanware and APH to make the Humanware Prodigi Connect 12 (known as the APH MATT Connect) available to students via Quota Funds.  This is a similar collaboration to make the Brailliant BI 14 available as the Braille Trail Reader LE.  The two units are only superficially different (as the Braille Trail Reader has a red casing and the Brailliant BI 14 has black casing).  The units’ functions are the same, though the Braille Trail does have specially designed file transfer software for the Braille Trail and Windows 10.  We’ll get into that later in this article.  

Why is the Casing Red?

The major visual difference between the Braille Trail Reader and the Brailliant BI 14 is the color of the case.  The case is red to highlight the connection between early literacy and braille via the Braille Bug website (which was adopted from the American Foundation for the Blind by APH last year).  Braille Bug has various activities, games, and lessons that can be used in an inclusive classroom to help a student’s sighted peers learn and understand more about braille.

Cathy Senft-Graves, a Project Leader at APH, has this to say about the importance of connecting the Braille Trail Reader with the Braille Bug Website: “Many children who get a braille device are in inclusive classrooms, and by matching the Braille Trail Reader with the Braille Bug materials, every child in the class has an opportunity to learn about braille.” 

Unit Layout and Basic Functioning

As mentioned above, the Braille Trail Reader is the same device as the Brailliant BI 14 except for the color and ability to interface with Windows 10 via free file transfer software.  If you wish to learn more about how the Braille Trail Reader functions (including layout, menus, applications, and interfacing with mainstream operating systems), please see the article entitled So Many Braille Displays, Which One is Right for My Student? Part 2.  

The Braille Trail File Transfer Windows App

The Braille Trail File Transfer Windows App can be downloaded from the APH website (there is also a link in the resources section at the end of this article).   

Once installed and opened, the application looks like this:

Screenshot of File Transfer Window with PC files the left and Reader Files on the right.

Please note that the transfer app can only transfer .brf or .txt file types to or from the Braille Trail

Once the program is launched, you must manually connect your Braille Trail to the PC with the included micro USB cable.  You must then, with the Braille Trail File Transfer program open, connect the device to the PC.  To do this, either click on the green button labeled “Connect” or press the command Control + T.  

To upload files from the PC to the Braille Trail Transfer App: 

  1. Go to the Files menu and choose Add to PC Pane – you will be presented the typical Windows file open dialog
  2. If you are using the mouse, drag and drop the file(s) from anywhere in Windows interface (the Desktop, Windows Explorer etc.) to the left pane of the Braille Trail Reader File Transfer app; 
  3. If not using a mouse, copy a file (or files) into the Windows Clipboard (usually with Ctrl-C) and use Ctrl-V shortcut to paste it while in the left pane of the Braille Trail Reader File Transfer Windows app. 

After this process has been initiated, a braille conversion mode dialog with a choice of braille grades and languages will open. The user may choose between Computer Braille and Literary Braille, and language of conversion. There is also an “Always Ask” checkbox below the list of languages. If you uncheck this box, the conversion will always be performed with the settings chosen. 

Screenshot of conversion to braille menu, with options for computer or literacy braille and language.

To transfer files from the File Transfer App to the Braille Trail Reader, you may use the following commands OR access the same options from the Operations Menu (using Alt + O)

  • Space for selecting/deselecting an item
  • F3 to preview selected file (please note that this must be done one file at a time and cannot be used to select multiple files in a window)
  • F5 for copying selected file or files to the right (Reader Files) pane
  • F8 for deleting selected file or files from the pane
  • Alt-Enter to show details of the file (name, extension, size, and modification date in a dialog).

Please note that these same commands are listed in a dialogue that can be accessed in the Help Menu of the application.  To open the dialogue, simply press Alt + H followed by H and use your standard reading keys to hear the information.  When finished, simply press Escape or Enter to close the dialogue box.  

In the example below, a .brf file obtained from Bookshare is being transferred to the Braille Trail.  Once the transfer is complete, the .brf can be opened in the “files” folder on the Braille Trail Reader.  

Screenshot of file transfer in progress (62%) of the file, A Game of Thrones in .brf format.

 

IMPORTANT: Once files are transferred to the Braille Trail, they are available in the “files” folder of the Notes application (see the user guide or So Many Braille Displays, Which One is Right for My Student? Part 2 for more information on the Notes application).

For more detailed instructions on use of the Braille Trail File Transfer App, please see the user guide referenced below.

Overall Impressions

In general, the Brailliant displays (and in this case, the Braille Trail Reader) are well built and sturdy.  The case that comes with the display will provide some protection against accidental drops or minor incidents, but a more sturdy case is available for purchase if you believe your student needs something a bit more hard wearing.      

The limitation of the display to only 14 cells is a bit concerning, but this is partly what has helped to keep the cost of the device down. It also increases the portability. 

For those who liked the joystick on the old Refreshabrailles, the joystick on the Braille Trail Reader functions much the same way. It is a very intuitive way to navigate, particularly for younger students whose smaller hands and lack of dexterity sometimes make pressing multiple buttons at once difficult.  

The Cursor Routing Sensors are an interesting touch. It remains to be seen how students will like using those as opposed to the old Cursor Routing Keys that required you to physically press on them.  After experimenting with the sensors, I have to say I found the haptic feedback both helpful (because the feedback provided reassurance that your touch actually activated the sensor) and off-putting (because the vibration was a new sensation that required some getting used to). 

The Notes Applications on the Braille Trail Reader is quite similar to the Standalone operation of the Orbit Reader 20. And like the Orbit Reader 20, the Brailliant BI 14’s Notes Application is a very “bare bones” system and does not include a spell check function and does not allow formatting such as underlining and bolding of text.  As with the Orbit Reader, it is generally recommended that no major word processing be done on the Braille Trail Reader itself, though notes synced with other accounts could be further edited on the phone using the display in terminal mode.  But if the unit is only being used to take notes and maybe do some simple writing, it is certainly acceptable.

The adoption of the Braille Trail Reader by APH will likely affect how many TVIs and districts choose to abandon the Orbit and opt for purchasing the more up to date product.  There are certainly drawbacks in doing so, such as the loss of six braille cells and the decreased cost of the Orbit.  However, the Braille Trail Reader’s inclusion of Cursor Routing Sensors and the much quieter refreshable display may be worth the cost of transition.

Resources:

Collage of Braille Trail review