Keeping in mind the diverse needs of its customers and make their products more accessible, especially people with impairments, Microsoft introduced numerous additions and improvements in Windows 10. Support for Braille input and output through specialized Braille displays was at the forefront of these changes. Ever since Satya Nadella assumed the charge of CEO of Microsoft Corp, Accessibility, and Assistive technologies have been put at the heart of everything. The sole objective behind is to empower impaired users to consume, create and collaborate on content independently.
Braille in Windows 10
The support for Braille is available as a new experience in ‘Narrator’. It has multiple variants, including grade 2 contracted braille and uses more than 40 languages. Enabling the feature will automatically make your PC install the BRLTTY and Liblouis open source software libraries.
The purpose for writing this post is to provide information about how to use a Braille display with Narrator in the Windows 10. This covers information regarding the installation of braille system on your PC, navigation and reading texts.
How to use a braille display with Narrator in the Windows 10 Creators Update
The Narrator supports braille displays from 35 manufacturers. To begin, install Braille on Windows 10. Press the Windows logo key + U to open Ease of Access settings. Alternatively, you can click the Windows button, choose ‘Settings’ and select ‘Ease of Access’ tile.
Scroll down to the bottom and under Braille (beta), select Download and install braille.
Depending on your download speed, the download time may vary. So, leave your computer idle for few minutes. Once the download and installation process is complete, select Enable braille.
Proceeding further, add your braille display. For this, select ‘Add a braille display’ option visible on your screen and then choose your braille display manufacturer and connection type – USB or serial port. When done, configure your braille display with other screen readers.
Suppose, you already use your braille display with another screen reader, or Narrator doesn’t work immediately with your braille display then, you will be required to update or change the driver Windows uses to communicate with your display. However, you only need to change your driver if a different driver is installed for your braille display. If you’re not sure, it is advisable to contact your braille display manufacturer.
To update or change the driver that Windows uses with your braille display, connect it to your PC and follow the steps outlined below:
Press the Windows logo key on your keyboard, type device manager, and then choose Device Manager from the list of results. Find your braille display in the list of devices. Note that the display could be either, the name of your display or the name of the display manufacturer. Once visible, expand the entry for your braille display and select your device. In the Action menu, select Update driver.
Select ‘Browse my computer for driver software’ and then select ‘Let me pick from a list of available drivers on my computer’. Choose your display from the list and select Next. If all proceeds as desired and Narrator recognizes your display, select LibUSB-Win32 Devices. Choose the driver that begins with LibUSB-Win32 from the list on the following page and hit the Next button to install the driver.
To go back to using your display with your other screen reader, repeat the above process but select the driver used by your other screen reader.
To remove Narrator braille from your PC, press Windows Logo Key + I to open Settings. Select Apps, choose Apps & features and then select Manage optional features. Select Accessibility – Braille support, and then choose Uninstall.
If your braille display features a braille keyboard, you can use it to enter text or do the following commands.
Please note that the command to turn on the keyboard is Space+Dots 1-3. Alternatively, if your braille display has touch cursors you can use them to do certain actions.
To learn more about what braille displays are supported, including specific key commands for each display, visit this page. For more on this, you can visit Microsoft.