BrailleSense Polaris  notetaker: 32 cell refreshable braille display

Exploring the BrailleSense Polaris: Help Menu

Teach self-advocacy skills with this Help Menu lesson!

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

Example Lesson Activity

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 

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. 




Attached File(s)
By R Saladino

Cartoon caterpillar on a half eaten leaf reading a book.

Butterflies part 1: Caterpillars

Monarch multiline braille display

Graphing with the Monarch and Desmos

Cartoon lion sitting beside wrapped gifts, holding balloons and wearing a pointy hat.

Inference activities part 2: Pictures and alt text image descriptions