iOS Devices and Focus Braille Displays

This article looks at the ins and outs of using a Freedom Scientific Focus refreshable braille display with iOS devices.

iOS Devices and Focus Braille Displays

Over the course of the last five years, I have had the opportunity to work with several students of different ages with Freedom Scientific Focus 40s, Focus 14s, iPads, and iPhones.  Paths to Technology has many invaluable articles relating to using iOS devices with refreshable braille displays.  Several can be found here: Getting Started with iPad and Refreshable Braille, iPad Curriculum, and iOS Commands.  This article is intended to concentrate on the ins and outs specific to using a Freedom Scientific Focus with an iOS device. 

Freedom Scientific produces three models of Focus Blue refreshable braille displays.  There are the 14, 40, and 80 (the number indicates the number of braille cells on the display).  People may choose the 14 if they want a device that is highly portable, such as one they can easily carry in their purse to use with their phones.  Focus 40s are very popular because they offer enough cells to efficiently read books and lengthy documents while not being as cost-prohibitive as Focus 80s.  Focus 80s are favored by professionals who require a high number of cells to efficiently perform their work.  The buttons and commands are all the same between these displays, although their arrangement varies slightly. 

Pros and Cons of Focus Blue Displays with iOS Devices




If you prefer learning through watching or listening, I have created a video that goes over several of the elements discussed in the rest of this article, including Focus layout; interacting with the iPad with Focus buttons, gestures, and commands; and understanding how braille translation works with iOS.  Even if you watch the video, scan the article for some content not discussed in the video.

The Basics

Focus Layout

You can read complete information about the Focus layout here. I also discuss the layout the video above.

Devices Buttons In Place of Gestures

With a Focus you can use the device’s buttons to perform several tasks on iOS devices without having to use the gesture or the braille command (also known as a chord which means that it includes pushing space and a combination of braille dots).  You can find a full list of these on this Apple support page.  I have had great success with students using Focus buttons to perform the equivalent of gestures, including single-finger flick, three-finger flick, and double-tap. 

Why is this helpful?

Using Braille Commands

The Focus displays still use all the same iOS braille chords to perform tasks as other displays.  Please see this comparison chart I created of basic gestures, chords, and Focus buttons: Beginning iOS Focus Comparison Chart.

Form Matters

Boy brailling with Focus 40 with all fingers correctly on dots 1-8 and his thumb above the space bar.

Tactile Marking

Focus 40 with tactile stickers on dots 1, 4, 7, and 8.

Sources of Confusion

E-Book App Issues


Overall, I have found Focus braille displays to be a user-friendly, reliable way to access and edit content on iOS devices in braille.  I encourage you to take a few minutes to practice on your own before trying the device with your student.  Just a little practice for yourself goes a long way to understanding the device.  I welcome your comments below about strategies you want to share or problems you have encountered.

Collage of iOS focus and Pad

Attached File(s)
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