Image of Orbit Reader

Orbit Reader 20: Introduction and Menu

The Orbit Reader 20 is in demand and available from APH using Federal Quota.

This series will focus on the various features of the Orbit. This first installment we will introduce the unit and look at the menu structure. In the second article, we focused mainly on the file structure. The third article will focus on reading and working on files.

As most of you are probably aware, the Orbit Reader 20 was released by APH and is available with quota dollars.  The significantly lower price compared to similar displays and some of the features of the product have made it quite desirable, but many TVIs are having some difficulty with it due to the fact that it is not quite as intuitive as other displays they are used to.

This series of articles will focus on the various features of the Orbit Reader including some tips and tricks to make operation of the device a bit easier. 

Introduction to the Unit

The Orbit Reader is set up like many other brands.  If you place the unit on a flat surface with the 20 cell display closest to you, we can work our way from that display to the top of the device.

20 Cell Display, Tic Marks, and Braille Panning Keys

As the name implies, there is a 20 cell display along the bottom of the unit.  On either side of the display are “rocker keys” that control the panning of the braille on the display.  Above the display are three tics. They are placed after every fifth cell on the display to assist you in keeping your place or determining what cell number on the display your finger is resting on.

Image of the Orbit's 20 braille cells with labeled panning keys to the left and right side of the cells.

Space and Dots Seven and Eight

Above the display, there are three buttons.  The longest middle button is the space key. To the left of the space key is the “dot 7” or “backspace”.  To the right is the “dot 8” or “enter” key. We will be looking at their functions as we progress.

Standard Six-Dot Configuration

Above the navigation circle you will find the standard six-dot braille entry buttons.  

Image of Orbit input keys labeled: first row dot 3, 2, 1 , 4, 5, 6; 2nd row with circular navigation pad; 3rd row with dot 7, larger space bar and dot 8 key.

Navigation Pad

The next area is referred to as the “navigation pad”.  It is a circle comprised of five buttons: up, down, left, right, and select.  The directional arrows are located in the logical places on the navigation circle while the select key is in the middle. It is used to navigate both menus and files.

image of Orbit's navigation pad: circular pad with 4 quadrants for up, left, down and right arrow keys and small circle in center for select key.

Charging Port, SD Slot, and Power Button

If you turn the unit 180 degrees so the back of the unit is directly facing you, the following features are presented left to right:

The Orbit’s Two “Modes”

The Orbit has two “modes”:

Stand-alone mode allows the user to read files on the SD card, create files, and organize content into folders.  This is a very basic notetaking and reading mode that should not be mistaken for a word processor. There is no spell check or option to do any sort of advanced editing.  You can, however, cut, copy, and paste text.

It is important to note that the orbit does no translation.  So if you want to read files in UEB contracted braille, they must be loaded onto the SD card as .BRF files.  

Stand-Alone Mode

There are four main components of the stand-alone mode.

For the purposes of this series, we will focus on one area at a time, starting with the menu.  Each subsequent article will focus on a different aspect of the stand-alone mode and then we will move on to the various options for using the Orbit as a display in remote mode.

The Orbit Reader 20 Menus

Here are the basic commands you will need to open and navigate the menus:

Clear as mud, right?  Well, let’s see a few examples.

Checking Battery Status

Probably one of the most important things you need to know is how much battery your Orbit has left.  Here are the steps you would follow to check your battery:

  1. Open the menu by pressing the select key and up arrow simultaneously
  2. The battery status will be displayed
  3. Exit the menu by pressing dot 7

Changing the Cursor Blink Rate

In my opinion, the refreshable braille on the Orbit is kind of loud.  And if you are in a classroom writing notes, it seems the sound of the cursor blinking every second is extremely loud and distracting.  If you find that is the case, you can change the blink rate by following the steps below:

  1. Open the menu by pressing the select key and up arrow simultaneously
  2. Press the down arrow once and you will see the words “cursor blink” followed by a Nemeth number that is underlined with dots 7 and 8.  By default, it is a number 1.
  3. If you wish to change the blink rate, press the right or left arrow keys.  Your options are as follows:


    • 1 second
    • 5 seconds
    • 15 seconds
    • 30 seconds
    • 60 seconds
    • 0 seconds (which means it will always be visible 
  4. Press the select key on the option you would like to enable.  You will see that this option now is underlined with dots 7 and 8.  This indicates your choice is confirmed
  5. Exit the menu by pressing dot 7

Other Menu Options

For your reference, here is the order of the menu structure as you will navigate it using the down arrow:

The Most Useful Menu Options

We’ve already looked at the battery and cursor menus, but what other menu options are the most useful?  Here are a few:

  1. Version


    • Navigate to this option to see the OS version that your Orbit is running
  2. Serial 
  3. Navigate to this option to see the serial number of the unit (which is also written in print on the back of the unit)
  4. Navigate to this option and press the select key to reset the unit’s factory default settings.  
  5. Under certain circumstances, for example if you are pairing the Orbit with an iOS device running version 10.1 or earlier, you will need to turn the emulator on so that your Orbit “emulates” a Refreshabraille 18.  Only the first 18 dots on the unit will be used.  
  6. If you are using iOS 10.2 or later, you do not need to use this setting.
  7. Reset Defaults 
  8. Emulate


Want more resources?  You can view the Orbit User Guide here.  

Also, there is a YouTube playlist under development on the Orbit by yours truly (yes, I do realize that’s a pretty shameless plug).  In the videos below, the first video -Part One – focuses on orientation to the unit and the second video – Part Two –  takes you through the menus.

By Snowflake_tvi

One-eyed monster wearing a white shirt and tie holding a computer.

Monster: Note taking skills

Speech Central logo

Speech Central update

Young child using a braille display paired with a tablet.

Writing with a braille display: Lists part 3