Image of Orbit reader 20 with text

Orbit Reader 20: Using the Orbit with an iOS Device

This article will focus on the unique aspects of using the Orbit Reader 20 with an iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device.

NOTE: Prior to reading this article, you may wish to review previous articles in this series:

Layout and Menu Structure of the Orbit Reader 20

File Structure of the Orbit Reader 20.  

Reading and Working in Files on the Orbit Reader 20

Editing Basics on the Orbit Reader 20

Translating a File Created on the Orbit to Print

Using the Orbit Reader with a Chromebook

In this article, we will look at use of the Orbit Reader 20 when paired with an iOS device.  Please note that this article focuses on use of the Orbit with VoiceOver as a screen reader, not on using VoiceOver itself.  Commands and directions will be provided on use of the specific device with the latest version of iOS (which as of today is 12.1.1).

VoiceOver as a Screen Reader

As in the previous article focusing on the Orbit with the Chromebook, for your device to function, you must have VoiceOver activated.  If you do not have the screen reader turned on, there is no way for the device to “talk” to the Orbit Reader. This is true of all braille displays, not just the Orbit.  Please see the resources section at the bottom of this article for further information.

Connecting the Orbit to your iOS Device

This series of steps will walk you through connecting your Orbit to your iDevice.  The screenshots in this article were taken on an iPhone, but the process is very similar for iPad users. 

Note: Start this process with your Orbit Reader turned off.  You will not need to turn it on until step three. 

Step One: Open the Settings App on your iDevice.  Tap on “General, then tap on “Accessibility”. VoiceOver is the first item listed.  Tap on that and turn the switch button to “on”. The image below shows you the four screens you should see in succession.

General > Accessibility > VoiceOver toggled on” src=”” style=”width: 900px; height: 325px; border-width: 5px; border-style: solid; margin: 15px 5px;” />

**Remember, VoiceOver changes the way we interact with the screen so if you are not an experienced user, you might want to practice with VoiceOver first.

Step Two: Scroll down to “braille”, This is the screen you will see (don’t worry about all those settings, we will go through those later).  

Screenshot of settings Braille Page

Step Three: Turn on your Orbit Reader by pressing the power key in the back of the unit and holding it for three seconds.  

Step Four: On the iDevice, scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen.  There you will see your Orbit reader listed. If you’ve never paired a braille display before on that device, there will be no other braille devices listed.  

Step Five: Double-tap the text that says “Orbit Reader 20”.  Depending on how your Orbit is set up, your iDevice will either ask you if you would like to pair or will ask if a specific pin code is displayed on the device and to press OK if it is.  Either way, if you press OK your phone will emit a short lower pitched beep, which indicates the devices have connected. 

My Devices Paired and I Didn’t Go Through All Those Steps!

Depending on your Orbit Reader’s settings, your iDevice may display an alert that your Orbit is ready to pair.  That is the default setting on your Orbit, but it does not always seem to work, especially in areas with many Bluetooth devices that may interfere.  For this reason, I listed the steps to pair the display. If you get the dialogue box indicating your Orbit wants to pair with your iDevice before you get through all the steps then great!  But if not, you have the entire process outlined above. 

Troubleshooting Tips for Pairing Issues

  1. If your Orbit does not pair right away, the Bluetooth may be turned off on the unit.  To toggle this setting, use space with dots four and seven. Alternately, you may turn the Bluetooth on or off in the menus (see Layout and Menu Structure of the Orbit Reader 20 for further information).  
  2. If your iDevice displays a dialogue that says “connection unsuccessful”, you may want to double-tap on the “more info button” to the right of the braille display name (which in print looks like a lowercase letter i with a circle around it).  You will see an option called “forget this device”. Once you double-tap on that, your iDevice will ask if you are sure. Select the “forget” button. The iDevice will pick up your Orbit Reader again and you may try reconnecting at this point. If you are still having trouble, move to a room above ground with at least one window and as little technological interference (such as other Bluetooth devices, computers, or phones) as possible.
  3. You may need to try one or both of the above strategies more than once, especially the first time you pair your device.  It’s nothing you are doing wrong, lots of devices have difficulty pairing and for some reason braille displays (at least in my experience) are the most challenging.  

Braille Settings

As promised, here is a breakdown of the various braille settings on your iDevice:

Output: There are three options when typing braille into the display.  

Most of the time, you will want to select the “contracted” option unless you want to read braille without any contractions or are working with a very young reader who is using the display.

Input: The same three options for output exist for input

Again, as with the output setting, you will most likely want to select the “contracted” option unless you want to write braille without any contractions or are working with a very young reader who is using the display.

Braille Screen Input: This does not pertain to the external braille display.  It is the setting for which of the three options you wish to use when entering braille by typing on the iDevice screen.  

Status Cell: Obviously, this setting will indicate whether you want a status cell to appear to the left or right of the cursor. 

Equations Use Nemeth Code: This setting enables the device to use some limited Nemeth code as opposed to UEB Math.

Show Onscreen Keyboard: Usually when a keyboard is used with an iOS device, the onscreen keyboard is hidden to avoid any sort of confusion.  You can enable the onscreen keyboard if you feel that it would be beneficial, but generally, I recommend leaving it off because it can cause some major confusion since the VoiceOver Cursor can sometimes end up in the onscreen keyboard and students often have difficulty navigating away from it.  

Turn Pages when Panning:  Generally, this is used with applications such as iBooks, Read2Go, or VoiceDream Reader.  It allows the braille display to continually scroll through text even if a virtual “page turn” is needed otherwise.  

Word Wrap: This eliminates the use of a hyphen whenever possible to avoid dividing words between lines. 

Braille Code: There are three English translation tables to choose from.  English US, English Unified, and English United Kingdom.                                                                                               

Alert Display Duration:  This is the duration that notifications or alerts will appear on your braille display.  Three seconds is the default. 


As previously stated, VoiceOver is the screen reader and main driver for the Orbit Reader or any braille display that your iOS device is connected to.  Therefore, the vast majority of braille display commands with iOS are universal. Below is one of many tables listing these commands (this particular one was taken directly from the Orbit Manual, the direct link to which is in the resources section, but to jump right to the braille commands, you can use this link.  


iOS Navigation Commands



Move to previous item

Space + Dot 1 or Left Arrow

Move to next item

Space + Dot 4 or Right Arrow

Pan braille left

Space + Dot 2

Pan braille right

Space + Dot 5

Move to the first element

Space + Dots 1 2 3

Move to the last element

Space + Dots 4 5 6

Scroll right one page

Space + Dots 1 3 5

Scroll left one page

Space + Dots 2 4 6

Move to the status bar

Space + S (Dots 2 3 4)

Select previous rotor setting

Space + Dots 2 3

Select next rotor setting

Space + Dots 5 6

Move to previous item using rotor setting

Space + Dot 3

Move to next item using rotor setting

Space + Dot 6

Launch the Task Switcher

Space + Dots 1 2 5 twice quickly

Scroll up one page

Space + Dots 3 4 5 6

Scroll down one page

Space + Dots 1 4 5 6

Go to Notification Center

Space + Dots 4 6

Go to Control Center

Space + Dots 2 5


iOS Reading Commands



Read all, starting at selected item

Space + R

Read all, starting from the top

Space + Dots 2 4 5 6

Pause or continue speech

Space + P

Announce page number OR number of rows displayed

Space + Dots 3 4


iOS General Commands



Activate the Back button if present

Space + B (Dots 1 2)

Activate the Delete key

Space + D OR Space + Dot 7

Activate the Return key

Space + E OR Space + Dot 8

Switch between contracted and uncontracted braille

Space + Dots 1 2 4 5

Activate the Home button (twice quickly to launch the task switcher)

Space + H (Dots 1 2 5)

Toggle speech on and off

Space + M

Activate the Tab key

Space + T (Dots 2 3 4 5)

Context menu

Space + Dots 3 5 6

Switch braille input

Space + Dots 2 3 6

Volume up

Space + Dots 3 4 5

Volume down

Space + Dots 1 2 6

Toggle screen curtain on/off

Space + Dots 1 2 3 4 5 6

Select all

Space + Dots 2 3 5 6


Space + X


Space + C


Space + V

Undo typing

Space + Dots 1 3 5 6

Redo typing

Space + Dots 2 3 4 6

Activate Eject key

Space + Dots 1 4 6

Toggle announcement history

Space + Dots 1 3 4 5

Keyboard Help

Space + Dots 1 3


Download the iOS Braille Display Commands word document here.

Want more resources?  Here is a list to get you started!

Orbit Reader 20 User Guide here

Summary of Braille Display Commands (from Apple’s website)

iOS Device Resources (From Texas School for the Blind)



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