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So Many Braille Displays, Which One is Right for My Student: Part Seven

In previous posts, we've looked at a variety of Braille Displays. In the final installment, we are going to highlight the Braille XL from HIMS.

NOTE: Please see other posts in this series including:

So Many Braille Displays Part One (focusing on the Brailliant BI 40 and BI 80 models)

So Many Braille Displays Part Two (focusing on the Brailliant BI 14 model and touching on the Braille Trail Reader LE)

So Many Braille Displays Part Three (focusing on the Braille Edge)

So Many Braille Displays Part Four (focusing on the Smart Beetle)

So Many Braille Displays, Which One is Right for My Student? Part Five (focusing on the Braille Trail Reader LE)

So Many Braille Displays, Which One is Right for My Student? Part Six (focusing on the Focus series from Vispero)

What is the QBraille XL?

The QBraille XL from HIMS Inc is a display that combines use of a braille display with the convenience of having all of the standard QWERTY keys in easy reach.  

Layout

Top Panel: Braille Display and Perkins Keyboard

When paired with a PC, 8 modifier keys below the Perkins-style keys: Control, Function, Windows, Alt (space bar) Alt, Application, Control.

When paired with a Mac, 8 modifier keys below Perkins-style keys: Function, control, Option, Command (space bar) Command, Option, Control

Top Panel: The Hybrid Keyboard

Text,

  Text,

The Right Panel 

The right panel of the display contains two items. Nearest to the rear of the display is an SD slot that can accommodate a high density card up to 32GB.  Closer to the front of the unit is a USB C port that is used to either charge the unit or connect it to a PC or Mac to be used as a braille display.  

Left Panel

The only button on the left side of the unit is the power button, labeled with a small tactile dot.  When held in for one second, the unit can be brought in and out of “sleep mode”.  If the button is held for three seconds, the unit will be completely powered on or off.  

Rear Panel

The rear panel of the display contains only one very small recessed button that used to perform a soft reset.  A pen tip, paperclip, toothpick, or similar item can be used to press the button if the QBraille does not respond as you would expect. Please see the instructions (found in the resources section) for details.

Menu Items and Menu Navigation

There are six items in the QBraille Main Menu.  Menu items can be navigated using the arrow keys or first letter navigation.  For example, to jump directly to the options menu, you may use the down arrow key or simply type the letter O.  Space with Dot Four will navigate forward or Space Dot One to navigate backward.  

If the menu you wish to access has a submenu, the word “pulldown” is displayed in braille and it can be accessed by pressing the Enter key then continuing to navigate using the arrow keys.  Additionally, if a menu item will open a dialogue box, the word “dialogue” is displayed after the item.  

Hot Keys are also displayed in menus or dialogues to assist you in learning to perform routine tasks more efficiently.  One example of a Hot Key is pressing Control+N to create a new note in the notepad

Notepad

The Notepad supports creation and basic editing of .txt and braille files.  It also has read only support for PDF, .docx, and .rtf files.  An SD card must be inserted in order to create notes.  Files loaded on the SD card are easily accessed. 

It should be noted that Notepad does not support more advanced features such as spell checking or other more robust functions that are typically found in Word, Pages, and other document editing programs. 

For further information, please refer to the user guide linked in the References section below.

Connectivity

This menu item allows the user to establish a new connection with another device or quickly switch among various connections in the Pairing List.  

The QBraille has three separate connection types: Bluetooth, HID (which utilizes the QWERTY modifier keys as well as the Perkins style keyboard), and SPP (which allows use of the device as a standard display without utilizing the control, alt, or other QWERTY keys).  There is further explanation of these connection types in the User Guide.  

It should be noted that before the QBraille can be used as a display with a screen reader, the driver for the appropriate screen reader must be installed.  Please see the Resources section for a direct link.    

DAISY Reader

The Daisy Reader allows books from Bookshare, Learning Ally, or other sources to be saved on an SD card and read using general Daisy navigation commands.  Commands can be accessed from the menu by pressing Alt or Space+M.  The menu will contain Hot Key information that may be useful. For example, Space+Dots 3-4-5 and Space+Dots 1-2-6 navigate a document by page and Control+H opens a headings navigation list.  Additionally, marks can be inserted to bookmark specific places that the user may wish to refer back to.  It should be noted that Daisy Audio books are not supported on the QBraille.   

Applications

The QBraille has six built in applications.  They are Calculator, Alarm, Date and Time, Stop Watch, Count Down and Scheduler.  More information on each of these can be found in the User Guide.  

Options

The following options can be adjusted for the QBraille:

Information

The “information” dialog displays four items.  Use the standard navigation keys to move among the items or press Space+Z to exit.  

Overall Impressions

There are some very interesting and convenient features on the QBraille, some of which are not available on other braille display models. 

Auto Scroll is a great feature that can be used when reading a large file.  This option can be turned on by pressing the up and down scroll keys on either side of the display simultaneously.  This causes the braille display to refresh at a given rate without the need to deliberately navigate forward.    

A very convenient and helpful feature is Context Sensitive Help.  Pressing Space+H anywhere will bring up a dialogue containing Hot Keys for the currently running program.  This is something that is found on most brands of braille display, but it is often an underutilized resource.  

The Terminal Clipboard is a very interesting concept and makes editing on a mobile device a bit easier since text can be added to a clipboard, edited on the device, then pasted in.  This option is particularly useful in iOS for example due to the fact that text is not actually inserted as typed until the user presses the space bar (this is due to the need for the translation to be complete prior to text being displayed/inserted).  If a user wishes to see text appear as soon as a letter is pressed, he or she may wish to enter/edit text in the Terminal Clipboard.  

In general, having the convenience of a standard QWERTY keyboard coupled with a braille display and six key entry is very convenient and something I wish were available much sooner.  Having to remember specific key combinations designed to simulate the pressing of the Alt or Control key when used with a computer was tedious and many individuals kept a standard keyboard hooked up to their PC in addition to their braille display because of that.  

Resources

By Snowflake_tvi

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