One of the main innovations of the Android 4.1 Jelly Bean operating system is the implementation of general support for working with braille displays, which increased its accessibility functionality for blind users, and opened this platform for the deaf-blind.
It is worth noting that on May 25, 2012, Code Factory released its Mobile Accessibility 1.09 screen reader, which implemented local Braille support. Nevertheless, just a month later, Android 4.1 was officially presented, where this functionality is performed as a general system service, which, most likely, will eventually become a priority technology.
Braille support in Android 4.1 is implemented through a separate component of the accessibility software infrastructure called BrailleBack, which continues the line of the already familiar TalkBack, SoundBack and KickBack. The product, oddly enough, is distributed under the Eyes-free Project brand, not Google Inc., and is available for free download in the Play Market .
At the time of this writing, the following families of braille displays are officially supported:
- APH Refreshabraille
- Esys eurobraille
- Freedom Scientific Focus Blue
- Harpo Braillepen 12
- Humanware Brailliant BI
- Papenmeier Braillex Trio
Since BrailleBack is an element of the general accessibility infrastructure, for its operation, accessibility must be enabled by activating the corresponding checkbox in the section of the system settings of the same name. Next, in the same menu, you should check the box of the BrailleBack itself. The screen will then appear on the BlueTooth paired braille display.
To use the braille display not only as an output device, but also as an input device, additional settings are required.
To do this, open the “Language & Input” section in the settings menu, where check the “Braille Hardware Keyboard” checkbox and change the default input method to this keyboard.
For more information, after making the above settings, press the spacebar and dots 1, 2, and 3 at the same time on the braille keyboard.
At first, the logic of braille output may seem unusual, since the focus does not always fall on the leftmost element, and the entire display space is rigidly used exclusively for displaying on-screen information, without status and identification notes. But the functionality is in its infancy, so serious updates can be expected in the future.
Even the developers themselves call this function only “early support for Braille displays”, recognizing its incompleteness.