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The Braille Edge 40

Contributed by Joel Zimba, Special Projects Coordinator, MDTAP

Recently, MDTAP  has received several inquiries about refreshable Braille displays.  As their name implies, these devices have one row of Braille pins which refresh themselves to reflect the output from a computer or mobile device.  We have several examples of this species available for your examination.  The Brailliant, Braille Pen and Alva BC640.

The primary differences between refreshable Braille displays are portability and the amount of Braille which can be displayed at one time.  The Braille Pen has 12 Braille cells and is intended to be used with mobile devices, while the Brailliant has 32 cells and works well with either a mobile device or a computer.  There are larger displays, which usually top out at 80 Braille cells.  These are stationary and usually only connect to one computer.

I recently purchased a Braille Edge 40, produced by Hims Inc.  The Braille Edge is larger that many portable Braille displays, having 40 Braille cells.  It connects either via USB or Bluetooth.  The Braille Edge has features which set it apart from other refreshable Braille displays.  It has built-in applications, such as a notepad, calculator and alarm clock.  In a sense, the Braille Edge is a hybrid between a Braille display and a Braille note taker. To me, this is a vital difference.  Large documents, in a variety of formats, can be read directly from the device rather than from a host computer.

For those who prefer to read Braille output rather than relying on synthetic speech as their interface, Braille displays are the way to go.  Refreshable Braille is currently quite expensive.  It would be a good idea to compare various devices in the MDTAP equipment library before deciding which one is right for your purposes.


The National Federation of the Blind and

The Maryland Technology Assistance Program


Web Accessibility Training Day

September 9, 2014


National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute 200 E. Wells Street at Jernigan Place Baltimore, Maryland 21230


The National Federation of the Blind Jernigan Institute is thrilled to announce that on September 9 we will be co-hosting another Web Accessibility Training Day with the Maryland Technology Assistance Program. We will have general sessions in the morning and technical and policy tracks in the afternoon. Here are some of the topics we’ll be covering:

General sessions:

  • Enterprise implementation of accessibility
  • Education implementation of accessibility

Tech track:

  • PDF accessibility in an enterprise setting
  • Captioning and audio description
  • HTML5


  • Government implementations of accessibility
  • The Section 508 refresh



To register, please visit the registration page. The admission fee is $80.

For further information please contact Clara Van Gerven at 410-659-9314 ext. 2410 or at cvangerven@nfb.org.

NFB logoMaryland technology assistance program logo


If you’ve followed the news at all this week, you’ve likely heard the groundbreaking story about spinal stimulation providing voluntary movements to paraplegics. Check out some articles and videos below. And while you’re reading (and watching) in amazement, catch up on other awesome AT news, like Google Glass helping Parkinson’s patients or a new touch screen that allows the blind to read braille… AT in the news for the week of 4/7 thru 4/11

10 highly rated apps for children with autism

Even A Very Weak Signal From The Brain Might Help Paraplegics

Pharmacists Diagnose Stroke Risk with iPhone-based ECG

Making college affordable for students with disabilities

New Touch Screens Allow Blind to Read Braille

Google Glass being tested as assistive aid for Parkinson’s patients

myGaze® Powers Mesa Ideas’ Eye Tracking Tablet for Assistive Users

Mount Vernon Makes History More Accessible

Lynx Smart Grill cooks your food on voice command

High-tech items giving deaf-blind online access

Researchers developing smart wheelchairs that can be controlled by facial movements & voice commands

JAWS for OS X could be coming soon

Spinal stimulation helps four patients with paraplegia regain voluntary movement

How about an accessible art device like this one?

Assisting drinking with an affordable BCI-controlled wearable robot and electrical stimulation

Innovative tele-rehabilitation solution with videoconferencing and sensor technologies for stroke patients

3D Systems Provides Students With Disabilities Access to 3D Printing for Assistive Devices


Accessibility of Short URLs

Excerpted from the December 16th blog post on the DigitalGov blog.  Although written for social media experts in government, this is good information for anyone sharing information via social media.

Short URLs can actually be beneficial for people using assistive technologies because it shortens the reading time and the cognitive load that longer URLs can create. Imagine listening to http://www.usa.gov/Citizen/Topics/Government-Unclaimed-Money.shtml being read aloud versus http://go.usa.gov/WhzY.

With that in mind, you should avoid using the short URL as the link title, such as “Click here: http://go.usa.gov/Whtm.” (It’s never a good idea to use “click here,” but that’s a story for another day.) It’s ok to use a short URL as the link when you use actual words as the link title, such as “Learn more about short URLs.”

You can’t follow this rule when writing messages for social media because there isn’t the option to use a link title. Instead, give a good description first so users can decide if they want to click the link, such as “You can learn more about how to create short .gov URLs at http://go.usa.gov/Whtm.” Learn more about making social media accessible.

Landmark roles

Difficulty: Advanced


  • Structure

Adding landmark roles to your page is an easy way to enhance accessibility. Landmark roles are part of ARIA, a new accessibility specification. Landmark roles define significant web page areas and provide the user quick access to them. The available landmark roles are application, banner, complementary, contentinfo, form, main, navigation, and search. You can simply add role=”search” to your search form (<form role=”search”>) to identify it specifically as the search form on the page. <div role=”main”> designates the element that contains the main content. <ul role=”navigation”> could be used to specify the navigation items for a page. Landmark roles can easily provide significant functionality and increased accessibility to keyboard and screen reader users.

Identifying Objects with TapTapsee

Contributed by Joel Zimba, Special Projects Coordinator, MDTAP

TapTapSee is a handy app which identifies objects via the iPhone camera.  It’s simple.  Start the app, wait for the auto-focus sound to let you know a picture is ready and then click that “Take Picture” button.  After a short time, a brief description of the object in the picture is provided.  In a quick test, a picture of my keyboard was correctly identified as “Black Keyboard.”

Some users report having TapTapSee read useful information, such as, “Thermostat set to 60 Degrees.”  It’s a great tool.  Several months back TapTapSee announced they were moving to subscription model for their service.  After all, either the computing power or the human assist has got to be paid for somehow.  Now that the hubbub has quieted down and the income stream is well established, TapTapSee has made news yet again.

Today, an Android version of TapTapSee was announced.  It’s available on the Google Play Store as we speak.  Most of the service runs in the cloud, so there are likely to be few problems or differences based on the platform.  There are few accessibility apps available for Android, so it’s good to see TapTapSee providing Android users with this excellent solution.

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