Reading with Refreshable Braille displays and iPads

Refreshable Braille displays and iPads can be a useful combination for instantly accessing large amounts of content, such as book files from RNIB Bookshare.

Set up is reasonably easy once you know how. The steps can vary a little depending on which display you have. Check with the manufacturer of your particular display for specific instructions.

On the iPad, typically start by choosing the display and setting up the correct braille code from:
Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Braille.

Top Tip: We suggest locking iPad screen orientation and disabling iPad notifications to optimise reading experience in braille.

Benefits to reading with refreshable braille displays on an iPad:

  1. You can access vast amounts of mainstream content from Apple Books, Kindle, websites and apps in Braille.

  2. It can re-enforce braille literacy skills including spelling and punctuation.

  3. It means you can read for yourself, rather than being read to. We love being able to red independently!

  4. You can use braille and speech output at the same time for multimodal learning.

  5. You can operate the iPad using buttons on the braille display, which is ideal for people who struggle with touch screens.

  6. You can use an iPad entirely with braille, and this frees a learner to be able to listen to teachers and other students.

  7. This is a less expensive alternative to a dedicated braille notetaker.

What are the disadvantages?

  1. An iPad requires a separate external braille display, which means that there are multiple items to carry around and multiple batteries to charge.
  2. Braille translation and layout is not 100% accurate so it's really only suitable for established braille readers.
  3. STEM content is unlikely to be accurately translated and formatted so professional braille transcription may still be needed.
  4. Third party apps are not designed with braille in mind, so results may vary.
  5. Software updates pushed to iPad can break as well as improve accessibility. Turn off automatic updates if this concerns you.

More questions

RNIB's Tech For Life team can help with queries and questions.

RNIB sell a low cost Braille Display that works well with iPads.

Why not look into getting an Orbit Reader 20 or iPad grant to help getting either a Braille reader and/or an iPad.

Want to contact us? Request help or Call us: 0300 303 8313 Hours: M-F 9 am to 5 pm

RNIB Bookshare, Royal National Institute of Blind People
Midgate House - Floor 1, Midgate, Peterborough, PE1 1TN