Focus Blue FAQs

Braille displays seem expensive, how can I try and get one?

Depending on where you live, and your employment status, there may be state or federal agencies that can assist with the purchase of a braille display. Some companies are also willing to help with the purchase of these products to help accommodate their employees.

If you are a teacher or parent of a student who uses Braille, you could approach your local school district or university about purchasing the display. There are even non-profit groups that can help with obtaining assistive technology for qualifying individuals.

Finally, for those who attend the NFB and ACB national conventions over the summer, we usually offer some good discounts on our hardware and software products including Focus Blue displays, so this might be a good time to purchase one if it is something you are considering.

How will the Focus Blue Braille Display benefit my family member who is blind?

Braille displays can help increase independence and literacy whether at home, school, or on the job. Since the Focus Blue can be connected to any Windows computer running JAWS as well as Apple or Android devices, users have Braille access to all types of content instead of having to only rely on hard-copy Braille, which can take time to produce when not readily available, which can be the case for textbooks.

Additionally, reading Braille can improve a user’s spelling and grammar skills as well as help improve their writing style as you can get a better idea of sentence structure. It can also benefit people in situations where they need to read large blocks of text, such as reading passages aloud in a class, or reading scripts as part of a sales call in customer service positions.

I’m sighted and want to learn about Focus braille displays, what resources are available?

Check out our free webinar, Access at Your Fingertips, the Focus Blue Braille Display. You can also find information on our Focus product pages as well as on our Training page. (update training link to point to the new Focus section when complete)

Is the Focus Blue a stand-alone computer?

No. The Focus Blue is intended to provide Braille access to a computer or mobile device. To do this, the display must be connected over USB or Bluetooth and the computer must be running a screen reading application such as JAWS which sends spoken information to the Braille display.

What are some of the advantages of the different Focus Blue models (14, 40, and 80)?

While we cannot explicitly say which Focus display model will meet every user’s specific needs, here are some common benefits for each:

  • Focus 14 – As the smallest and least expensive of the three models, the Focus 14 Blue is a great choice for those who want a display primarily for use with a mobile device as it can slip easily into a purse or bag and is also the least obtrusive when slung over a shoulder or around the neck. It also may be ideal for users who are not heavy Braille readers.
  • Focus 40 – This display can be used comfortably on a desk with a desktop or laptop PC and is also still compact enough where it can be carried with you on-the-go for use with a mobile device. In addition, since 40 cells is the width of a standard braille page, it is ideal for students and other users needing to access books and other reading material as there is much less panning that would be required on smaller displays.
  • Focus 80 – This display is the most expensive and least portable of the three models. It is ideal for users who want the most Braille on one line with the least amount of panning. These displays are found a lot in call center environments such as customer service, help desks, or any situation where large chunks of information need to be quickly accessed at one time.

Do you have a concise overview of what all the controls on the display do?

Our YouTube Training channel offers videos that give a thorough overview of the Focus display and its controls.

Does the Focus Blue Braille Display come with a carrying case?

Yes. All Focus Blue displays include a leather carrying case with an adjustable shoulder strap.

Can the Focus Blue Braille Display be used while in the carrying case?

Absolutely. Once the Focus is in the case, you can still access the refreshable braille cells, all controls, and even charge the unit without removing it.

I’m learning braille, would I benefit from using the Focus Blue?

Even if you do not consider yourself proficient with reading Braille, having access to a refreshable braille display where you can continuously try and read the content spoken by JAWS or another screen reader can be very helpful. You can also choose whether JAWS sends its output as plain text (computer braille), Uncontracted, or Contracted Braille based on your level.

JAWS also offers a feature called Braille Study Mode which is a tool for helping to learn Braille symbols and contractions. If you are working with a sighted instructor learning to type on the Braille keyboard, you can enter text into an application like Microsoft Word, and the instructor can see the text as it is typed to confirm you are entering it correctly. Your instructor can also use the JAWS Braille Viewer, a utility that provides on-screen textual representation of the output received on a refreshable braille display.

Can I use the Focus Blue to read books?

Yes. To read books, make sure the Focus display is connected to your computer or mobile device and is communicating with a screen reader such as JAWS. You can then open the book in the appropriate applications like Microsoft Word, Kindle for PC, your web browser, or any other supported application. The Focus also includes a Scratchpad feature which allows you to read Braille formatted files (BRF) and plain text files (TXT) directly on the display.

Can I use my Focus with my Apple or Android device?

Yes. The Focus Blue can be paired with any Apple Device running at least iOS 11. You can also pair the Focus with the majority of Android powered phones and tablets. For more information, see Using the Focus Blue with iOS or Using the Focus Blue with BrailleBack on Android. (just need to provide links to these documents in the new Focus training section)

Can I connect the Focus Blue to my MAC computer?

Yes. You can use the Focus Blue over USB or Bluetooth with Apple’s iMac and MAC Book line of PCs.

How many Bluetooth connections does the Focus Blue Braille Display support?

The Focus Blue supports one USB and five Bluetooth connections. You can switch between active USB and Bluetooth connections on-the-fly.

How do I switch between using my Focus with my mobile device to my computer using Bluetooth?

There are several ways to do this. One of the fastest is to press and hold the Menu button and then press DOT 1 through DOT 5 to switch to one of the five Bluetooth connections, or press DOT 8 to switch to the USB connection. For example, if you are connected to your PC over USB and also paired with your iPhone over Bluetooth, press and hold the Menu button and then press DOT 1 to switch to your phone and when you are done, press and hold the Menu button and then press DOT 8 to resume Braille access to your computer. For more information, refer to “Using the Focus Blue with JAWS” in the Focus Blue user guide.

What is BrailleIn?

BrailleIn™ is a feature that allows you to use the Perkins-style keyboard on your Focus Blue braille display to control your computer. All Windows and JAWS commands you would typically perform on a regular QWERTY keyboard can be executed using the keyboard and other controls on the Focus.

You can also enter text in relevant computer applications using contracted and uncontracted braille. For more information on BrailleIn, refer to JAWS Help.

Is there a keyboard help mode on the Focus Blue that will help me learn braille commands?

Yes. Press TH CHORD (dots 1-4-5-6) simultaneously with the SPACEBAR for a list of available Focus-specific commands. When the Focus is connected to a computer, you can use JAWS Command Search to find Focus-specific commands. Press INSERT+Space followed by J to run Command Search, then type the command you’d like to find.

What is a chord command?

A chord is a command executed by pressing one or more keys simultaneously with the spacebar.

Can I use all the same braille keystrokes I use with JAWS with other screen reading applications?

Not all Focus braille commands that are supported in JAWS will work the same in third-party screen reading applications. Please see the screen reader document for Focus commands specific to a given application.

How do I use braille study mode to practice my braille reading?

When Braille Study Mode is on, press the cursor router button directly above a particular cell for JAWS to announce the current braille character. When you press a Cursor Router button in conjunction with the Left or Right Selector button, JAWS will announce and spell the braille word at that cursor location.

How do I select text using the Focus Blue?

You can use the cursor router buttons on the Focus Blue to select text. Press and hold the Left Shift key on the Focus, then press the Cursor Router button above the first character of text you’d like to select. Release both keys and move to where you want to end the selection. Press the Left Shift plus the Cursor Router button above the last character of text you want to select. Use any navigation commands including the Nav Rockers to move from the beginning point to the end point of the text you are selecting.

Will using the Focus with my computer help me understand screen layout and computer concepts?

Using the Focus Blue will provide a better understanding of screen layout and computer concepts through navigation of complex web pages and document information such as formatting and page layout.

Interacting with these elements using both speech and braille reinforces the speech with a tactile representation of information found in columns, tables, spreadsheets, and regular text. Regularly reading braille on the Focus can also help improve spelling and grammar.

Will the Focus work with other screen reading software besides JAWS?

The focus works with third-party screen readers as well as iOS and Android devices. If you choose to use the Focus display with a third-party screen reading application on a computer or mobile device, refer to the documentation that came with the software as the functions of the controls on the Focus may be different from how they work with JAWS.
Hardware Specific

How do I charge my Focus Blue?

Use the included AC adapter to charge the Focus Blue battery. The unit takes three hours to charge even when the Bluetooth connection is active. Charging time will be less if the battery is not completely discharged when you initially connect the adaptor.

The Focus will also charge while connected to a computer using the USB cable, however, charging time will take longer than with the supplied AC adapter. As the Focus charges, the battery charging indicator, a circle of dots, is displayed to the right of the percentage until the unit reaches 100 percent. You can continue using the Focus while it is charging.

What are the most important settings I need to know about on the Focus Blue?

The Focus Blue contains many settings to help you customize how you use the device. The first settings to check are those for establishing a USB or Bluetooth connection. If you are connecting via USB using JAWS, the device should be recognized and ready to use automatically. If this doesn’t occur, go to the Braille Basic Settings in the JAWS Options Menu to configure the connection.

If you are using a third-party screen reading application, refer to the documentation that came with the software as these procedures might be different.

Other important settings in this dialog box include:

  • Braille language input and output translation
  • Braille mode
  • Panning
  • Flash messages
  • Status cells
  • Cursor
  • Dot firmness

You can also access the Configuration Menu directly from the Focus Blue by pressing the Menu Button on the unit while a status message is displayed. Here, you can access settings for Bluetooth ID, the Focus clock, Focus calendar, firmness, and language.

What is a micro SD card and how do I use it with my Focus?

A micro SD card is a type of removable flash memory used for file storage. It can only be used in the Focus when saving or accessing files in the Scratchpad.

The micro SD card slot is located on the left side of the device to the right of the power button. To insert the card, Slide it into the slot until it clicks into place.

To remove the micro SD card, gently press its exposed edge to eject it, then carefully pull it out of the slot.

Does the Focus offer any internal storage for files?

No, the Focus does not offer internal storage. The micro SD card is used only to save or open files when using the Scratchpad.

I prefer operating my PC and typing text using a standard QWERTY keyboard. Is it possible to turn off the Focus keys so I do not accidentally enter unwanted characters or commands?

You can lock the Perkins-style keys on the top of the display to prevent accidentally pressing them and entering unwanted text or commands. This is useful when you want to use the QWERTY keyboard to operate the computer or enter text.

You can also lock additional controls so that only very basic display navigation is available. To lock the Perkins-style keyboard, press the Menu button on the device to display the status information. Press and hold a cursor router button while pressing the Left NAV Mode button.

To unlock the keyboard, press and hold a cursor router button while pressing the Right NAV Mode Button. Please see the Focus Blue User Guide for additional information.

How long will the Focus Blue Braille Display run before it needs to be recharged?

The Focus Blue contains an internal battery for Bluetooth operation. Typical usage is approximately 20 hours when using the Focus over a Bluetooth connection.

Will the Scratch Pad turn the Focus into a portable note taker?

Though the Scratchpad feature on the Focus Blue does provide some note taking capabilities and the ability to read BRF braille formatted books, it does not include internal storage and is not a full-featured portable note taker.

What file formats are supported by Scratch Pad?

Scratchpad supports plain text format (.txt) for saving files and will open both txt and BRF braille files.

How can I access notes taken in the Scratchpad with my PC or portable device?

If there is currently an active USB or Bluetooth connection between the Focus and a computer or other device, you can export the contents of the currently open file to the edit window of an application on your computer. If your notes are in contracted braille, you must be running a screen reader such as JAWS that supports braille input so the contents will be back translated to text in the document. The braille input settings for the screen reader must also match the braille format you are using when typing in the Scratchpad.

To export a file, open the document or application where you want the exported text to appear. Open the Scratchpad file you want to export.

Press the Menu button on the Focus Blue and choose Export. The contents of your Scratchpad file will appear in the document on your computer as plain text. You cannot export BRF braille files from the Scratchpad to your computer.

Can I read braille book downloads from NLS BARD or on the Focus Blue Braille Display?

Yes. You can read BRF braille files from services such as NLS BARD and Bookshare using the Scratchpad feature of the Focus Blue.

How can I select text in the Scratchpad?

To select a block of text, position the cursor where you want to begin the selection and press Left Shift+M (DOTS 1-3-4) to set a mark at that location. Move the cursor to where you want to end the selection and press Left Shift+S (DOTS 2-3-4) to select all the text between the mark and the cursor location. Once the text is selected, you can:

  • Copy to clipboard: Left Shift+C (DOTS 1-4)
  • Cut to clipboard: Left Shift+X (DOTS 1-3-4-6)
  • Delete: Left Shift+D (DOTS 1-4-5)

To paste text from the clipboard into the currently open file, press Left Shift+P (DOTS 1-2-3-4).

Can I import text files to my Focus from a Mac?

Yes, it is possible to import text files to the Focus from a Mac. Please see Apple’s documentation for instructions.