[Athen] New cool support for Braille displays in NVDA

Deborah Armstrong armstrongdeborah at fhda.edu
Tue Jul 30 14:01:26 PDT 2019

In researching the best ways to learn Spanish with a screen reader, I ran across a cool fairly new add-on for NVDA called Braille extender.

Some background: JAWS supports some Braille displays: Alva, Baum, Humanware and of course their own Focus line plus the old Braille Lite. But Vispero would much rather have you buy their hardware than write drivers for older Braille displays or those that are manufactured by companies that didn't want to pay to have their drivers digitally signed - see

So quite a few Braille displays exist that JAWS doesn't support.

But NVDA supports nearly every Braille display because those for which it doesn't have direct drivers, it uses BRLTTY, an open-source set of drivers ported from Linux.

Unfortunately, the NVDA support for Braille wasn't quite as feature-rich as JAWS. So if you liked using a Braille display or due to hearing loss, had to use a Braille display, you were better off with the more robust feature list JAWS provided.

That's changing slowly, and I was delighted to discover this new add-on, Braille extender which lets you easily switch Braille tables, auto-scroll, read BRF files, and do a ton of other cool things.

With auto-scrolling you press a key and the display automatically advances to the next segment of text. You can speed or slow the scroll rate and it makes reading much easier. With the table switching, I can press a button to go from English UEB, to Spanish Grade 1 to English Grade 2, to English computer Braille. This makes it super handy for reading content for which the table you need keeps changing. A book on computer programming or learning a language for example is much easier to read if you can switch tables on the fly.

Like everything from the NVDA project, it's free. I am now happily reading a Spanish For Dummies on the Kindle app and a book on programming in Python using an old Telesensory Navigator Braille display - one of the very first ones in existence - manufactured in 1990!

The full feature list is here:


P.S. If you have to set up Brltty to talk to an old display it can be a bit tricky, but it does work in Windows 10 1903 provided you have a supported USB-To-Serial cable, have your Braille display's baud rate and other parameters matching Brltty, have the latest Brltty compiled for Windows and are willing to put in some time troubleshooting. Sometimes I fear everything I know is deprecated and sometimes it does come in plenty handy!
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