JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver Braille Viewers
First, a very important qualifier — this does not represent how Braille display users experience the web.
All this post does is show how to enable the Braille display emulators in JAWS, NVDA, and VoiceOver. This can be handy when testing issues reported by users and you do not have a Braille display, though this is really only useful for sighted readers. In no way is this post meant to suggest you can replace Braille display testing with these emulators.
Ok, two paragraphs of disclaimers later, let’s look at our options.
The Freedom Scientific blog has a handy overview post, Use Braille Viewer to Encourage Braille Literacy. The post also links to a Braille training page that directs you to videos for using Freedom Scientific’s own hardware products.
As an aside, the lowest cost Braille display, the Focus 14 Blue – 5th Generation, comes in at $1,428 USD. I point this out because even this 14-cell display is not a casual purchase for most users.
To activate the Braille viewer, open the Utilities menu, choose Braille and Text Viewer, and then Show Braille Viewer. It will push your windows down and cordon off the top part of your desktop to display it. In the sample video I changed the default colors to white on black.
To active the NVDA Braille viewer, open the Utilities menu and choose Braille viewer. If you check Show Braille Viewer on Startup then it will open in the same position each time you start NVDA.
Fun fact, live regions are not displayed in Braille in NVDA, as outlined in issue #7756 Live Regions are Not Displayed in Braille from November 2017. I guess that issue name is on the nose.
For more guidance, see section 13.3. Braille Viewer in the NVDA documentation.
VoiceOver on macOS
On macOS, you can activate the VoiceOver Braille panel by pressing Control + Option + ⌘ + F9. Alternatively, press Control + Option + F8 to launch the VoiceOver Utility, choose Visuals thenPanels and Menus then Show Braille Panel. Or read the slightly more obtuse instructions at the Apple VoiceOver User Guide.
Here is VoiceOver interacting with my Multi-Function Button, which uses a live region.
A couple demos that I know trip up expectations. Fire up your Braille emulator and compare the audio and visual output. And then pay someone to do Braille testing on your stuff.
An imperfect example, but you get the gist. Live region debug mode.
I don’t know Braille. Odds are good neither do you. I don’t own a Braille display. Odds are good neither do you. Probably pay someone who does. In the meantime, you can at least get a sense for if or how things are exposed.