macos sierra with braille: remarks

My experiences with voiceover and braille

I am a blind Mac user since Mac OS Leopard 10.5.3. Before that, I was using Windows and Linux.
In all situations, I used braille mostly with speech if speech was available.
So, when braille came available for OS X, I made the change to Mac.
I am writing this article on the following MacBook:

Model name: MacBookPro 12.1
Processor name: Intel Core i5
Processor speed: 2,7 GHz
1 processor with 2 cores.
L2-cache (per core): 256 KB
L3-cache: 3 MB
Memory: 16 GB
and Mac OS sierra 10.12.4. with safari 10.1
There were many changes during these 9 years and some of them where big changes for voiceover users.
But from the last releases on, from OS X 10.7 Lion , there were only a few voiceover fixes and a some new features.

Specifically braille has had a nice update in 10.6 Snow Leopard with more braille tables. After that, no changes have been implemented any more in spite of the many requests of blind Mac users.

That’s why I wanted to add my remarks about the limited braille support in Mac OS Sierra.

Many times, the braille display uses dots 7 and 8 as indication that the voiceover cursor is there.
Because dots 7 and 8 are in use, no other markers can be shown. If elements like menu items, links and other controls are selected, this isn’t visible without speech.
Dots 7 and 8 are useless since everything that is on the braille display is in the voiceover cursor.
And disabling dots 7 and 8 gives no indication about the place of any cursor or selection at all So, this isn’t a solution also.

To show which element is selected, that item should just be shown on the braille display.

Also using command + tab to switch between different opened programs, I can’t see on the braille display which program has focus before releasing command + tab. The solution here is the same as above: show only the element with focus on the braille display.

In Mac OS, interaction is a basic way of working and this is a very innovative way of working. But sometimes, like in TextEdit, I can move between the text with the arrow-keys. But when I do a swipe down with 2 fingers, the text isn’t spoken from the place where I was. When I try to further interact, and I can do one level further, the problem of reading the text from the cursor is solved.
My suggestion: an indication on the braille display (and speech) if more or less interaction is possible.

With my Eurobraille Esys 40 braille display, it happens many times in Mail and some other programs that the cursor isn’t moving to the character where I press the routing key above in the text of a composed mail.
This is also the case for other Mac users with a Eurobraille Esys braille display.

Terminal is great because of the command line interface.
Unfortunately the braille support is very poor compared to the Linux terminal in combination with the BRLTTY screen reader.
Terminal doesn’t have a comfortable way to view all the text (history of commands) on the screen and there doesn’t seem to be a command to jump to the place of focus.
Navigating in manpages isn’t comfortable at all and there is no possibility to copy text from the terminal screen to the clipboard of Mac OS to paste e.g. in TextEdit.

Refreshing the text on the braille display doesn’t always work automatically. This happens e.g. when another window is popping up, or if switching between 2 or more applications. The workaround is to go away from the active application and go back. But, a better refresh functionality or a command to force refresh would be very welcome.

As for the web, the braille is very poor and not flexible. As I already said, elements that have the voiceover cursor, are underlined without any good reason if you are using a braille display.

The problems to fill in forms are also very frustrating.
To demonstrate this, I have done a test with the site from apple:

As example, I want to create a new apple-id on the website above.
The test is done with dom- and group-mode.
The steps are as follows:
1. vo+home: beginning of web page
2. j: first control where I have to type
Before interacting on that edit field, On the braille display, I see: "Help (Email) knop”
3. When I interact there and type, I can’t see what I am typing on the braille display while I can hear it
4. I can’t see the names of the fields like first name, last name on my braille display so, without speech, I can’t know which information I have to fill in.

This is all the case for group/dom mode.

There are very few possibilities to configure the information on a braille display.
Since braille displays have only a few cells to show the information on the screen, it’s essential that the right information is on the right place at the right moment with as few commands as possible.
Examples of nice options are: configure the representation of elements like checkboxes, radio buttons, links on a braille display.


- [x]/[ ]: checked/unchecked checkbox;
- (x)/( ) checked/unchecked radio button;
- { choices }: combo boxes;
- is a good option to present “tab” on a line but, sometimes, it’s good to see the real space on the screen like “ “ instead of
- links on a website should be represented with the underlined text of the link with dots 7,8 on the braille display instead of writing a word “lnk” or “koppeling” in Dutch before the text of the link.
- configure if the text should be shown like it is on the screen or with as much as possible text on the braille display.
- configure if the types of the controls are shown on the braille display (with less text or information around the current area) instead of giving as much as possible information around the control with support of the speech to announce which control has focus.

My conclusion
The Mac with voiceover is still a product that has many possibilities and many things have been updated to provide better voiceover support.
However, for advanced braille users, I wouldn’t recommend the switch to a Mac anymore because of the limited and very basic braille support.
I still hope that Apple will make better efforts in the near feature for braille support.
And If I listen to the interview below, I believe Apple is taking accessibility very serious with very innovative results the last years.

Kind regards,
William Windels


how to?

Hi! I'm blind and uses mac to. I have bought the new macbook pro with touchbar and this only comes with osx 10.12 sierra. The problem is the same as you describe, that i cant use my mac only with braille because the braille display isnt showing all text on websites and do not show taskswitching as you mentioned.

You said that the solution was to make the braille display only show the content that is in the voiceover focus.

My question is:
Do anyone know how to make that change.. I have used many hours on voiceover settings and feel very frustrated with this beccause i cant really use my mac without having a headset on and use the speetch all the time.

Hope to see a sollution soon.

I have tried to make a bootable install of osx 10.10 (witch is the best i think) and 10.11 on two different hdd's and tried to boot my macbook pro with touchbar from this disks., but the only thing happens is that the disk crashes so i think its not possible to boot that kind of mac from an old version of osx...

This is something that apple needs to do

Hi! This is something that apple needs to do and to change the braille support in VoiceOver. It does very wars and not usable. I agree with the persen that say about braille. I use in VarioUltra and it's happands to me. Everything you are discribed with braille in VoiceOver in Mac happands to me also.
There are a problems inadition to: there is no option to type morethen 1 language at the same time. If i want to type in english and my Default language is hebrew i needs cross to VoiceOver utiliteas and braile table, and there choose english braille. But if i choose this, i lost the ability to read braille in hebrew. I continue send emails and call them but i had saw anny changes from 2014.

This is one of my reasons for

This is one of my reasons for selling my MBP and looking to pick up a cheap win 10 pc and go back to JAWS. the Braille support is better than anything else right now. Heck, they're even building a notetaker on top of it. I'd seriously be tempted if they weren't so dang expensive. lol

Downgrade mac os

Do any of you know or have a link to how to downgrade macbook pro with touchbar to yosemite or know if its possible to run osx 10.10 on it? I have tried to boot it, but the startdisk just crashes and the mac shuts down.

Do anyone know?

downgraden is not a solution for the braille-problems

Downgraden can be done from inside the mac app store I think. Since the os is already free for some years, you can simply reinstall previous versions. Or, you can set back a previous version with time-machine.

Braille and Sierra

Reading this topic has been like touching a magic mirror and feeling all my problems echoed in your voices here.

The one difference for me is that I am Deaf-Blind, and I cannot understand speech anymore.

iOS braille support is great.
macOS braille is terrible.
It was good or at least better in El Capitan (10.11).

No, you cannot downgrade to anything older than what came on your Mac. So for the 2016 MacBook Pro, you must use 10.12 (Sierra) or newer.
For any Mac that came with El Capitan or older, you can use Internet Recovery (I think it requires sighted help) to reinstall the version that came with the computer.

I phoned Apple's Accessibility Department because I cannot read in iMessage. This is unbelievable!
They could not reproduce my issue because they do not own a braille display!!!
So sad.
That's right. the Accessibility department at Apple does NOT have a braille display to follow what users are trying to do with one!
Screen sharing is not going to let them see my braille display.
To all of you, my friends in braille, the voices rom that "magic mirror", please email and phone in all the issues with braille, and please tell Apple that their Accessibility department requires a braille display to be an accessibility department!

Braille should be equal to speech, which should be equal to screens.

High Sierra

From what I'm reading, it sounds like High Sierra is going to bring many major enhancements to VoiceOver that have been needed for years. One of the items is "expanded braille editing" which I assume means a complete revamp of the braille system. I'm excited to test the public beta later this month.

I'm sad to hear that the accessibility folks at Apple couldn't reproduce your issue because of a lack of a braille display. How do they code the support in the first place? Is it only a small group of privileged people with braille devices?

I don't know

I didn't think to ask who actually has a braille display to implement all the features. I am guessing that their lack of displays is probably the reason why braille support is so poor. If things don't change much, the support there is will be fine, but once they change, support is broken.
I haven't heard anything about accessibility in High Sierra, where is that info?
I am not sure how big the accessibility department is, but I imagine that if they did actually get a braille display, that only one rep would have it and braille users would be transferred to that one person if they were having braille issues. But it sounds like that one person doesn't even exist. I am planning to complain to Apple on this. I feel like I want to send an actual letter, but I will first use the feedback form.