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User's Guide

Copyright 2011, 2014

American Printing House for the Blind, Inc.



If you are reading this from the Help option in Braille Plus 18's Home screen, navigate to sections of the manual by pressing Space along with dots 3 4 5 to move to the next heading and Space+dots 1 2 6 to move back.

To return to the manual while you try something, use Home rather than Back to exit the manual, then pick Help again to return to your position.


Measuring less than 6.5 inches by 4.1 inches and just over one inch in height, Braille Plus 18 combines a high-quality braille keyboard and refreshable braille display with an advanced mobile platform and specialized accessible software to create the world's first Android smart phone designed for blind students and professionals.


  1. Does not recognize handwriting.
  2. Requires a cell phone plan from AT&T or T-Mobile.
  3. Not all programs written for Android are accessible.
  4. TV not included.

*NLS and Learning Ally playback are contingent on finalizing approval through their respective content providers.

Getting Started

The Braille Plus 18 combines the power, convenience, and capabilities of the Android operating system with the benefits of specialized software to create a platform that meets the growing and demanding needs of both students and professionals who may be blind or visually impaired.

If you are familiar with Android, you have a head start on knowing how to use this device effectively. You only need to learn the braille aspects and the specialized software such as OCR and GPS.

If you don't already know Android, this documentation helps get you up to speed quickly, so you will soon be productive with your computing and organizational needs. You may still, however, wish to explore Android with the thousands of resources already available on the web.

When it comes to Braille Plus specifically, additional resources continue to emerge as the device becomes more widely distributed. Here is an initial list: https://tech.aph.org/plus_res.htm.

In the Box

The box contains the following:

Ensure that all these items are included. If something is missing, contact APH Customer Support by emailing cs@aph.org or call 800-223-1839.

About This Manual


This manual was complete and accurate at the time of its writing. It is available on the Braille Plus and on the Web site at: https://tech.aph.org/plus_info.htm. The manual is updated periodically, and the latest version is always on the Web site. As you install software updates, new documentation for those updates is also installed directly onto the device. To read documentation on the device, select Help from the Home screen.


The unique combination of accessible software, a mainstream operating system, and custom braille hardware is a technical revolution. It moves the blind user squarely into the mobile computing community, affording her all the power and capabilities associated with it. With these tools comes some complexity. It is the purpose of this documentation to organize the concepts necessary to effectively use this device to its and your maximum potential.

The "Orientation" chapter familiarizes you with the location and function of the buttons and controls on the device.

The "First Time Use" chapter guides you through the steps necessary to get the device charging, started, and operational. It describes the way to always return to the Home screen, start apps, and open menus.

The "Networks and Connections" chapter describes how to connect to Wi-Fi hot spots, use the cellular network, and display the screen on a TV.

After taking care of the basics and connections, it is time to step back and learn about other operating system concepts in the "Key Concepts" chapter. This chapter describes notifications, context menus, and other key concepts that make your use more effective.

Each of the apps is next covered in its own chapter.

Finally, appendixes provide reference and supplemental documentation.


The documentation assumes some knowledge of braille. It often uses braille letters to represent commands.

In addition to basic braille knowledge, you may wish to learn about computer braille. Computer braille is a code that is necessary to enter Web addresses or other non-literary type text.

There is a computer braille code chart later in this document that shows all the dot patterns for computer braille.


This documentation represents keys you may type by naming the key. The Menu key, for example, is written "Menu."

When it takes several keys to make a command, such as those that include modifier keys like Control+C, the keys are separated with the "+" character. The first key is the modifier, so you press and hold it; then while it is still depressed, press the other keys in the combination. So if this documentation says, Control+C, it means to press and hold the Control key, then, while that key is still down, press and release the C. Finally, release the Control key.

Braille dot patterns are provided in one of two methods. Where reasonable, the braille letter is used. If, for example, the instructions say to press Space+A, you should press and hold Space, then press and release dot 1, the A, and then release the Space. At other times, it may be clearer to provide dot numbers to represent a command. The command, for example, to move to the top of a document is Space+dots 1 2 3. Since this command is the inverse of Space+dots 4 5 6 to go to the end of the document, this manual may use Space+dots 1 2 3 instead of Space+L. (The braille letter "l" is made by pressing dots 1 2 3.)


Multiple layers of menus are represented in a short hand form as follows:

Instead of explaining that you should select the Settings menu, then pick Wireless and Networks, and then Mobile Networks, this manual represents this series of menu options like this:

Settings / Wireless and Networks / Mobile Networks

Other Resources

In addition to this documentation, there are other resources to help you learn the device. You may wish to subscribe to the Braille Plus email list. This list discusses the product and has members from the development team, customer service, and other users who discuss various aspects of the device. To subscribe to the list, send a blank email to plus-subscribe@tech.aph.org.


Place the Braille Plus 18 on a surface in front of you with the keys facing up. Orient the device so the wider front edge with the joy stick and rectangular buttons on the left and right is closest to you.

Braille Plus 18 Orientation

The Left Edge

The left edge contains the Power button, a recessed Reset button, and two USB connection slots.

Braille Plus 18 Left Edge

USB On-The-Go and Charging

The smaller, On-The-Go USB port is located toward the back of the device on the left edge. On-The-Go means the port works both as a client and as a host.

Use this port to charge the device or to connect it to your computer for transferring files.

USB Host Port

The USB connector closest to the front edge is a full sized USB host connector. Thumb drives, QWERTY keyboards, and other USB devices connect to this slot.

Power Button

The Power button is on the left side about an inch from the front. It is flush with the rest of the side surface to help prevent accidental usage. This button turns the device on and off, puts it into sleep mode, and wakes it from sleep.


The Reset button is recessed. It looks like a small hole in front of the Power button. To reset the device if it ever hangs, press and hold Power for about 10 seconds or until you feel a double short vibration from the device. If that technique fails to restart the device, use the Reset button. Use Reset only as a last resort if your device does not respond to other forms of input.

The Top Face

The top face contains the braille cells and most of the keys and buttons.

Braille Plus 18 Top Face

Space, Shift, and Control

The keys closest to you on the face are, from left to right, Shift, Space, and Control. (Space is the widest key.)

Shift and Control serve as dots seven and eight when typing with eight-dot computer braille.

Braille Cells

Just behind the Space Bar, moving toward the back of the face, is a line of 18 braille cells. Each braille cell is an 8-dot cell. Above each cell is a cursor routing bar. As you use the device, braille appears on these cells. You may use the cursor routing keys to click on buttons or to move the cursor to the position of the routing button in an editing environment.

Key Lock

The Key Lock slide switch is left of the braille cursor routing buttons. It is oval shaped. Slide it toward the back of the device to lock the keys. Slide it to the front to unlock them.

LEDS for Charge and Power

To the right of the braille cells, there are two light-emitting diodes (LEDs). There is a green LED for power, and a red LED for charging status.

Braille Input Keys

Above the cursor routing keys, toward the back of the device, the six traditional braille input keys are arranged in an ergonomic configuration. Use these keys to type text or hold down the Space Bar with dot combinations to perform special functions. In 8-dot braille, use the thumbs to press dot 7 (the Shift key) or dot 8 (the Control key).

Microphone and Speaker

The microphones are located on the left and right side of the face.

The speaker, which can be used for phone calls, is located on the right side of the face.

While the unit is designed to use Bluetooth headsets or as a speakerphone when making or receiving phone calls, it is also possible, although a bit clumsy, to hold the device to your ear like a phone.

Cursor Pad and Select

Just above the braille input keys, between dots 1 and 4, there is the cursor pad with four arrow keys and a Select key in the middle. Press the arrows to move through documents or menus, and press Select to make a choice.

Menu and Home

To the left and right of the arrow keys are two long vertical bars. The bar on the left side is the Menu key, and the bar on the right is the Home key. The Menu key opens a menu for the app you are currently running. The Home key takes you back to the Home screen. Hold Home to retrieve a list of recently used apps.

Pressing Space+H on the braille keyboard activates the Home key.

Pressing Space+M activates the Menu key.

Pressing Space+R activates the Recent menu.

Back and S1

To the left of Menu are two buttons, one above the other. The top key is Back, and the bottom key is S1. The Back key backs out of a program or activity, and the S1 key dials a phone number.

Pressing Space+Z also activates the Back key.

Search and S2

To the right of Home are also two buttons. The top key is Search, and the bottom key is S2. The Search key lets you search either in the current application or throughout the system and even the Web. The S2 key activates the "Read All" function. When you press S2, Braille Plus 18 begins reading the current text and continues until you either reach the end of the document or until you press S2 again.

The Front Edge

The front edge contains speakers, controls for the braille display, and slots for a standard Secure Digital (SD) Card and a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card for GSM cellular networks such as AT&T or T-Mobile. The SIM card slot is not used with some carriers such as Verizon.

Braille Plus 18 Front Edge

SIM Card

The SIM card slot is located on the front edge very close to the bottom and slightly left of center. Insert a SIM card into the slot by positioning the card with its cutout corner to the right side and so that the side with the cutout goes into the slot first. Push the card in until you feel a slight spring resistance, and then push a little farther until the mechanism grasps the card. To remove the card, push in until it clicks and pops out a little. Grasp the card and pull. Do not force any of these operations.

if you insert the SIM card while the device is running, you must restart it for the system to use the cellular network

SD Card

The SD card slot is located on the front edge very close to the bottom and slightly right of center. Insert an SD card into this slot by holding the card with the connector fingers facing down and so they go into the slot first. Push against the slight spring tension until the card clicks into place. Do not force the card into the slot. To remove the card, press in until it clicks and pops out a little. Grasp the card and pull to remove it from the slot.

Reverse and Advance Braille

There are three buttons on the front edge. The buttons on the left and right side reverse or advance the braille display.

Braille Joy Stick

The center button on the front edge is a joy stick with four directions and a center Select. The joystick moves the "Accessibility Focus" to any control on the screen, and pressing in on the joystick activates the control with focus. Think of this as a way to move the "review cursor".


The two stereo speakers are located at the left and right side of the front edge.

The Right Side

The right side contains the volume key, buttons for camera and recording, and jacks for earphone/video and microphone.

Braille Plus 18 Right Side


The volume key is a long bar. Press the end of the bar closest to the front edge to turn down the volume. Press the end toward the back to turn up the volume. While on a call, this button controls the call volume.

If the device is speaking, the volume key changes the volume of the speech. If it is not speaking, the volume key controls the other audio on the system.


The Camera button is located on the right side closest to the front of the device. It opens the Look app where you may either snap a picture or snap a picture and recognize text.


The Record button is behind the Camera button. It works in two ways--press it to open the Recorder app. Press it again to begin recording.

In addition to pressing the Record button to open the Recorder app, you may press and hold the Record button to start a recording from anywhere.

Earphone/Video Jack

The earphone/video jack is the jack closest to the Volume control. Use standard 8 MM (1/8-inch) earphones to connect earbuds or earphones. Use the included video cable to connect to a television display. Use a headset that includes microphones for phone calls

Future Expansion Jack

This jack is currently not operational. It is reserved for future expansion.


The bottom contains a lens, four rubber feet, and a label containing the unit's serial number

Camera Lens and Flash

The middle of the bottom side houses a cover to the the camera lens and flash.

First Time Use

  1. Remove all items from the shipping carton.
  2. If you have a SIM card for use with a cellular network, insert it into the SIM card slot.
  3. Plug in power.
  4. Turn it on.

    Battery Usage and Charging

    How long your device can run on a charge depends on how you use it. Leaving on the Bluetooth radio and Wi-Fi with heavy browsing or talking on the phone takes more energy than just reading books or email.

    It is normally possible to get a full day's work for most tasks on a charge, but if you use the browser heavily or talk for hours at a time on the phone, you may wish to keep a charger handy so you can plug it in during the day.

    The battery charges fully in about four to six hours if the unit is off or in sleep mode. If you use Braille Plus while charging or if the battery is completely depleted, the time to obtain a full charge can be longer.

    To charge the battery, follow these steps: