Apple, Microsoft and Google join forces to create a universal standard for braille displays

A substantial move for technology accessibility was made today as the non-profit USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) announced a new standard for braille displays – underpinned by an agreement between major tech companies including Apple, Google and Microsoft.

Apple, Microsoft and Google join forces to create a universal standard for braille displays

The USB Human Interface Device (HID) standard will make it easier for those with visual impairment to use braille displays across different operating systems and hardware, without the need for unique drivers. It means that braille readers can be treated much like standard keyboards, with users able to plug them into PC, Mac and Android devices.

“We see the opportunity that advancements in technology can create for people with disabilities and have a responsibility as an industry to develop new ways of empowering everyone to achieve more,” said Jeff Petty, Windows accessibility program manager lead at Microsoft, in a statement.

“Developing a HID standard for braille displays is one example of how we can work together, across the industry, to advance technology in a way that benefits society and ultimately improve the unemployment rate for people with disabilities.”

Sarah Herrlinger, director of Global Accessibility Policy and Initiatives at Apple, echoed this sentiment: “Technology should be accessible to everyone and Apple designs all products with that in mind. We’re proud to advance this new USB-IF standard because we believe in improving the experience for all people who rely on braille displays to use their Apple products or any other device.”

The rival companies will begin to integrate the new standard into their hardware as soon as next year. With the standard in place, development of braille readers should become more simplified, as there will no longer be a need for devices to have custom software to work with particular operating systems. It’s arguably a move that should have been made some time ago, but is nevertheless a significant step for accessibility and could ripple into the literacy, education and employment of people with low vision. 

Image: Microsoft

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