Working for People with Sight Loss

Labs Product Review – Hable One Braille Keyboard

A hand holding the black Hable One with 6 white input keys

Mairead O’Mahony in the NCBI Labs team shares her thoughts on the Hable One Braille Keyboard

Item Name: Hable One Braille Keyboard
Reviewed by: Mairead O’Mahony

Description

The Hable One is a small light weight braille Bluetooth keyboard around the size of an iPhone 6 that allows you to entirely control your smart phone/tablet. It has 6 braille buttons and 2 function keys for typing and intuitive operation of Voiceover or Talkback and connects to your phone/tablet via Bluetooth. It is a great device if you love to type in braille, you are learning braille or if you have difficulty controlling your phone/tablet using gestures. Whether you are new to learning braille or are an advanced braillewriter, you can set your preference to grade one or grade two braille.

Unboxing / What are my first impressions of the item?

The Hable One comes in a box with a USB C charging cable, a lanyard wrist strap and documentation. I was really impressed with how small and light the Hable One was and was delighted that it would easily fit in my pocket. Pairing it to my iPhone took no time at all as it was a very straight forward process. When pairing, the Hable automatically recognises if you are pairing it to an iOS or Android device and puts it into the correct mode. For a braille product, I was disappointed that it didn’t come with a braille manual as it would have been more efficient to jump to parts of the manual, I was looking for rather than trying to find it quickly in the downloaded manual or YouTube videos. By having a braille manual and physically reading it I would be able to retain the commands I was looking for a lot faster.

I have been using this for a few days, how do I feel about it?

It did take a little time to get use to the feeling of how the Hable one is held and the typing experience on it as it is like a little remote, isn’t really designed to be used on a surface so it is held in both hands with both hands rapped around the 6 braille dots. I downloaded the manual and straight away I was able to navigate my phone and complete tasks using the Hable One. I started creating notes, emails, sending messages, browsing the internet using it and found it much more efficient than using the on-screen keyboard of my phone. As there is no braille display on the Hable one, I found the haptic feedback really useful and some of the commands were very intuitive. For example, holding down the letter H would bring you to the home screen and holding down the letter B would bring you back a screen. Once these buttons are held down for a few seconds, you will be alerted by a vibration and Voiceover, or Talkback will let you know the command has taken place.

Is it Accessible?

The Hable One is completely accessible. It has large keys, and they are very well spaced out so they can be distinguished easily.

What did I like?

With an airpod in my ear and Voiceover on my iPhone I loved the freedom of having the phone in my bag or another room and being able to unlock my phone, send a message, check my shopping list while in the shop and email or browse the internet without having to touch my phone. Also, the battery lasts for a few weeks, there is a combination of dots to check the battery status and once pressed you get a series of vibrations that indicate if the battery level is high, medium, or low. While it might sound strange, I loved being able to make notes while out as I didn’t need to pull out my Bluetooth keyboard and look for a surface to put it and my phone while standing.

What didn’t I like?

When typing in grade 2 braille, sometimes Voiceover wouldn’t read it back properly for example, if I wrote the contraction for “and” Voiceover would read the letter D when you typed but when you read back over it the full word has been inserted. I found that a little distracting as I would spend time checking over the text to see if the word was inserted and eventually, I started to ignore that bug. I would have liked a little travel pouch to be included as if you know you won’t be using it for a while and it’s in your bag or pocket the keys won’t get caught in anything or get scratched. Also, I tried pairing it to my phone and iPad but it could only be paired to one device at a time so I would have to turn off Bluetooth on one device for it to work on the other.

Did it meet my expectations?

The Hable One met my expectations as I love being able type in braille and I was easily able to carry it around in my pocket. It wasn’t just a keyboard; it was an assistant to my smart phone.

What improvements, if any, would I like to see in this product?

For a premium priced product, I feel the quality should be more durable as it feels very plasticky and would be worried that if it fell on tiles it might crack. I would love to have a manual built into the Hable One menu and also a search function where you could type something such as turn on screen curtain and the command would be displayed.

Would I recommend this item to others?

I would recommend the Hable One if you like typing in braille, you are learning braille or if you have difficulty using the gestures on your phone/tablet.

Is there other/competing technology you have tried, similar to this item?

The Orbit Writer is a similar device to the Hable One, but it is designed to be used on a surface rather than in the air. From online research, the Hable One seems to be more intuitive and is the preference for people who want to use a braille keyboard.