Apple and Microsoft team up to help the blind use computers -- with plug-and-play braille

The USB HID standard should make it easier to plug in a braille display.

Gordon Gottsegen CNET contributor
Gordon Gottsegen is a tech writer who has experience working at publications like Wired. He loves testing out new gadgets and complaining about them. He is the ghost of all failed Kickstarters.
Gordon Gottsegen
Rehabilitation Of The Blind

A boy uses a braille interface with a computer.

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Apple , Microsoft  and a handful of other tech companies are making it so you can plug in a braille display much like a mouse or keyboard. 

The companies have teamed up with the USB Implementers Forum, a nonprofit that promotes adoption of USB tech, to integrate braille into a new USB Human Interface Device (HID) standard (PDF), according to Engadget.

Watch this: How Apple makes its devices more accessible

People with vision disabilities often rely on braille, but some braille displays only work with certain PCs or require additional software and drivers to use. The new HID standard helps manufacturers build braille displays so they work across different computers and operating systems. So people could theoretically take their braille display, plug it into any computer and start using it. Much like you can plug in a USB keyboard and start typing right away. 

We've seen Apple make it easier for people with disabilities to use its tech with functions like text-to-speech and Bluetooth pairing with hearing aids. Microsoft also recently created an Xbox controller specifically for disabled players.

Watch this: How an Xbox controller helped this disabled Iraq War veteran play again

Check out CNET's Tech Enabled series for more on how tech is changing the lives of people who need it.