The USB Implementers Forum (USB-IF) has published a Human Interface Device (HID) standard for braille displays. The standard is supposed to make it easier for the blind or visually impaired to use braille displays with a variety of operating systems and other devices. Think of it this way: most traditional displays are compatible with pretty much everything; why shouldn't braille displays offer the same convenience?
USB-IF said the new standard was developed with contributions from Microsoft and Apple. That makes sense, considering the popularity of those companies' products and their efforts to make their hardware and software more accessible. Both companies have steadily released new features, such as improved voiceovers or support for more input methods, to help make Windows 10 and macOS easier to use for people with disabilities.
Microsoft's Windows accessibility program manager, Jeff Petty, said in the standard's announcement:
“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. Developing an 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.”
This isn't the first accessibility-related announcement Microsoft has made this month. Earlier the company announced the Xbox Adaptive Controller that was designed in partnership with The Cerebral Palsy Foundation, SpecialEffect, AbleGamers, and others. The controller boasts two large buttons that can be assigned to any Xbox input, supports many third-party devices, and can store three configuration profiles to support multiple setups.
USB-IF noted in the standard's announcement that it has more than 1,000 members worldwide. Combine that breadth with the support from Microsoft and Apple and chances are good that the HID standard for braille displays will make an impact sooner than later. That should be welcome news for anyone who believes that as many people as possible should be able to easily use their hardware and operating system of choice.