Accessibility & Technology

VoiceOver Speaks To You

Feb 27, 2017

VoiceOver Speaks To You

When reading screen text becomes too arduous it may be time to embrace VoiceOver. The screen reader built into Apple’s iOS (mobile operating system) will read it for you.

Turning on VoiceOver can be as easy as holding down the home button and asking Siri to “Turn on VoiceOver.” Or, with a few added steps VO can also be turned on in Accessibility Settings, and an Accessibility Shortcut can be set to turn on / off from the home button.    

Once VO is engaged on your mobile device it requires the use of different gestures to navigate the screen. Tap once to select an item; double tap to activate the selected item.  There are 9 gestures listed below to practice. It takes some time and concerted effort to switch from seeing to hearing the text…but it is well worth the work. In fact, once mastered, this method evokes joy.

Practice, practice, practice, and before you know it you have learned to listen and move around the screens with great ease. In time, it becomes second nature, committed to muscle memory.

Use your earbuds and VoiceOver will speak just to you, privately in your ear.

Before you get started it is wise to learn to turn VO on and off, as while it is engaged you can no longer operate the device with regular touchscreen gestures.

And remember, should you need help…call Apple Accessibility Support at 877.204.3939. Voice Over is one of their specialties!

Here are the 9 Voice Over Gestures.

  • Single Tap — select an item and it speaks
  • Double Tap — activates selected item (tap anywhere on screen)
  • One Finger Flick — right or left reads from item to item (left or right)
  • Two Finger Swipe Down —  starts reading at selected item
  • Two Finger Swipe Up –- starts reading from top of page
  • Three Finger Flick Right –- scroll forward one page
  • Three Finger Flick Left –- scroll back one page
  • Three Finger Flick Down/Up –- scroll up or down one page
  • Three Finger Flick  Down on Home Page — to open search field


(*Note: There is a “Screen Curtain” option that blackens the screen while using VoiceOver. It is sometimes turned on accidentally when 3 fingers touch the screen 3 times. Tapping with 3 fingers 3 times again will restore the screen.)


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About the Author: Dorrie Rush

Dorrie Rush is the Chief Content Officer and Visual Accessibility Expert at Ophthalmic Edge Patients (OE Patients), an online resource, presented by the Association for Macular Diseases, providing practical information and empowering advice for living a full and successful life with vision loss.

She is the former Director of the Grunwald Technology Center and Information Resource Service at Lighthouse International 2001 to 2016. Dorrie is known to have an eccentric view, which is particularly useful in compensating for her central vision loss from Stargardt Disease.



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