VoiceOver is one of many accessibility features on iPhone designed for the visually impaired, helping guide you through options on the phone.
It’s fully customizable, from the speaking rate to even the pitch and specific voice. When it’s activated, you can only use specific gestures to control the iPhone. But VoiceOver can be a game-changer for those with sight limitations.
How to activate VoiceOver on iPhone
It's easy to activate Voiceover on the iPhone, including the latest iPhone 14. However, there is a short learning curve before you’ll get fully comfortable with the feature.
- Say “Hey Siri” and “Turn on VoiceOver” or “Turn off VoiceOver."
- You can also go into Settings or have someone do it for you, and tap Accessibility.
- Select VoiceOver and move the slider to the right to turn it on. It will turn green to confirm.
- You may want to slide the Speaking Rate slider to the left to slow down the default speed of the dictation.
- Depending on your phone’s settings, you may see a pop-up noting that VoiceOver would like to send you notifications. Select Allow.
- A pop-up called Important will appear, warning that VoiceOver changes the gestures used to control the iPhone and asking if you’re sure you want to continue. Select OK and you’ll hear the voice say “OK button,” identifying the button you are touching. This is because you have now activated VoiceOver, which means pressing a button won’t yield the same result anymore. Now, you need to use special VoiceOver gestures to control the phone.
- To select OK or any other item, tap twice quickly versus once. This will activate the option you have just selected.
- Go to VoiceOver Practice to learn more about the gestures you can use, or see below for highlights.
How to adjust the VoiceOver settings in iPhone
There are ways to adjust the various VoiceOver settings in iPhone. Here are just some ways you can customize it.
- Select Speech to change the voice, pronunciations, pitch, turn language detection on, and add new languages.
- Select Braille to adjust various Braille settings.
- Select VoiceOver Recognition to toggle Image Descriptions, Screen Recognition, and Text Recognitions on or off, and adjust the Feedback Style if you want the phone to play a sound, speak, or do nothing.
- Select Verbosity to further customize speech with things like speaking capital letters (good for inputting passwords), punctuation, and more.
- Select Audio to adjust Sound & Haptics and actions when there’s an active audio call (like automatically switching to the speaker if the phone isn’t up to your ear).
- Select Commands to adjust Touch Gestures and Keyboard Shortcuts if you’d prefer to use your own custom commands versus the default ones noted below.
The VoiceOver gestures you can use
Once you have VoiceOver activated on an iPhone, there are a variety of gestures you must use to navigate menus. Generally, drag your finger over the screen, up and down and left and right, and VoiceOver will say aloud each item you touch.
- To select an item, tap or touch it.
- To select the next item, swipe right and swipe left to select the previous one.
- Use two fingers and swipe right to move into a group of items and do the same, moving left to move out of the grouping.
- To select the first item on the screen, tap with four fingers near the top. To select the last item on the screen, use four fingers to tap near the bottom.
- Swipe up with two fingers to hear everything that’s on the screen from the top, and to do so from a selected item, use two fingers and swipe down.
- Perform a two-finger tap to pause or continue speaking and a three-finger tap to hear additional information, like where you are within a particular list.
- Use three fingers and swipe down to scroll up on a page, or three fingers to swipe up to scroll down.
- Use three fingers and swipe right to scroll left on the page and three fingers to swipe left to scroll right.
- Simply tap an item to select it and hear what it is then double-tap quickly to activate it. You can also touch and hold it with one finger and use the other finger to tap the screen.
- Triple-tap on an item to double-tap it.
- To drag a slider, tap to select it, then swipe up or down with one finger, or you can double tap or hold it until you hear three tones then drag it.
- To start or stop an action, like music playing or to take a photo, use two fingers and double tap.
- To dismiss an alert and go back to the previous screen, move two fingers back and forth three times on the screen, as though you are drawing the letter “Z.”
- To edit an item’s label, double-tap on it with two fingers and hold.
- To mute or unmute VoiceOver at any time, double-tap with three fingers.
VoiceOver is a useful feature for those with limited or no vision who could use some audio assistance. It’s like your own personal audio captioning and guided access, so you can use your iPhone comfortably without being able to physically see the keys. But it’s only one of many accessibility options. Another handy option worth considering for the visually impaired, for example, is having articles read out loud on iPhone.
This merely scratches the surface of what you can do and customize in VoiceOver. Sit down with someone who can help, play around with the options, and set your iPhone up perfectly personalized to you.
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