How to use VoiceOver to help you better navigate your iPad

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Over time iOS has developed and matured into the most robust  mobile operating system available today.  With the addition of various accessibility features, Apple has made iOS available to a population that hasn’t previously been represented or adequately provided for. These built-in digital tools are very useful for those needing help with accessibility on their iPad or iPhone.  Unfortunately, though, most iPad owners are unaware they are available, much less know where to look to find them if they wanted to  take advantage of their benefits. Today we are going to focus on VoiceOver, and how this powerful accessibility feature can make navigating your iPad much easier.

How to Access VoiceOver on your iPad

Let’s start with how you can access and turn on VoiceOver.  First, open the Settings app on your iPad and select General–> Accessibility–> VoiceOver.  At this point you have many different options available to you.  Simply turning on VoiceOver makes it possible to speak the items on your screen.  The following, is how you activate this feature…


  • Tapping once selects the item
  • Double-tapping activated the selected item
  • Swiping three fingers across the screen with induce a scroll

Adjusting the Speaking Rate of VoiceOver

A word of caution–activating VoiceOver will change the gestures used to control your iPad.  After activating VoiceOver, a new dialogue box will appear that will allow you to practice using this feature.  You can adjust the speaking rate for the text that is read back to you via a slider.   For illustrative purposes the slider scrolls between a picture of a turtle and a rabbit.  Additionally, there are tabs that you can activate that allow you to invoke VoiceOver to speak hints, use pitch changes in sentences, and also use sound effects.


Accessing Speech, Braille & Rotor Settings in VoiceOver

Also, you might be unaware, that you are not restricted to using the default language or dialect for the speaking voice.  There are over 35 languages VoiceOver can speak in as well as 5 different dialects many offering male and female counterparts.  The Braille settings offer a robust list of features that allow you to pair your iPad over Bluetooth to a Braille display, utilizing numerous assistive support features.


The VoiceOver Rotor is used to change how VoiceOver works. By placing two fingers on your iPad screen and rotating like a dial you can change the VoiceOver volume or speaking rate, moving from one item to the next.  VoiceOver will say the first rotor option, and page through all available options as you continue to rotate through the list. When you arrive at the option you would like to choose, simply flick your finger up or down to move VoiceOver to the next or previous word.


Typing Style, Feedback & Modifier Keys

Within the VoiceOver feature set is a section that is dedicated to Typing.  Here you have the option between Standard, Touch & Direct Touch Typing as well as what kind of typing feedback you might like to use.  This is available for both software and hardware keyboards, and has options for both characters and words.  Additionally, there are Modifier keys that must be pressed on a hardware keyboard to activate VoiceOver key commands, and these can be assigned to either Control + Option or the Caps Lock key.

Rounding out the VoiceOver feature list is the option to Always have your iPad speak your notifications (on or off), the option to increase the size of your cursor, and the ability to navigate images.  Apple has really done an excellent job in creating accessibility features that assist those in need of non-traditional inputs and interactions with their iPads and iPhones.  Unfortunately, not many people are aware of these capabilities.  Stay tuned for more tips & tricks involving other accessibility features available on your iPad in the future.


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