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The iPad's VoiceOver Feature

The iPad's VoiceOver feature is found under General Settings→Accessibility. This screen reader describes aloud what’s on the screen. It can read e-mail messages, web pages, and more. With VoiceOver active, you tap an item on the screen to select it.

VoiceOver places a black rectangle around it, and either speaks the name or describes an item. For example, if you tap, say, Brightness & Wallpaper, the VoiceOver voice speaks the words “Brightness & Wallpaper button.” VoiceOver even lets you know when you alternately position the iPad in landscape or portrait mode or when your screen is locked or unlocked.

Within the VoiceOver setting, you have several options. For instance, if you turn on Speak Hints, VoiceOver may provide instructions on what to do next, along the lines of “double-tap to open.” You can drag a Speaking Rate slider to speed up or slow down the speech.

You can also determine the kind of typing feedback you get, from among characters, words, characters and words, or no feedback. Additional controls let you turn on Phonetics and Pitch Change and choose the voice.

The voice you hear speaks in the language you specified in International settings.

You have to know a whole new set of finger gestures when VoiceOver is on, which may seem difficult, especially when you first start using VoiceOver. When you stop to think about it, this makes a lot of sense. You want to be able to hear descriptions on the screen before you actually activate buttons. Different VoiceOver gestures use different numbers of fingers. Here’s a rundown on many of these:

  • Tap: Speak the item.

  • Flick right or left: Select the next or previous item.

  • Flick up or down: This gesture has multiple outcomes that depend on how you set the so-called “rotor control” gesture. Think of the rotor control like you’d think about turning a dial. You rotate two fingers on the screen. The purpose is to switch to a different set of commands or features.

    This leads us back to the flick up or down gestures. Say that you’re reading text in an e-mail. By alternately spinning the rotor, you can switch between hearing the body of a message read aloud word by word or character by character.

    After you set the parameters, flick up or down to hear stuff read back. The flicking up or down gestures serve a different purpose when you type an e-mail: The gestures move the cursor left or right within the text.

  • Two-finger tap: Stop speaking.

  • Two-finger flick up: Read everything from the top of the screen.

  • Two-finger flick down: Read everything from your current position on the screen.

  • Three-finger flick up or down: Scroll a page.

  • Three-finger flick right or left: Go to the next or previous page.

  • Three-finger tap: Lets you know which page or rows are on the screen.

  • Four-finger flick up or down: Go to the first or last part of the page.

  • Four-finger flick right or left: Go to the next or previous section.

  • Double-tap: Activate a selected icon or button to launch an app, turn a switch from On to Off, and more.

  • Touch an item with one finger and tap the screen with another: Otherwise known as split-tapping, when you touch an item, a voice identifies what you touched (for example “Safari button” or “Notifications On button”). A tap with the second finger selects whatever was identified with the first finger (that is, “Safari button selected” or “Notifications On button selected”). Now you can double-tap to launch the button or whatever else was selected.

  • Double-tap, hold for a second, and then add a standard gesture: Tell the iPad to go back to using standard gestures for your next move. You can also use standard gestures with VoiceOver by double-tapping and holding the screen. You hear tones that remind you that standard gestures are now in effect. They stay that way until you lift your finger.

  • Two-finger double-tap: Play or pause. You use the double-tap in the Music, YouTube, and Photos apps.

  • Three-finger double-tap: Mute or unmute the voice.

  • Three-finger triple-tap: Turn the display on or off.

After all this you may be thinking, “Geez, that’s a lot to take in.” It surely is. But Apple helps you practice VoiceOver gestures by tapping a Practice VoiceOver Gestures button.

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