Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Turn on your Mac’s VoiceOver screen reader

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Shreya Christinahttps://cafe-madrid.com
Shreya has been with cafe-madrid.com for 3 years, writing copy for client websites, blog posts, EDMs and other mediums to engage readers and encourage action. By collaborating with clients, our SEO manager and the wider cafe-madrid.com team, Shreya seeks to understand an audience before creating memorable, persuasive copy.

Starting with macOS X, Apple has included a native screen reader called VoiceOver on its Macs and MacBooks. The feature is designed to help visually impaired or blind users navigate their computers — and the Internet — more easily. It works by reading aloud text descriptions of everything that appears on the screen, as well as reading all displayed text. The technology also allows users to interact with elements on the screen.

While VoiceOver is primarily intended for people with visual impairments, it can be useful in many different scenarios, such as if you are someone with a learning disability and prefer to listen to text rather than read it.

Apple has a whole user manual that gets to the core of using VoiceOver with refreshable braille displays and trackpad gestures, as well as how to customize the feature to suit your needs (e.g. reading speed, speech profile, turning on screen curtain for privacy, etc.). But if you’re just getting started, here are a few easy ways to enable VoiceOver.

  • Open System Preferences and then select Accessibility. Select from the left menu in the Vision category Voice over. Click Enable VoiceOver. You can also click the Open VoiceOver Training button to access the Quick Start training menu. Clicking the Open VoiceOver Utility button opens a menu where you can customize features such as reading speed and voice profiles.

The More Information button gives you a brief explanation of how to use the function’s basic commands.
Screenshot: Victoria Song / The Verge

  • Press Assignment and the F5 button. This should also bring up a Welcome to VoiceOver window. Click the Use VoiceOver button. In the lower left corner, there is a Learn More button where you can get the essentials of basic commands, learn how the feature works, and practice using it effectively. You can disable it by pressing the same keys and then clicking the “Disable VoiceOver” button.
  • If you have Siri enabled on your Mac, you can ask it to “Turn on VoiceOver” or “Turn off VoiceOver”. If you don’t have Siri enabled, go to the Apple menu in the top bar, select System Preferencesand then click the Siri icon. Once there, check the Ask Siri to enable box.
  • Press Choice + Assignment and F5 to open the Accessibility shortcut panel. Press the Tab key until you hear the VoiceOver option. Then press the space bar.
  • There is an alternate shortcut if you are using macOS Big Sur or later and your Mac has a TouchID button. While you Command buttonquickly press the TouchID button three times. This also works if your Magic Keyboard has a TouchID button.

You can also choose to enable VoiceOver when you log in to the computer. To do this:

Screenshot of the Login Options window with accessibility options

You can also enable VoiceOver at login.
Screenshot: Victoria Song / The Verge

  • Go to System Preferences.
  • Select Users and groupsand then select the Login options at the bottom of the user list.
  • If the lock icon at the bottom left is closed, enter your administrator password.
  • Click on the Accessibility Settings button on the right side of the window.
  • Check the VoiceOver box, then click Apply.

VoiceOver isn’t the only accessibility feature available on macOS. If you’re interested in other options, check out our macOS accessibility guide here.

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