Quick Guide to Using VoiceOver on Mac OS X

This is a short introduction to the VoiceOver screen reader for Mac OS X, particularly geared toward sighted developers or instructors who never had any exposure to assistive technology software for users who are blind.

Setting Up

  1. Press COMMAND+F5 from anywhere in the system to turn VoiceOver on or off.
  2. With VoiceOver on, press CONTROL+OPTION+F8 to open the VoiceOver Utility window to configure screen reader settings. For example,
    • to change the voice speed, arrow down to the “Speech” category, tab to the “Speech Rate” slider, then use up and down arrows to change how fast the voice speaks.
    • to change the settings for VoiceOver visuals, arrow down to the “Visuals” category, then tab to the setting you want to modify. To switch between tabs, e.g. “VoiceOver Cursor”, “Caption Panel”, etc, use left and right arrows and the space bar to select.
  3. When finished, press COMMAND+W to close the window.

When VoiceOver talks too much to your liking, press and release the CONTROL key to stop the speech. To resume VoiceOver speech, either press the CONTROL key again or perform other actions on the keyboard.

Scanning webpage with a Web Rotor

  • To see how it works,
    1. open a website of your choice, e.g. paypal.com (currently only Safari and Chrome are supported)
    2. with VOiceOver on, press CONTROL+OPTION+U to launch the Web Rotor
    3. use left and right arrow keys to move between HTML element categories, EG links, headings, etc, up and down arrows to move within a particular category
    4. press ESCAPE to close the Web Rotor window.
  • To add more element categories,
    1. with VoiceOver on, press CONTROL+OPTION+F8 to open the VOiceOver Utility
    2. arrow down to the “Web” category
    3. tab once to reach the list of tabs, right arrow to move to the “Rotor” tab, then space bar to select (activate) the tab
    4. tab to the list of available elements and check the ones you would like to be included in the Web Rotor
    5. press COMMAND+W to close the “VoiceOver utility” window
  • Go back to your browser and press CONTROL+OPTION+U to launch the Web Rotor.

Navigating with VOiceOver

Together with standard keyboard navigation, VoiceOver provides auxiliary keystrokes to enable the user move anywhere on the screen. These keys are important to remember because VoiceOver users are using them on a regular basis.
Below is the list of most essential navigation keystrokes:

  • CONTROL+OPTION+LEFTARROW and CONTROL+OPTION+RIGHTARROW navigate the screen from top to bottom and vice versa.
  • CONTROL+OPTION+SPACE performs a click on the item in the VoiceOver cursor, i.e. the item that you just navigated to.
  • SPACEBAR activates the item in the keyboard focus (this is not always the same as the VoiceOver cursor). Such items usually include checkboxes, buttons and tabs.
  • ENTER activates links, buttons or perform the default action, e.g. “submit” button.
  • TAB and SHIFT+TAB keys move between focusable items on the screen.

More Information

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