How to use VoiceOver for visual accessibility on iPhone and iPad

VoiceOver is an Accessibility feature that makes the iPhone and iPad easier to operate for blind people or people with low vision. With VoiceOver, anyone with a visual impairment can have their iPhone or iPad's screen read to them, including buttons, icons, links, and other interface elements, and use gestures to navigate and select their options. Because VoiceOver is included in Apple's UIKit framework for developers, any app using default controls gets VoiceOver support built right in.

How to activate VoiceOver on iPhone and iPad

  1. Launch the Settings app from the Home screen of your iPhone or iPad.
  2. Tap on General.
  3. Tap on Accessibility.
  4. Under Vision at the very top, tap on VoiceOver.
  5. Turn On VoiceOver by tapping on the On/Off toggle.
  6. You can scroll down with three fingers to view VoiceOver options and customize your experience.

How to use VoiceOver on iPhone and iPad

VoiceOver changes the gestures in iOS in order to make it easier for visually impaired individuals to know what they're tapping on before they actually select it. Here are some tips to using VoiceOver:

  • Single tap anywhere on the screen and your iPhone or iPad will speak aloud the item that you're tapping on.
  • Double tap on an item to select it.
  • To scroll through a page, use three fingers. With VoiceOver off you typically use only one finger to scroll, in VoiceOver, you'll need to use three so your iPhone or iPad doesn't misread a tap as a scroll.
  • To toggle speech commands on and off from the Lock Screen, double tap with three fingers.
  • A two finger double tap while performing an action will start or stop that action. For example, if you're on a phone call, double tapping the screen with two fingers will end the call. If you're in the Camera app, double tap with two fingers to take a photo.
  • In VoiceOver options you can customize and fine tune options such as whether or not you'd like the device to speak notifications.

For more tips and tricks regarding VoiceOver, we recommend using the VoiceOver Practice option within the VoiceOver Settings menu. This allows you to tap the screen as you'd like and the iPhone or iPad will speak aloud what that action does system wide. This will help get someone used to how VoiceOver works and what commands trigger what actions.

If you've come across any interesting VoiceOver options, share them in the comments below!

Note: Originally published, April 2013. Updated, July 2014.

How to get more help with accessibility for iPhone and iPad