Introduction to VoiceOver for iOS 1 – What is VoiceOver

About this Course

This course aims to provide an introduction to using the VoiceOver screen reader with iOS 14 on the iPhone. During this course I will be using an iPhone XR running iOS 14.

This is both a video and audio course. I hope this course will prove both useful to sight impaired people learning to use an iPhone on their own, and sighted family or friends who are helping a sight impaired person use an iPhone.

Course notes for this course are available at

What is VoiceOver

VoiceOver is a screen reader, a screen reader is an application that can output information displayed on a computer screen into speech or to a Braille display (Using Braille with VoiceOver is beyond the scope of this course).

VoiceOver is the screen reader that comes with apple products and runs on macOS, iOS and Watch OS. This course concentrates on the iOS edition of VoiceOver for the iPhone.

What a screenreader can and can’t do

Screen readers are designed to read textual information on the screen so are unable to:-

  • Describe Images (though using AI some it may try, with varying degrees of success)
  • Make poorly designed websites and applications accessible.
  • Make very visual games accessible

How to turn VoiceOver on and off

There are three ways to switch VoiceOver on or off:-

  1. Using Siri
  2. Via the Accessibility Shortcut
  3. Via the settings menu.

You can turn VoiceOver on or off from anywhere on your phone using Siri or the Accessibility Shortcut. It is not necessary to return to the home screen.

Using Siri

  1. Activate Siri either by saying “Hey Siri” or by pressing and holding the Sleep/Wake button (if your phone has a home button, press, and hold the home button).
  2. Say “Turn on VoiceOver” — to turn off VoiceOver say “Turn off VoiceOver”.

Using the Accessibility Shortcut

The Accessibility shortcut gives you quick access to the accessibility features of iOS. To access it, triple click the sleep/wake button (if your phone has a home button, triple click that).

Depending on how your phone is set up, VoiceOver will either start or a menu will appear from which you can select VoiceOver. To use the accessibility shortcut, you may need to set it up, to do this:-

  1. From the home screen choose Settings > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut
  2. From the menu choose VoiceOver
    Note you can choose as many accessibility features as you want, however if you choose only one, triple clicking the sleep/wake or home button will enable or disable that feature immediately. If you pick more than one a menu will be displayed allowing you to choose which feature to start.

Starting VoiceOver from the Settings Menu

The VoiceOver menu in Settings is where you can customise various VoiceOver settings such as the voice used, gestures and other ways that VoiceOver behaves. We’ll look at this menu in more detail in a later video.

  1. From the home screen choose Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver.
  2. From this menu choose VoiceOver to toggle VoiceOver on and off.

Some Gestures to get you started

  • Go to the home screen – Place one finger on the bottom edge of the screen and then slide it upwards until you hear a tone or feel the phone vibrate, then lift your finger off the screen.
  • Select an item – Tap on it once, with one finger
  • Activate an item – Double tap on it, with one finger
  • Move to next item – Swipe right with one finger
  • Move to previous item – Swipe left with one finger
  • Scroll up one screen – Swipe up with three fingers
  • Scroll down one screen – Swipe down with three fingers
  • Scroll left one screen – Swipe left with three fingers
  • Scroll right one screen – Swipe right with three fingers
  • Turn Screen Curtain on and off – Triple Tap with three fingers