Visual Snippet

Welcome to the course Visual Assistive Technology 

This training snippet will highlight how to use MacOS VoiceOver. 

What is Voiceover?

What is Voiceover?

VoiceOver is a full-featured screen reader built into macOS that speaks the text in documents and windows and describes aloud what appears on your screen. To turn on VoiceOver, press Command-F5; to turn it off, press the keys again.

With VoiceOver, you control your Mac primarily with a keyboard, refreshable braille display, or trackpad. You use the VoiceOver cursor—which appears as a dark rectangular outline—to move around the screen, select buttons and other controls, and to read and edit text. The keyboard focus and mouse pointer work with the VoiceOver cursor in a variety of ways.

How to turn on Voiceover

You can also turn VoiceOver on or off using the Accessibility Options shortcut panel. To show it, press Option-Command-F5 or, if your Mac has a Touch Bar, quickly press Touch ID three times. In the shortcut panel, press the Tab key until you hear the VoiceOver option, then press the Spacebar.

Now you give it a try

Now it's your turn to use Voiceover so on the screen above. Click on the right icon that can get you into Voiceover. 

Other Voiceover tips

Pause or mute speech

  • Pause or resume speech: There are several ways to control speech:
    • Press the Control key.

    • When the VoiceOver modifier is the Caps Lock key, press that key.

    • When the Trackpad Commander is enabled, tap with two fingers on the trackpad.

  • Mute speech: You can adjust the volume of VoiceOver speech, to the point of muting it, by pressing VO-Command-Right Arrow until you hear Volume, then pressing VO-Command-Down arrow repeatedly.

    Alternatively, open VoiceOver Utility (press VO-F8 when VoiceOver is on), click the Speech category, click Voices, then select the checkbox.

Use the welcome dialog

When you first turn on VoiceOver, a welcome dialog is shown.

Note: VO represents the VoiceOver modifier.

  • To continue using VoiceOver, press Enter or click Use VoiceOver.

  • To continue using VoiceOver and prevent the welcome dialog from appearing each time you turn on VoiceOver, press the V key or select “Do not show this message again.”

  • To start the VoiceOver Quick Start tutorial, press the Space bar or click Learn More.

  • To exit the dialog without turning on VoiceOver, press Command-Q or Escape, or click Turn Off VoiceOver.

To set an option to control whether the dialog is shown, open VoiceOver Utility (press VO-F8 when VoiceOver is on), then click the General category.

Voiceover help

Use the VoiceOver Help menu to quickly access information about using VoiceOver, such as keyboard or sounds help. You can also display a list of VoiceOver commands that can be used for the item in the VoiceOver cursor, and choose a command.

  1. When VoiceOver is on, press VO-H to display the VoiceOver Help menu.

    To increase or decrease the menu’s font size, press the } or { key.

  2. Navigate the menu and submenus using the arrow keys.

    • If you know the name of a menu item, type some letters of its name to narrow the menu to only items that contain those letters. To list all the items again, press the Delete key.

    • When you enter a submenu, you hear the number of items it contains.

    • If a menu item has a keyboard command, you hear it announced with the name of the item. For example, the command to open the Commands menu is VO-H-H.

  3. To select a menu item, press the Space bar or the Return key.

    To close the VoiceOver Help menu without making a selection, press the Escape key or Fn-Tab.

Now you give it a try

Now that we know some short-cuts let's give it a try. On the keyboard above select the correct keys that will enable Voiceover. 

Congratulations you are a step closer to knowing Voiceover!

Now that we are more familiar with Voiceover let's learn how to use it to browse the web! 

Browse the web using Voiceover

Ways to browse webpages

  • Choose a default navigation mode, by Document Object Model (DOM) or by grouping related items. You can switch between modes to use the mode best suited for the current webpage.

    Navigate webpages using DOM or group mode

  • Use the Rotor when viewing webpages to quickly jump to web items such as links, headings, web spots, tables, and more.

    Navigate using the Rotor

  • Use the web settings of the gestures rotor to navigate using gestures.

    Use the gestures rotor

  • With Quick Nav, navigate webpages and apps using only arrow keys, or webpages using single keys.

    Navigate using Quick Nav

  • Use auto web spots and web spots you create to quickly scan web pages.

    Navigate web pages using web spots

  • Hear a summary of a table and its cells as you press the arrow keys to navigate the table. Interact with the table only if you hear something of interest.

    Navigate tables on webpages

What we will be focusing on

In this training snippet, we will be focusing on how to use gestures to browse the Internet with Voiceover. So what is a gesture?

If you have a trackpad and the Trackpad Commander is enabled, you can use VoiceOver gestures to navigate and interact with items on the screen.

To enable the Trackpad Commander look at the example below:

Gestures to remember

Here are a few gestures to remember 


Enable the Trackpad Commander and VoiceOver gestures

VO-two-finger rotate clockwise

Disable the Trackpad Commander and VoiceOver gestures

VO-two-finger rotate counterclockwise

Turn the screen curtain on or off

Three-finger triple-tap

Mute or unmute VoiceOver

Three-finger double-tap


Force the VoiceOver cursor into a horizontal or vertical line when you drag a finger across the trackpad

Hold down the Shift key and drag a finger horizontally or vertically

Move the VoiceOver cursor to the next item

Flick right

Move the VoiceOver cursor to the previous item

Flick left

Move content or the scroll bar (depending on the Trackpad Commander setting)

Three-finger flick in any direction

Go to the Dock

Two-finger double-tap near the bottom of the trackpad

Go to the menu bar

Two-finger double-tap near the top of the trackpad

Open the Application Chooser

Two-finger double-tap on the left side of the trackpad

Open the Window Chooser

Two-finger double-tap on the right side of the trackpad

Jump to another area of the current app

Press Control while touching a finger on the trackpad

Now you give it a try

Now if you want to enable gestures in the trackpad hit the correct button or icon to turn the feature on.

Where else can we use gestures

At the library we use gestures every day it is not strictly for computers. So using the terms below match the correct gesture with its meaning when used at the library. 

  • Waving Goodbye
  • folding hands
  • handshake
  • Reading a Book
  • Winking
  • Lifting your chair
  • Printing a page
  • squeezing your desk ball