Sunday, April 20, 2014

Apple's VoiceOver Screen Reader

Mac’s VoiceOver technology is a free screen reader software that ships with all OSX and IOS products.  This product is integrated into the operating system therefore there is no need to download and install software. VoiceOver works with keyboard controls as well as with Multi-Touch screen.   When using a multi-touch screen device, users can hear a description of the  objects they are touching. There is specific tapping and finger/hand gestures that control VoiceOver functionality.  It is very easy to turn VoiceOver access on. I was able to turn VoiceOver on all my Apple devices without any difficulties.   

To learn more about how to use this product I watched a tutorial on the product. 

There were also various web pages that highlighted commands and keyboard shortcuts.  VoiceOver works at the operating system level and can be used with other products running on the device.

In 2005, the American Foundation for the Blind did not give VoiceOver a good review. They felt the product was difficult to use and the keyboard controls were cumbersome.  The AFB also felt Apple had rushed the release and not included enough user documentation. Improved documentation from Apple was needed for VoiceOver users. Apple responded with improved documentation.  There are quickstart and function tutorials for the product and website resources on how to use the program.

In 2009, Steven M. Sawczyn, a blind assistive technology consultant wrote, A Second Look At Apple’s VoiceOver.  In this article he criticizes Apple’s late entry into the screen reader arena, but does present VoiceOver in a positive manner. He identifies the operational differences between PC and Mac as the underlying reason why PC users experience difficulty when learning to use VoiceOver. Mr. Sawczyn was once a PC users but has been a  MAC user since the Leopard operating system release with VoiceOver.  For his work and his specific needs, he feels that VoiceOVer is a great product. 

In 2013 AFB AccessWorld Magazine, Janet Ingber makes recommendations for using VoiceOver. She providers  tips for helping those wishing to make the transition from PC to Mac.  

On the Common Sense Media website,  a 7 year old wrote a review on VoiceOver, "Apple's Voice Over text to speech program is pretty cool. The only thing I don't like about the application is that the voices don't sound natural compared to other services."

As a teacher, I feel the products availability and the compatibility across multiple platforms, Mac, ipad, iphone, ipod touch, make VoiceOver a strong contender when screen reading technology is needed. There is a great advantage if Apple products are already in the classroom. An even greater advantage if the student had access to Apple devices as part of BYOD and at home.  Its ability to work with other Mac software is a big plus. It helps the user have access to all products residing on the device. A teacher/specialist would need to work closely with the student to be able to teach them how to use the program effectively.  Students would need to learn the commands, key strokes, and hand gestures  to navigate the screens.  

VoiceOver is also available for Chrome users.


"Apple - Accessibility - OS X - VoiceOver." Apple - Accessibility - OS X - VoiceOver. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Apr. 2014. <>.

"A Second Look at Apple’s VoiceOver." A Second Look at Apple’s VoiceOver. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <>.

"Member Reviews for VoiceOver | Common Sense Media." Member Reviews for VoiceOver Common Sense Media. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <>.

"Product Evaluation." Not What the Doctor Ordered: A Review of Apple's VoiceOver Screen Reader. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Apr. 2014. <>.

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