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A VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide with Keyboard Shortcuts & Gestures

Find out all the VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts & hand gestures you'll need for your testing by reading our VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide.

A VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide with Keyboard Shortcuts & Gestures - Blog
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Apple is one of the biggest technology companies in the world with over 1.8 billion active devices as of 2022. VoiceOver is an in-built screen reader that was first introduced by Apple in 2009. It is now available on all their devices like Macs, iPhones, iPads, and so on. So as an accessibility tester, knowing to use VoiceOver for testing is mandatory. Being a leading web accessibility testing services provider, we have written this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide that will help you in using VoiceOver for your accessibility testing. So we will be covering the various VoiceOver shortcut keys you’ll need to know when it comes to Macs and the various VoiceOver gestures when it comes to iPhones & iPads.

How to Get VoiceOver Started?

So let’s start this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide by seeing how to start VoiceOver across all the devices. On a Mac, you can start VoiceOver by either using the shortcut keys (Command + F5) or by Settings -> General Section -> Accessibility Menu -> VoiceOver.

If you are using an iPad or iPhone that is supported by Siri, then you could also boot it up using Siri. You can also triple press the side button or the home button to start VoiceOver, or turn it on by Settings -> Accessibility -> VoiceOver.

Rotor

One unique feature in VoiceOver is the rotor, which can be described as a wheel of commands that is dependent on the context. So the user can choose what settings or navigation options that have to appear in the rotor. The rotor is highly customizable as the user can assign different navigation options such as headings, window spots, links, and so on as shown.

Rotor Functionality Menu in VoiceOver

You can define the settings you want to display in the rotor by navigating to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> Voiceover -> Utility -> Web -> Web Rotor.

When it comes to devices such as iPads and iPhones, you can also turn Rotor on by swiping two fingers on the touchscreen like how you would dial with a rotating dial pad. And you will get a similar functionality where you can define the navigation options you need and use them by performing the appropriate gestures.

Accessibility Testing Using VoiceOver

Screen readers are accessibility testing tools that are primarily assistive technologies used by people with disabilities to access the content. So knowing the basic VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts to operate it is a must. In addition to that, there are a few checkpoints that every accessibility tester should validate to ensure that the content is accessible. So in this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide, we have categorized the VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts with reference to those checkpoints.

  • Content Navigation
  • Reading Content
  • Interactive Element Navigation
  • Table Navigation

VoiceOver Keyboard Shortcuts for macOS:

iMacs and Macbooks are the Apple devices where VoiceOver can be controlled using various keyboard shortcuts. Since devices like iPads and iPhones have a touch screen for the input, they will be using touch gestures to control VoiceOver. We will be covering those gestures later on the blog once we have seen the keyboard shortcuts.

Functional :
S. No Actions Commands
1 Start Or Stop VoiceOver Command + F5
2 VoiceOver Activation Keys (Or VO Keys) Control + Option (Referenced As VO)
3 Lock (Or Unlock) VO Keys Control + Option + ;
4 Open Rotor Control + Option + U
5 Choose Speech Setting Options Such As Speaking Rate, Voice, Pitch, Etc. Control + Option + Command + Right Arrow / Left Arrow
6 Modify The Chosen Speech Setting Control + Option + Command + Up Arrow / Down Arrow
7 Toggle Screen Curtain On/Off Control + Option+ Shift +F11

 

Content Navigation
S. No Actions Commands
1 Go To The Top Of The Page (IMacs) Control + Option + Home
2 Go To The Top Of The Page (Macbooks) Control + Option + Fn + Left Arrow
3 Navigate To The Bottom Of The Page (IMacs) Control + Option+ End
4 Navigate To The Bottom Of The Page (Macbooks) Control + Option + Fn + Right Arrow
5 Go To The Next Heading Control + Option + Command + H
6 Go To The Next Table Control + Option + Command + T
7 Go To The First Item On Page Control + Option + A
8 Scroll (Vertically Or Horizontally) Shift Key + Scroll
9 Go To Previous (Heading, Table, Etc.) Control + Option + Shift + Command + (H, T, Etc.)

 

Reading Content:
S. No Actions Commands
1 Start Reading Control + Option+ A
2 Stop Reading Control
3 Start Reading Continuously From This Point On Control + Option + Down Arrow
4 Read The Entire Page Control + Option + Up Arrow / Down Arrow
5 Read The Next Line, Word, Character Control + Option + Right Arrow
6 Read The Previous Line, Word, Character Control + Option + Left Arrow
7 Repeat The Last Spoken Phrase Control + Option + Z
8 Read The Selected Paragraph Control + Option + P
9 Read The Selected Sentence Control + Option + S
10 Read The Selected Word Control + Option + W
11 Spell The Selected Word Alphabetically Control + Option + W + W
12 Spell The Selected Word Phonetically Control + Option + Shift + Command + (H, T, Etc.)
13 Read From Top To Current Location Control + Option +B

 

Interactive Elements Navigation:

If you are unsure of what interactive elements are, they are what the name suggests. They are web elements that a user can interact with or elements that respond to inputs from the user.

S. No Actions Commands
1 Go To The Next/Previous Focusable Item (Link, Button, Input, Etc.) Tab / Shift + Tab
2 Next Link Control + Option + Command + L
3 Next Visited Link Control + Option + Command + V
4 Next Form Element Control + Option+ Command + J
5 Next List Control + Option + Command + X
6 Next Graphic Control + Option+ Command + G
7 Activate A Link Or Form Control Control + Option Enter (Or) Space Bar
8 Interact With (Go Into/Out Of) Objects (Like Iframes, Menus, Application Regions, Etc.) Control + Option + Shift + Down Arrow / Up Arrow

 

Table Navigation:
S. No Actions Commands
1 Next Table Control + Option + Command + T
2 Read Column Header Control + Option + C
3 Read Row From VO Cursor Location To End Of Row Control + Option + R
4 Read Column From VO Cursor Location To The Bottom Of Column Control + Option + R + C
5 Move Up Or Down In A Column Up Arrow Or Down Arrow
6 Move To The Left Or Right In A Row Left Arrow Or Right Arrow

iOS VoiceOver gestures

Apart from the way VoiceOver is controlled on these touch-enabled devices, it does provide a very uniform experience across the Apple ecosystem. So let’s take a look at the various gestures in the same categorized view as before.

  • Functional
  • Content Navigation
  • Reading Content
  • Interactive Element Navigation
  • Text Editing
  • Table Navigation

Apart from the gestures that you will be seeing in this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide, you will also have the option to enable typing feedback for VoiceOver to read out the words or characters that have been typed by Settings -> General -> VoiceOver -> Typing Feedback. Since VoiceOver changes the way gestures work on an iPad or iPhone, make sure to disable them in the Settings.

Functional:
S. No Action Command
1 Start Or Stop VoiceOver (When It Is Enabled) Triple-Press Home Button Or Side Button (IPhone X +)
2 Gesture Help 4-Finger Double-Tap
3 Split Tap Quick-Activation Select And Hold With One Finger, Tap With Another
4 Double-Press Button Triple-Tap
5 Next/Previous App 4-Finger Swipe Right/Left
6 Drag Mode Tap Twice And Hold
7 Toggle Screen Curtain On/Off Three-Finger Triple-Tap
8 Item Chooser: Two-Finger Triple-Tap
9 Choose Speech Setting Options Such As Speaking Rate, Voice, Pitch, Etc. VO + Command + Right/Left Arrow Key
10 Modify The Chosen Speech Setting VO + Command+ Up/Down Arrow Key
11 Open Rotor Rotate Two Fingers

 

Content Navigation
S. No Action Gesture
1 Go To The Top Of The Page Two-Finger Swipe Up
2 Navigate To The Bottom Of The Page Two-Finger Double-Tap One-Finger Tap
3 Go To The Next Heading Set Headings On Rotor And Swipe Down
4 Go To The Next Table Rotor, Swipe Down
5 Go To Previous (Heading, Table, Etc.) Swipe Up
6 Go Back, Close A Popup, Or Cancel The Last One. Two-Finger Scrub
7 Go To The First Item On The Page 4-Finger Tap On The Upper/Lower Half Of The Screen
8 Scroll (Vertically Or Horizontally) 3-Finger Swipe Up, Down, Left, Or Right
9 Go Back To One Link, List, Table, Landmark, Heading, Etc. Swipe Up

 

Reading Text:
S. No Action Command
1 Start/Stop Reading Two-Finger Tap
2 Start Reading Continuously From This Point On Two-Finger Swipe Down
3 Read The Entire Page Two-Finger Swipe Up
4 Read Next Line, Word, Character Rotor, Swipe Down
5 Read The Previous Line, Word, Character Rotor, Swipe Up
6 Read The Selected Paragraph Swipe Down – Two Fingers
7 Read The Selected Sentence Swipe Down – Two Fingers
8 Read The Selected Word Read The Selected Word
9 Read From Top To Current Location VO + B
10 Toggle Speech On/Off Three-Finger Double-Tap

 

Interactive Elements Navigation:
S. No Action Command
1 Go To The Next/Previous Focusable Item (Link, Button, Input, Etc.) Swipe Right
2 Next Link Rotor, Swipe Down
3 Next Visited Link VO + Command +V
4 Next Form Or Button Element VO + Command + J
5 Select And Deselect Checkboxes, Radio Buttons Double-Tap
6 Next Checkbox. Combo Box, Radio Button Rotor (Same Item Or Form Controls), Swipe Down
7 Open Combo Box Double-Tap
8 Hear Combo Box Options: Drag Finger Through The List/td>
9 Activate The Link Or Button Double-Tap
10 Next List Rotor, Swipe Down
11 Next Graphic Rotor, Swipe Right
12 Interact With (Go Into/Out Of) Objects (Like Iframes, Menus, Application Regions, Etc.) VO + Shift + Down/Up Arrow

 

Text Editing:
S. No Actions Gestures
1 Select/Deselect Text Pinch Out/In
2 Copy The Last Spoken Text To The Clipboard Three-Finger Quadruple-Tap
3 Change Case Three-Finger Swipe Up/Down*
4 Insert Space Two-Finger Swipe Right*
5 Backspace Two-Finger Swipe Left*

 

Table:
S. No Actions Command
1 Next Table Rotor, Swipe Down
2 Move Up In A Column Swipe Up
3 Move Down In A Column Swipe Down
4 Move To The Left In A Row Swipe Left
5 Move To The Right In A Row Swipe Right

 

Advantages of VoiceOver:

  • The layout and gestures of VoiceOver are universal across all devices making the shift from one device to another seamless.
  • The curtain mode enables users to turn off the screen when the screen reader is being used to enable a more private user experience.
  • Users will also be able to change the speech rate if they wish to speed things up.
  • Numerous voice options with different accent options such as UK, Ireland, Australia, and South Africa.
  • Users can also determine what information has to be read by the screen reader such as punctuation, emojis, hyperlinks, and so on.

Disadvantages of VoiceOver

  • VoiceOver will not read any content from Microsoft Office for Mac.
  • Likewise, it will also not read any content from Adobe Acrobat.

Conclusion:

So as stated earlier, knowing how to use VoiceOver across all Apple devices is very crucial for an accessibility tester. The categorized tables can serve as an effective VoiceOver keyboard shortcuts guide for macOS or as a VoiceOver gestures cheat sheet for iOS. So we hope this VoiceOver Quick Reference Guide improves your accessibility testing skills. Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter to stay up to date with such informative content.

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