VoiceOver for iOS is a very helpful assistive technology for blind iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users. Unlike screen readers for many other situations, which cost hundreds of dollars, it’s built right into iOS. Unfortunately for sighted users, occasionally people turn in on without meaning to and the results can be confusing …
It’s probably VoiceOver if your iDevice won’t stop reading what’s on-screen in a computer-generated background voice, and you see a black line around what you touch like this:
The good news is that turning VoiceOver on and off isn’t too hard! There are a few different ways though, so read on until you find one that will work for your situation.
Shortcut: The Home Button
It may or may not be set up for your device, but the first thing to try is to triple-click your home button. This has to be done quite fast so you may need to try it several times before it’s recognised – I always have a bit of trouble with it.
If you hear “VoiceOver off” then you’ve done it!
If this does work, be aware that the triple-click works to turn VoiceOver on as well as off. To disable it, check Settings > General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut and uncheck everything there – that will stop VoiceOver from being triple-clicked on next time.
Shortcut 2: Use Siri
Hold down your home button until Siri is triggered, then say “Turn off VoiceOver” or similar.
If Siri says “OK, I turned off VoiceOver” then you’re all set.
Turning Off VoiceOver With iTunes
If you have a computer running iTunes handy that’s definitely the easiest way to turn off VoiceOver – plug in your device and click on “Configure Accessibility…” at the bottom of the device pane in iTunes:
You should now see the accessibility configuration window – make sure that “Neither” is selected for seeing, as shown here:
Then click “OK” to close the accessibility pane and synchronise your device as normal.
Once the synchronisation has finished, your device will have VoiceOver switched off.
Turning Off VoiceOver From Your Device
If you don’t have a computer running iTunes handy, you’ll have to turn off VoiceOver by navigating through the device to find it. This isn’t nearly as hard as it sounds, luckily!
There are only a few things you need to know about VoiceOver, really:
- You can ignore everything it VoiceOver says while doing this – no need to listen to the voice at all.
- Your ‘Home’ button will still work normally, so use that to get back to somewhere you recognise if you get stuck or go into the wrong thing.
- When you would normally tap or touch anything to open it, do just the same: you need to tap it once – you’ll see the black box surround the thing you want – and the double tap to activate it.
- If you need to scroll, use three fingers side by side instead of just one. Your scrolling will go in very small increments but it will work.
You need to get to Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver and switch the toggle to “off” to turn off VoiceOver.
I’ll walk you through the exact sequence of movements you’ll need to do that starting right from your locked iPhone, following the rules above:
Turn the device on. Tap the ‘swipe to unlock’ bar and then double tap the same spot to unlock your phone:
If you have a passcode, single then double-tap each number or letter in turn. Your phone should now be unlocked.
If you aren’t already on your home screen, press your home button until you get back there.
If you need to go to a second page, for example if your Settings app isn’t on your first home screen page, use three fingers to swipe towards the left instead of just one like you would normally use. Find the right page now.
If your Settings app is in a folder, open the folder by tapping once on it, then double tapping.
Open the Settings app also by touching it once, then double tapping.
Scroll down using three fingers until you can see the “General” heading, then open that by touching and then double tapping it.
Open the “Accessibility” heading by again touching and then double tapping it.
Touch the VoiceOver heading and then double tap to open.
Your screen should now look like this:
Tap the line near the top which says “VoiceOver” and has the toggle switch, then double-tap it to toggle the setting to the off position.
You’ve done it, VoiceOver should now be off. Give yourself a pat on the back and go have a coffee to celebrate!