How To Turn Off VoiceOver For Mac OS X

VoiceOver for Mac OS X is a very helpful assistive technology for blind Mac users – unlike screen readers for Windows, which cost hundreds of dollars, it’s built right into OS X. Unfortunately for sighted users, occasionally people turn in on without meaning to and the results can be confusing …

If your Mac won’t stop talking – reading what’s on-screen in a computer-generated voice – and you see a thick black line around everything and possibly also the black box or caption bar at the bottom of the screen like this:

System preferences pane showing VoiceOver graphics
VoiceOver example – note heavy black outline on the “General” icon and caption bar at bottom of screen

The good news is that turning VoiceOver on and off is generally really easy – just hold down the command key (⌘) and tap the F5 key.

It’s possible to disable this command-F5 shortcut, so if it doesn’t work you’ll need to follow these steps:

  1. Choose “System Preferences” from the Apple () menu.
  2. Click on the “Accessibility” icon in System Preferences, then the “VoiceOver” item in the list on the left.
  3. Uncheck the “Enable VoiceOver” box.

– Ricky

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70 thoughts on “How To Turn Off VoiceOver For Mac OS X”

  1. Thank you so much. Not my cat, I was trying to turn my contrast down but pushed pretty much every button at the same time.

  2. An alien used my computer last night while i was sleeping, and there were crop circles in my wheat field. He/it also left the cork out of my lunch, and screwed up my computer with voice over, which freaked me out. Thanks so much for this site. Dang those space cadets anyway.

  3. I’m beginning to believe that it may be linked to a covert cat conspiracy! I have noticed the cats trying to sit on the keyboard a lot lately and yesterday the voiceover!

  4. Thanks for this info. Like most everyone else here somehow my 5 year old imac started to talk endlessly and I had that black box around everything. I had to turn sound off because I could not even concentrate; so thank you for this help! Merry Christmas!

  5. Oh my gosh what a riot! My mac started its own commentary side business half way through typing my last uni assignment. Also got the black box around text. It was sooo distracting and hard to concentrate. It was giving me anxiety. I am so glad I found this post and got it to shut up!!
    Thank you.

  6. Thank You SOOOOO much! My kids were playing around on the computer and turned the voice on somehow and it was driving my nutty! 🙂

  7. Thank you. I accidentally placed a book on my keyboard and somehow the system was turned on. The directions on my MAC did not help me, but this did. I appreciate getting my computer back.

  8. my two year old starting typing multiple keys randomly and then my mac became possessed with a computer generated voice. Glad to have it back now. THANK YOU!

  9. Thank you for the simple fix! I tried almost every key combination on the keyboard to swap from screen to screen in a Citrix Application. (oh! …Just by the way, I did find the right combination)

  10. I wish I could claim it was my cat. I agree that the person who shared this solution is holy (-: all these comments made me smile and laugh out loud. You are all holy too! Thank you!!!

  11. Thank you so very much, my son hit my glass of water and I worried the keyboard was water logged but this voice activation came on. Thank you for helping me resolve this issue so easily

  12. my goodness, the same here 🙂 i have been crying out of laughter reading that everybody has been put into this situation because of their cats. here it is a three month old Bushi the kitten 😀

  13. THANK YOU!! My Toddler got a hold of my macbook and somehow turned on this feature and I couldn’t figure out how to stop it… now I have peace and quiet 🙂

  14. Thank you, Thank you. I followed your first instruction and managed to turn off the voice and the text border. The voice was driving me crazy. You’ve been marvellous!

  15. Yes!! I felt so happy and accomplished when I fixed this. when i dropped my keyboard, every button was clicked. I was so confused! i was so worried of how mad my dad would be at me.

  16. OMG a lot of people saying that their cats did it… well count me in!!!My kitten walked across the keyboard and this just started happening… wow they “must be a psychic or something” – @tarik

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