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See for Yourself


German version of this text

I frequently encounter People who are either blown away or simply cannot believe that I use an iPhone. Admittedly, using a touch screen while "flying blind," as it were is a rather uncommon occurrence. For those who own an iPhone and would like to discover how it can be operated strictly acoustically, a short "How-To" manual is provided below. I heartily recommend that programmers who write Apps for the iPhone or iPad view the following as a Must Read.

Very important before starting!

You need to understand that when VoiceOver has been activated, gestures have to be performed differently than in the customary way. This is necessary because blind people need to be able to "explore" the screen with their fingers. More precisely, this means that although you will be able to easily launch VoiceOver, you may not be able to turn it back off because the way your device is operated, once VoiceOver has been launched is different than what you are used to. This is most definitely something we wish to avoid.


Description: The screenshot in the text shows Triple-click Home is set to VoiceOver.

Go to the Settings menu and from there, go to "General." The second-to-last entry is "Accessibility," and this is the entry we are looking for. The last entry on the Accessibility screen is "Triple-click Home." If you have assigned a different function to this entry, please change it to "Toggle VoiceOver," as shown in the screenshot. Once you have done this, you can exit this screen, and you will once again be on the "Accessibility" screen. Voila, your ears are now your eyes, and your fingers have morphed into the mouse! Now, you're good to go because whenever you need to turn VoiceOver on or off, all you need to do is click the Home button three times to either launch or dismiss VoiceOver. Give it a try. A Triple-click should cause your unit to say: "VoiceOver on." Triple-clicking a second time will cause your iPhone or iPad to say: "VoiceOver off." If this doesn't work, check your settings one more time and make sure that your iPhone's volume is turned up.

Warm-Up- "Cheating" Allowed

If everything worked, you're almost ready to go. However, you should be familiar with at least a couple of gestures from the "VoiceOver arsenal in order to get the right perspective. Although I will introduce you to the most important gestures here, you can try out and practice any conceivable gesture that comes to mind to your heart's content in the Accessibility/VoiceOver menu of your iPhone. Turn VoiceOver on by triple-clicking the Home button. Now, when you touch an element on the screen, it will be spoken. You will also hear a click that is hardly noticeable. (Please note: tones need to be turned on) and the item that was touched will be visually highlighted. If you touch the screen in another spot, this element will be highlighted. If there is no element at the spot you touched, you will hear a notification tone that can clearly be differentiated from other tones that the device emits. Just give it a try!

If you would rather, you can simply and slowly just move your finger along the screen, and you will hear a description of whatever your finger happens to be touching. If a clickable element is selected, simply double-tap on any portion of the screen with one finger. to activate it. Remember, you don't need to be anywhere near the selected element when you double-tap the screen. Once you have double-tapped, the selected item will be launched. With this gesture, you can also return to the previous menu if the proper icon has focus. All of this can be accomplished without using your eyes.

Thus far, you have probably relied on your eyes. However, other than just exploring the screen by touching it, something that is painstaking and sometimes time-consuming if the App is complex, a more efficient method can be employed. For this reason, we will now learn about the "Swipe Gesture." This consists of rapidly moving your finger from left to right to move forwards through the screen, one element at a time. Conversely, swiping from right to left moves backwards through the screen, one element at a time. Give it a go, but preferably start out with an App with which you are very familiar and use frequently, all the while listening to what your device is saying. Whatever is being voiced also has focus. If the element in question can be activated, this is accomplished by simply double-tapping the screen with one finger. It should be noted that you can double-tap anywhere you want on the screen. The element that previously had focus will be activated.

The Edge of the Screen

You have no doubt noticed that when you swipe from element to element, that the voice continues to speak, even after the visual presentation is ended. When VoiceOver is turned on, the screen simply continues to be scrolled. Blind people have no way of knowing where visual elements end.

In addition to the swipe gesture previously described, VoiceOver also provides a gesture for moving either forward or backward, a screen at a time. By moving through screens, an element at a time, the swipe gesture ensures that every single element is found and voiced, provided the programmer knows how to make his or her Apps accessible.

"Hyperlink" and "Button"

Now that you have the tools at hand as well as the Apps that come pre-installed on every iPhone, its time to put you and your iPhone through your paces. Sooner or later, you will no doubt encounter elements where VoiceOver doesn't say anything other than "Button" or "Hyperlink."In such situations, you are dealing with unlabelled elements whose meaning must first be determined. The same also holds true for graphical elements. In these situations, the programmer regretably forgot to provide a meaningful label even though such might be readily visible on the screen, thus rendering the use of VoiceOver difficult or, in some instances, even impossible.

There is a simple remedy. How this is accomplished is, of course, revealed on the Net:
Matt Legend Gemmell: Accessibility for iPhone and iPad apps

Fortune Favors the Brave

If, despite your best intentions, you can't resist taking a peak at the screen, but would still like to "fly blind," here's a little secret: VoiceOver provides a gesture for turning a "Screen Curtain" on or off. Tap the screen three times with three fingers, and your screen will darken. But don't worry! a second Three-Finger Triple-Tap will once again restore your screen to its original brightness.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you found this small excursion into the acoustic world of VoiceOver arduous, and if you discovered that you got lost with speech alone, then just remember that everythingh in life is merely a matter of training. Before a baby can learn to walk, it must first learn to crawl. Nevertheless, you may at least now believe my assertion that it is possible to use a touch screen with the screen reader that comes standard with every iPhone.

If You have remarks or questions, please feel freee to e-mail: to: info at