VoiceOver is the name of the amazing text-to-speech feature in iOS and Mac OS X that allows those with visual impairments to use their Apple devices right out of the box, without needing help from a sighted person. On the iPhone or iPad, it empowers those with a visual disability to become more independent and function on a day to day basis in a world that isn’t really set up for them.
As an individual without a visual impairment (aside from a slight nearsightedness), I use VoiceOver to have my iPhone read to me when I’m in the car but need to catch up on email or want to hear what folks are doing on Twitter. Here’s how to set that up.
First, tap into your Settings app. Tap General, and the scroll down a bit to Accessibility. Tap that, and you’ll go to the main preferences for all types of accessibility options built right in to iOS. Before tapping VoiceOver, scroll down a bit and tap on Triple-click Home. Not select VoiceOver with a tap, and then hit the backward Accessibility arrow to go back to the main preferences page. Now, whenever you triple-click the Home button on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, you’ll toggle VoiceOver on or off. You can slow VoiceOver down or speed it up with the slider; simply swipe it to the left, toward the turtle to slow it down, or to the rabbit on the right to speed it up.
Now, tap on the VoiceOver button in the main Accessibility preference page, then toggle VoiceOver to ON. When you turn VoiceOver on for the first time, iOS will let you know that there are different gestures to use while VoiceOver is enabled. Those are listed just below the ON/OFF toggle switch there. To select any item on the screen, tap it once. Then, to activate the selected item, tap anywhere on the screen twice. To scroll, simply swipe with three fingers.
Now, with VoiceOver enabled, click your Home button and go to your Twitter app. Tap the icon once to select it (you’ll see a thin black line around the icon you selected), and then tap your screen twice to open it. To start reading from the top, simply swipe up from the bottom of your screen with two fingers. To stop the reading, tap twice with two fingers.
VoiceOver works with a variety of apps in iOS, but be aware that not all apps will support it fully. Make sure you try it out before you count on it to work in a critical situation.