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AFBAmerican Foundation®
for the Blind

Expanding possibilities for people with vision loss

Operating Your iPhone or iPad with Gestures

closeup of hands touching a phone screen

We have already described a few of the basic navigation gestures you can use with VoiceOver. Here is a quick refresher:

  • Touch with one finger: VoiceOver identifies the text, link, or control located beneath your finger.
  • Double tap with one finger. Activates the last highlighted element. For example, if you perform a single touch and have identified the icon for the Mail app, double tapping will start the Mail app. Note that you do not have to perform the double tap on the exact screen location of the identified icon. Double-tapping will activate the option last identified by VoiceOver.
  • Swipe left or right with one finger: Moves one screen element—text clip, link, or control—to the left or right. When you reach the link or control you wish to activate, perform a double tap.

Here are several other essential VoiceOver gestures:

  • Swipe up with two fingers: VoiceOver speaks the entire screen.
  • Swipe down with two fingers: VoiceOver reads the entire document, e-mail, or webpage to the end, automatically scrolling the document as it reads.
  • Touch with two fingers: Silences VoiceOver instantly.
  • Swipe up or down with three fingers: Scrolls quickly up or down through a long e-mail, document, or webpage.

Let's put these gestures into action.

Example: Reading an E-Mail with VoiceOver

This example assumes you have an e-mail account enabled on your iOS device.

  1. Touch the main screen or swipe left or right until you hear VoiceOver say, "Mail."
  2. Perform a double tap to open the Mail app.
  3. After you hear the sound that alerts you that new mail has been downloaded, begin swiping right. This will read your e-mail subject lines, one per swipe.
  4. When you reach an e-mail you wish to read, double tap to open it.
  5. At this point you can either perform a two-finger swipe down to read the e-mail from the beginning or a two-finger swipe up to read the entire e-mail.
  6. If it's a long e-mail, a three-finger swipe up will advance you one screen at a time through the e-mail, a two-finger swipe down will move you back toward the beginning.
  7. Lightly touch two fingers to the screen at any time to stop speech.
  8. Close your e-mail by performing a two-finger scrub (place two fingers on the screen and quickly move them an inch or so from side to side, as though you were scrubbing the glass), which will go back one screen, closing the e-mail you were reading.

There are many more gestures in the VoiceOver command set, including the VoiceOver rotor, to which the next section is devoted. To learn more about iOS gesture commands for VoiceOver, see Getting Help with iOS Accessibility.

Another great way to learn VoiceOver gestures is by selecting VoiceOver Practice in the VoiceOver settings area of the Accessibility Settings button. Your iPhone or iPad will now speak the function of any gesture you perform. When you're finished, press the Home button once to end your practice session.

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