Gestures and Settings.

Apple is seen as one of the best company’s out there,especially for anyone with a disability.
Even though the products themselves are pricey, they are cost effective if you use all of it’s features.
The great thing about Apple products from a blind persons’ prospective is that since Apple released the iPhone 3GS it has built in software called VoiceOver. This is a screen reading software that gives the user feedback in an auditory format. Since that iPhone was released Apple has incorporated VoiceOver into every new product they build.

As an Apple lover I thought I would explain the tips and tricks I use on a daily basis, and why it helps keep my phone usage as smooth as possible for a blind person.

I’m going to walk you through some useful tips and tricks (also known as gestures and settings that the iPhone has)
Things I use on a daily basis, and hope that if you are an Apple user and do not know them already, they may be of some use to you!

However this is not a comprehensive guide for absolute beginners, so at the end of this article I will leave a few references for you.

For we begin, iPads are essentially larger versions of the iPhone, the only differences they cannot make calls to landlines on mobiles. Every function/gesture I list below can be used on an iPad.


The Flick.

The flick is a gesture making it quick for you to navigate around the screen at a faster pace.
*Left to right is forward
*Right to left is back
This can be done quite quickly using your thumb and it’s best to flick about an inch.


1 finger Gestures.

1 finger double tap.
Activates the button, opens and app.

If you double tap the time (situated at the very top middle of the screen) it will take you to the top of the page.
This means you don’t have to spend time scrolling to get to the top of a document or page.

2 Finger Gestures.

2 Finger double tap.

Using 2 fingers (index and middle would probably be best) will start/ stop an action, for example; play or pause music in your iTunes library.

The same gesture can be used to answer or end a call.
No need to faff around trying to slide your finger or find the end call button.

On Facebook this gesture can be used to select a drop down menu, 2 finger double tapping when you are on a Facebook friends status allows you to interact with it much quicker.
Use the flick gesture to scroll through the options; Like, Comment, Share, Cancel.

On Twitter it allows you to create your own shortcut, I have chosen my shortcut as creating a new tweet.
2 finger swipe down

If you swipe down the page from the top of the screen, it will read the entire content of what is on the screen.
If you are part way through reading something, you can do the same gesture lower down on the screen, and it will read everything from the word/ line you were on.
It will read continuously until you stop it.

2 finger single tap pauses VoiceOver,.
If you tap the screen again with 2 fingers it will continue reading where it was paused at.

2 Finger Scrub
If you scrub the screen quite quickly, it will perform the action of going back. For example, if you are on a webpage instead of scrolling to find the back button, scrubbing the screen will take you back to the previous page.
2 finger press and hold:
Examples, you have just taken a photograph of you and your friend. By doing this action; listening to the sound announcing the action has been performed. You can label your photograph.
This is useful if you have very limited or no vision, because it keeps your label for you.
Enabling you to have a written description of the photo.


3 Finger Gestures.

3 finger single tap
Speaks the page number you are on

3 finger double tap turns speech on and off, it will mute VoiceOver.

3 finger triple tap.
Turns the screen curtain on and off. This gives you more privacy from nosey people staring at your screen, and slightly reduces battery wastage.


4 Finger Gestures

4 finger single tap.
Moves to the first element. AKA the top of the screen.
Make sure your fingers are placed quite high on the screen.
For example this would be the back button if you are in the Mail app.
Doing this same gesture at the bottom of the screen moves to the last element on the page.

4 finger double tap
Starts help; this means you can practice gestures and it will tell you what the command is, without making the phone do anything you don’t want it to.
For example to flick your thumb to the right it would announce; move to next item.



Settings is essentially the backbone of the phone, it’s where you go when you want to add/ change anything. For this section we will be focusing on controls/ features that can make your user experience much smoother.
Settings > General

The first area I want to explain is the keyboard.


You can add multiple keyboards, such as language, for those who are multilingual.
Or in my case adding the emoji keyboard, great for when you want to lighten the text up a bit.

But most importantly,it’s where you find text replacement.

Text Replacement

Text replacement is a phrase or word you can add, and from there create your own personalised shortcut.
For example, I use the letters Sw as a shortcut to my email address;
As I type my email address frequently it quickens my typing/ texting.
You can create yours to do anything you want.

Settings > General > Accessibility


I am going to introduce 2 separate features.
*Shake to undo
*Accessibility shortcut

Shake to undo

Pretty self explanatory but just in case… Make sure it is enabled.

So you have written a text and you want to delete the last word.
Instead of pressing backspace shake the phone for a second or 2 and an option to undo typing will appear. Double tap to select.

Similarly, if you have a piece of text you have just copied but have pasted it in the wrong place, shake the phone and it will come up with the option to undo what you have pasted.
It does also give you a cancel option, encase you shook the phone by mistake.

Accessibility Shortcut.

Once enabled this is a really brilliant feature.
It works by clicking the home button 3 times, and it will perform a specific action, you can choose from 6 different options. Personally I have chosen VoiceOver as mine.
This means whenever I press the home button 3 times consecutively it will turn VoiceOver on and off for me, so I don’t have to go to
Settings> General > Accessibility > Accessibility Shortcut anytime I need sighted assistance.

Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver

This is where you can configure your VoiceOver speech settings.
Speech, volume, rate, intonation etc.
But I want to focus on 1 main area; Rota.


The Rota.

A wonderful tool for blind and visually impaired people.
You can customise it to your specific needs/wants.
For example I use; headings, edit, and text selection.

How it works.

Once it is enabled you put your finger and thumb on the screen and rotate them clockwise, as if you are turning a dial.
By doing this you can navigate which rota setting you are going to use.
Keep turning the dial so-to-speak to find your chosen rota command.
When you have selected the action you want the rota to perform. You flick down to perform the command.
it is a much faster way of scrolling or interacting with what is on the screen.
Let’s say you are on Safari and Googled something. You can use the headings rota setting to move quickly through each search.
To engage the headings you need to flick down with one finger (or thumb).
Flick down to go to the next item, and flick up to go to the previous item.

General Navigation.

A good time when the rota is useful is when you are reading a long text, you can engage the rota to read the text by character, word or line.

Or, you have written a text and the 5th word is spelt wrong, instead of deleting the entire text you can set the rota to Words and by flicking up it will go backwards and read each word, If you want to delete the word you must make sure that the cursor is at the end of the word.
Another fantastic example of the rota is the Edit feature.

You are on a text message you have just written, and you want to copy it.
You can flick up or down to choose how you would like to copy it. Copy, cut, paste, select, select all.
Double tap with one finger to perform the command.

Text Selection

This is almost exactly the same as the edit feature, but with a slight twist.
You are on the internet and want to copy a specific line that is halfway down the page, to select it all and delete up to the specific line would take a very long time.
Once you have flicked up or down choosing either; character, word, line, page or select all. You then flick to the right until you have selected the specific text.
From there you rotate the rota until you get to the setting that says edit..
Flick down until you hear the option copy., double tap with 1 finger to select.
Go to your designated place and flick up/ down until you hear paste.
Double tap the screen with one finger. Your item will have pasted.

Settings > General > Accessibility > VoiceOver >

Typing Style

Typing Style.
There are 3 options you have when texting/typing.
*Standard Typing
*Touch Typing
*Split Typing
Standard Typing
This is where you find the letter on the keyboard hear it being announced and once you are happy it is the right letter you double tap to select it.
It is good for beginners using the iPhone for the first time.

Touch Typing.

This is where you only have to press the letter with your thumb and when you lift it off the letter is selected.
This is good for the iPhone users who know the QWERTY layout well, it is also a lot quicker for those that text quicker.

Split Typing.

This is where you put your thumb on a letter, and by using another finger (usually on the other hand) and further up the screen you can select a letter with one finger, and activate it with another.
This is for those who like to keep their thumb constantly on the screen to confirm which letter their finger is on.
Good for transitioning to touch typing, if you so wish.



Dictation is not for blind users specifically, but it’s good if you are about to write a long text/ email and you are not wanting it to take a long time.
You can say “full stop” “new line” “brackets” “colon” and lots o

f other punctuation.

It only works if you have internet connection and you are in a reasonably quiet place.



Again Siri is not specifically for blind people, but it’s great for speeding things up.
Ask Siri to:
Call Home
Set an alarm/ timer
Write a Facebook status
Play music
Set reminder
Open any app

Essentially the list is endless.
However, you do need to have internet connection, be in a relatively quiet area and speak smoothly.
Basically Siri hates accents 😉

One great thing about Siri is that you can correct Siri’s pronunciation.
Say: “That’s not how you say ***”
Siri will then ask you for the correct pronunciation!

And that Ladies and Gentlemen are the gestures and settings I use on a daily basis to speed up my interaction with my iPhone, as well as making things smoother for myself.

I really hope you found this useful. As I said earlier, this is not the comprehensive list of everything the iPhone can do for people with disabilities.
But if you do have a handy tip/ trick you’d like to add, please leave a comment below 🙂

Much love,
Sassy x

4 comments on “VoiceOver iPhone Tips”

  1. How good that Apple incorporate these features into their products I can imagine that it could have been done as an app that they could make money off the back of. It also makes me realise how much my phone and tablet can do that I’m completely unaware of
    Off to have a play now !!!


  2. Hello! Thank you for linking up to the #DreamTeam. I had no idea that all these were possible with the iphone. My husband swears by suri, but I have yet to really get into it. Apparently there are quite a few secret words that throw out funny responses from suri. X

    • Hi Thanks for the tips – just a clarification – its a Rotor, not Rota (named for the rotary part of a machine). Sometimes it’s hard to tell what Siri is saying 🙂

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