Mac Lesson 1: Getting Ready

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Welcome to the VoiceOver for Mac Course.

This is the place to learn how to use your Mac with the VoiceOver screen reader.

VoiceOver is the screen reader that comes included on all Apple Mac’s. While VoiceOver is also available on iOS devices, its use is covered in the iOS VoiceOver Course, click the link above to go to that webpage.

These pages were written with the assumption that you take this course on your Mac computer with the VoiceOver screen reader turned on, instructions for turning on VoiceOver are found below.

The Basic VoiceOver for Mac course is covered in the first 11 lessons, but you should complete all of the lessons that are relevant to your needs. You can always come back later and complete lessons that aren't relevant for you right now.

For example, come back and explore the VoiceOver Braille Support pages if you start using a refreshable braille display with your computer.

Intended Audience

This course was created for people who need to learn to use the VoiceOver screen reader on a Mac computer. This includes, but is not limited to, individuals with a visual impairment, Teachers of the Visually Impaired, and the parents and friends of individuals with a visual impairment.

Materials Needed

This course requires an Apple Mac computer with an internal keyboard such as on an MacBook Air, or an external keyboard connected to a Mac Desktop computer such as an iMac or Mac Mini.

Course Objectives

The objective of this course is to teach the use of the VoiceOver screen reader on a Mac computer.

What is VoiceOver?

VoiceOver is the screen reader that comes included on all Apple Mac computers. While VoiceOver is also available on iOS devices, its use is covered in the iOS VoiceOver Course, click the link above to go to that page.

VoiceOver is a screen reader which can read the items on your screen, however it needs to be turned on first.

There are three ways to start VoiceOver on a Mac

Please follow one of the instructions below. (If you are unable to start VoiceOver, you may need to seek assistance.)

Activate VoiceOver with the SIRI assistant:

  • Press and hold the Command + Spacebar. (The Command key is the key directly to the Left or Right of the Spacebar.)
  • You will hear the SIRI audio tone which lets you know that SIRI is listening.
  • Then tell SIRI to “Start VoiceOver”.

Activate VoiceOver with the Accessibility Shortcut

  • Turn on the Accessibility Shortcut found at: System Settings /Accessibility /Shortcut /VoiceOver.
  • Start VoiceOver by Triple Clicking the Power Button in the top right corner of the keyboard or by pressing the Command + f5 key, or the FN + Command + f5 key.

Activate VoiceOver in the Settings App

  • Open the Settings App
  • Open the Accessibility Menu
  • Open the VoiceOver Menu
  • Turn VoiceOver On

The VoiceOver Cursor

With VoiceOver turned on, screen elements will be read to you as you move the VoiceOver (VO) Cursor using keyboard commands.

Although you are advised to finish this basic course first, optional navigation methods are covered in the lessons on QuickNav, the Trackpad Commander, the NumPad Commander, and the VoiceOver with a Braille Display page.

The screen element that is in the VO cursor could be a letter in a word, or the Mail App toolbar which holds a set of controls to work with your email messages.

As you move the VO cursor, VoiceOver also adds information such as what type of screen element you are on, or whether or not you can edit the text field in the VO cursor.

The VoiceOver modifier, or the VO Keys as we will call them from now on, are the keys that tell VoiceOver that the next command is intended for VoiceOver to carry out. The VoiceOver modifier can be either the Control and Option keys or the Caps Lock key by itself.

You can change the VO key by opening the VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO + F8 with VoiceOver on, then go to General/Keys to use as the VoiceOver modifier and make a selection.

To move the VO cursor to the right, press the VO key and the Right Arrow key; to move the cursor to the left, press the VO key and the Left Arrow. Try that out now, come back here when you are done.

In this course, the commands to move the VO cursor will be written in the form of VO + Left to move the cursor to the left, and VO + Right to move the cursor to the right.

Activating Screen Elements

You can click an element in the VoiceOver cursor, such as a button or link, by using the VO + Space command.

Lets try it out, the next elements are radio buttons that let you choose if you like a certain flavor of ice cream.

Radio buttons are either on or off, even if you have 10 radio buttons, only one can be selected at a time, move to the radio buttons and make your choice by pressing the VO + Space keys.

Choose your favorite Ice Cream?

These are Radio Buttons, you can only choose one! Remember, press the VO + Space keys to make your selection.

Yes please, I like that ice cream too! That wasn't too hard was it? Keep moving right and explore the Mac Lesson List to hear what is ahead for you in this course.

When you are done, find the link to Lesson 1- The Keyboard and click it.

Mac VoiceOver Lesson List

Lesson 1, Getting Ready

Lesson 2, The Keyboard

Lesson 3, The Desktop

Lesson 4, The Dock

Lesson 5, The Menu Bar

Lesson 6, The Finder

Lesson 7, The Notification Center

Lesson 8, Mission Control

Lesson 9, SIRI

Lesson 10, The VoiceOver Rotor

Lesson 11, Reading and Editing Text

Lesson 12, Quick Nav

Lesson 13, Form Controls

Lesson 14, VoiceOver Utility

Lesson 15, The Keyboard Commander

Lesson 16, The Trackpad Commander

Lesson 17, The NumPad Commander

Lesson 18, The Refreshable Braille Display

When in doubt, start at the beginning, click the Keyboard link.

Lesson 2, The Keyboard Lesson