VoiceOver is a type of screen reader built into Apple computer operating systems (OS). It works with Macintosh programs such as Finder, Safari, Mail and TextEdit. In the past people needing a screen reader had been more or less forced to use Windows because of the lack screen readers for the Mac, but now it's built right into the OS.
Apple products typically work the same way for all users including screen reader users. For instance the same gestures that work on an iPhone and iPad work on Mac computers, by using the track pad for navigation. Users don't need to memorize a long list of keyboard commands. This is great for people who have low vision or who are blind.
In the following video Tommy Edison, blind since birth, demonstrates how he uses VoiceOver on a MacBook Pro to send an email. A transcript of the Video: "How A Blind Person Uses A Computer" is available.
Barriers for Screen Reader Users
Something to be aware of is that screen readers such as VoiceOver don't magically make websites and applications accessible. Web developers, designers and content authors need to take care in their work to allow screen readers users to perceive and understand content as well as operate controls in an equivalent manner to that of individuals who do not have disabilities. The following are among the top obstacles to a person using the Web with a screen reader:
- The presence of inaccessible Flash content
- CAPTCHA - images presenting text used to verify that you are a human user
- Links or buttons that do not make sense
- Images with missing or improper descriptions (alt text)
- Screens or parts of screens that change unexpectedly
- Complex or difficult forms
- Lack of keyboard accessibility
- Missing or improper headings
- Too many links or navigation items
- Complex data tables
- Inaccessible or missing search functionality
- Lack of "skip to main content" or "skip navigation"
Source: WebAIM Screen Reader Survey 4
- Apple's accessibility VoiceOver page
- VoiceOver Commands and Gestures
- VO Starter App - Offers the blind and visually impaired iOS users VoiceOver training
- University of Minnesota Accessibility Resource
- UMD Disability Resources Assistive Technology
- UMD Library - Services for Patrons with Disabilities
- Web Design References: Accessibility