Zoom In & Zoom Out

Users of iPad and iPhone who are partially sighted or have very low vision find it hard to read small print on their devices particularly if they are not using Voiceover. One of the Apple accessibility features which can be very useful for such users is Zoom. You must be wondering why do you need Zoom function when you can do it with the simple two finger pinch. There are two reasons for that, first two finger pinch feature does not work with Voiceover and secondly even if you are not using VO, it does not work in all applications. For example if you are in settings you cannot zoom in with the pinch gesture, similarly if you are on the home page of your device and you are unable to read the icon titles pinch gesture will not work for you. In such situations Zoom is extremely helpful. Low vision users can use a combination of VO and Zoom to enhance their ability to fully utilize their devices.

Let`s first find out how can we activate Zoom. Go to Settings>General>Accessibility>Zoom, turn on Zoom and close settings. Once Zoom is activated, you need to learn three gestures to use this feature.

  • Use three finger double tap to zoom in and zoom out. On the screen wherever you tap twice with three fingers that area of the screen will magnify. If you repeat the same gesture it will go back to its normal size.
  • When you zoom in the screen becomes large and all the items on the screen may not be visible. In order to view the whole screen you need to put three fingers on the screen and then drag in different directions as needed.
  • The third gesture enables you to set the zoom or magnification level. This is how it works, double tap the screen with three fingers and hold, do not lift your fingers, now if you move your fingers up or down the magnification level changes accordingly, choose a level which is best for you. In settings you can select maximum level of magnification

. Click here to view a demo of zoom gestures in a YouTube video clip.

Few words of caution. When you turn on Zoom, some VO gestures using three fingers will change. First, three finger double tap gesture, which is used to turn on/off speech will change to triple tap with three fingers. Secondly, triple tap with three fingers, which is normally used to turn on/off screen curtain will change to four taps with three fingers. This is not an issue for non VO users.

Sometimes Zoom has a conflict with some apps, if you experience any problem just turn Zoom off and see if things get better.

Try this very useful accessibility feature and let me know if you have any questions.

By Azhar Karim

Typing Made Easier On Apple iDevices

There are many different ways to input text on an Apple iDevice. You can type by using a built-in keyboard, use external bluetooth keyboard or use the dictation option. If you choose to use a keyboard there is a feature that makes typing of frequently used words or phrases much simpler and faster. This is the option of using keyboard shortcuts, which allows you to assign two or more keys to type any short text of your choice. For example, instead of typing – many happy returns of the day, you can simply type in MHR and the whole text will be entered automatically. You can save this shortcut and when ever you have to send a birthday greeting just use the shortcut in your emails or text messages. You can do the same for your email address, phone numbers, home address or for anything that you may need to type frequently.

Let us see how shortcuts work. In order to set up and save a shortcut go to Settings>General>Keyboard>Shortcuts. On the top right hand corner you will find the Add (+) button, if you are a Voiceover user find this button by single finger right flick and then double tap to go to the next screen, otherwise use simple touch to move on. On the next screen you will find two text editing spaces – Phrase and Shortcut, as shown in the image below. In the text box in front of Phrase you will enter the word or phrase for which you want to save a shortcut, in the second text box you will type the keyboard shortcut that you want to use. In the end use the Save button on the top right hand corner of the screen to save your shortcut.


As an example, say you find it hard to enter your email repeatedly in various online forms or log in areas, this option gives you the choice to select two or three letters on your keyboard as a shortcut to type your email whenever needed. In order to do that you will enter your email address as the phrase and in the shortcut space type letters of your choice. Save this shortcut and the next time when you have to type your email things will become much simpler, just enter the shortcut and your job will be done.

A very cool feature about shortcuts is that when you create a shortcut on one of your iDevices it is automatically synced to all your other devices, so it saves you from the hassle of creating new shortcuts on each device.

Here are few tips to choose a shortcut.

  1. A shortcut must have at least two letters.
  2. Do not use shortcuts that resemble regular words in a language because it will disturb your typing and certain phrases will pop up when you do not need them. For example, if for your home address you choose HOM as a shortcut, then in your regular typing whenever you will type these three letters your home address will pop up. Therefore, it is good idea to use unusual combination of letters as shortcuts. Say for home address you may use HM.
  3. Do not use vowels in your shortcuts for the same reason as explained above.
  4. Use shortcuts that are easy to remember and give you some clue about the phrase. For instance, HB for Happy Birthday, CLL for your cell number WRK for work number and so on.

Please send me a message if you have any questions.

By Azhar Karim

iOS 7 – What is New

 Apple launched its new iOS 7 software in September, which changed many things for low vision users. Before I cover any other topics regarding VoiceOver, I guess it would be a good idea to share some information about the new operating system and what good and bad things it brings with it.

 Initially most of the low vision users of Apple iDevices, including myself,  were not very thrilled with the accessibility features of iOS 7. In fact many of us were very much frustrated and wondered how could developers of this new version go so wrong and totally ignored the needs of low vision users. However, after getting familiar with the new working environment we feel that there are some very good new additions made for all users and we need to get used to these features. Having said that, there are some serious issues for low vision users,  which mainly relate to the appearance and color schemes used in the new version. Apple still needs to look into these issues and must try to fix them. Some of the glitches have already been fixed in the last two updates.

 Let us look at some of the positive changes introduced by iOS7.

 First and foremost the location of Accessibility button in Settings has been changed a now you can find it among the top few items under General just after Text Size. This is a good move because if you remember before it was listed almost towards the end of items in General, which was at times hard to find for new users.

 Now you can unlock your iDevice with a simple three finger flick to the right and there is no need to look for the slider at the bottom of the screen, although that option is still there. Sometimes this three finger flick does not work, the right method is to first touch the screen and then flick.

 .VoiceOver practice is now available on the home screen and you do not need to go to Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver. It is still available at the old location but you can now activate it right on your home screen and practice VO gestures right there. Just double tap the home screen with four fingers to turn on practice session, you will hear “starting help.” Use the same gesture to turn it off.

 App Switcher has changed significantly with the new application. Before you could open App Switcher with a double click of your Home button and you had to double tap and hold on each app to close it. Now all of this has changed. You can still open App Switcher with double click of Home button, but in addition you can also use four finger swipe up. When App Switcher is on all the active apps will appear on the home screen. You can switch from one app to the other by a three finger swipe left or right. To close an app swipe up with three fingers,  you can also use one finger flick on the app and follow the options. To turn off App Switcher click the Home button or use two finger scrub gesture (scrub the screen with two fingers as if you are writing the letter ‘Z’. Scrub gesture works like Escape on a computer keyboard). Many people think that App Switcher is used only to close the active apps running in the background, but it can also be used to switch between apps if you wish to use more than one apps simultaneously. However, a simpler way of performing the same function is to use the multitasking gesture of four finger swipe left/right.

A new Control Center has been added in the new software, which provides you with quick access to some functions without having to go to settings or relevant apps. This makes the use of your device much easier and faster.  Some of the Control Center buttons are listed below, you can explore additional options yourself.


  • Airplane mode
  • Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth
  • Do not disturb
  • Lock orientation
  • Brightness

 In order to access Control Center touch the space bar on the top of the screen and then swipe up with three fingers anywhere on the screen, a panel will appear at the bottom of the screen. To close click the Home button.

A very exciting and useful addition for VoiceOver users is the Handwriting mode. In my last post I shared with you different methods of typing text. Now instead of using a keyboard you can simply write with your finger on the screen and the characters will be typed as regular text. I will later explain how you can activate handwriting mode and how it works. This feature also helps you enter your pass code and search apps.

 Spotlight search now opens with four finger swipe down instead of one click on the Home button. I encourage you to use spotlight search more frequently as it is a much faster and more convenient way of reaching the desired function on your device. For instance, if you want to check the phone number of one of your contacts, you don’t need to open the contacts app and then search, you can simply type the first few letters of the contact’s name in spotlight search and it will immediately appear  in the list below.

Under VO settings you can find the option of Large Cursor. When this is turned on the VO cursor which focuses the active items becomes large and bold and much easier to follow. This is very helpful for low vision users who want to visually follow the VO actions.

By Azhar Karim

Talking to your Loved Ones

Talking to your Loved Ones

Millions of people around the world use iPhone every day to connect with their families, friends and business contacts. These callers include a huge number of visually challenged people as well, who can use the iPhone’s features as effectively as anyone else; in fact even more effectively in some cases. In this session I will try to explain how can you make phone calls while using your iPhone with VoiceOver. With a little practice you will be able to receive and make calls, and will also be able to use other tools such as favorites and contacts.

The Phone App

The phone app is usually located at the bottom left corner of your phone, but it can be moved to any other location just like other apps. When you open this app by double tapping you will find five tabs at the bottom, each performing a different function. 



These five tabs are labeled as below:

  1. Favorites
  2. Recents
  3. Contacts
  4. Keypad
  5. Voice Mail

When you touch one of these items, you will hear the title of the item plus what number of tab it is. For example, when you touch the first tab it will say “Favorites, tab 1 of 5,” “Keypad tab 4 of 5.” When you open the app it will take you to the tab where you left it last time, and when you touch the tab, it will also tell you which one is selected, so that you know exactly where you are.

Receiving Calls

When a call comes in, VO announces the name or number of the caller. Name will be announced only if the caller is added, with his/her name in your contact list, otherwise only the number will be announced. VO will tell you the caller’s name/number only once, if you miss that, touch the upper middle part of the screen and you will be able to hear it again. If you turn off the ringer by using mute button, then VO will not announce the incoming caller’s ID. If you choose to answer the call, just double tap anywhere on the screen with two fingers and talk to the caller. You can also answer the call with a one finger double tap at the bottom of the screen when you hear “unlock to answer.” You can end the call by a two finger double tap.

If your phone is in sleep mode and a call comes in, the phone will display the lock screen, as you answer the call, the screen will switch to a different display with several button options as shown below.  


On the top of this screen, caller’s ID is displayed. Next there are six different buttons, which you can explore by flicking one finger right or left. The label of each button and its function is as follows:

  1. Mute – Turns on/off phone’s microphone
  2. Keypad – Displays keypad
  3. Speaker – Turns speaker on/off
  4. Add Call – Adds other contacts for conference call
  5. Hold – Puts the caller on hold
  6. Contacts – Displays contacts list

At the bottom of this screen you can find the End button, which you can double tap with one finger to end your call, or use a two finger double tap for the same purpose.

Making Calls

There are several methods to make a phone call. If you have not added any numbers to your contacts list, then you have to feed the desired number through keypad. For this purpose you will open the phone app and choose keypad tab by a double tap and a standard dial pad will appear where you can enter the phone number , which will appear on the top of the screen. Before making the call, you can touch this area to listen to the number entered. To make the call you have to hit the call button twice. At the bottom of the keypad there are two additional buttons; on the left of the call button you will find “Save as Contact” and on the right “Delete”. When you feed a phone number, before hitting the call button you can save it to your contacts by using Save As Contact button. When the call is on, the screen will switch to the following display. Here again you can find the dialed number at the top, and at the bottom left there is a button to end the call and on the right there is “Hide Keypad” button. If you double tap on this button it will take you to the display described above, where you can find six button options with different functions.


The second method of making a call is to choose a phone number from your contact list. Again, open the phone app and select contacts tab, contacts will be displayed in alphabetical order. Move your finger from top to bottom or flick right with one finger to explore the contacts list. This may not be practical if you have too many contacts in the list, in such case, it is better to use the search option. Double tap the search area on the top of the contacts screen and the keyboard will appear on the screen. Just enter the first few letters of the contact’s name and the search will start suggesting similar names. Pick the one you need and double tap to open the contact. The other method to search your contacts is to use the Table Index which is a vertical bar located on the right edge of the contacts screen. When you touch this area you will hear “Table Index Adjustable.”  Double tap and hold your finger in this area and then drag up or down to move through the list alphabetically, select the alphabet you need and then look for your contact. Once you open a contact you can find lot of information depending upon what you entered earlier. Go through various items by touch of your finger or by flicking right and left. When you find out the desired phone number,  double tap to initiate the call.

The next option of making a phone call is to select a contact form your list of Favorites or Recents. You can add some contacts in your Favorites that you call most frequently and call them right from there instead of going to contact list. Similarly, recently incoming and outgoing calls are listed under the Recents tab, you can select the desired number from there as well. In the next post I will explain how can you manage your contacts, favorites and other related things.

Last but not the least is the option to make a call by using voice commands. Just ask SIRI to call the person you want. If you have an older model of iPhone, which does not support SIRI, then press the Home button and hold for a while until you hear a sound and the screen display will change. Say “Call” followed by the name of your contact and the number will be dialed.  This option works only for numbers that are available in your contact list. If you have more than one person with the same name in your contacts, it will ask you which one you want to call and then you can choose by voice command. If a contact has more than one phone number, for example, cell, home and work, then the phone will narrate all these options and will ask you which one you want to call. Again you can choose by a voice command.

This is all about making and receiving phone calls, happy calling!

By Azhar Karim

Be a Pro Typist

First of all, I apologize for the delay in publishing this post.  I was traveling and had limited access to my internet. But I will try to make it up to you by providing some very useful and interesting information about how to input text on your iDevice while using different applications.

 Text Input Methods 

Most commonly we use a software keyboard, which appears on the screen, to type our emails, messages or notes. Some non-VoiceOver users can type at a very high speed with software keyboards, but with VoiceOver your speed can slow down significantly and it may be practical only for short typing tasks. However, with little practice and proper use of typing tools you can improve your speed. The other option is to use a hardware keyboard which connects to your device through Bluetooth. It is much easier to type with such a keyboard, but it has its own limitations of mobility and additional weight, specially with an iPhone it is not very practical. Therefore, it is advisable that you must be proficient in the use of software keyboard, and occasionally you can use the other option. The third method to input text is to use various dictation apps and type by speaking. In the latest versions of iDevices dictation option is available with the regular software keyboard, you can find a small microphone button located to the left of space bar (see image). Just double tap this  button and start dictating. If this button is not available on your device, you can use some dictation apps available in Apple Store, such as Dragon Dictation. This method again has its pros and cons, it is much easier and faster to type this way, but there is a major issue of accuracy. Particularly, non English speaking users, with diverse ethnic accents, find it hard to type with much accuracy. The other major limitation is that in most of the cases these apps work when you are connected to the Internet, which may not be possible all the times, especially when you are outdoors. Lastly, you can use text input apps specially designed for visually challenged. One of such apps, which I use a lot is Fleksy.  I find this app extremely helpful and do all my typing with it. If you need more information about Fleksy you may contact me or go to www.fleksy.com



Typing Mode 

Voiceover offers you two typing modes – Standard and Touch typing modes. When VO is turned on, by default your device will be in Standard Typing mode. In this mode you can use the software keyboard by touch and double tap, that is to say, you first find a character by exploring the keyboard with your finger, once you find the desired character you can double tap anywhere on the screen and the character will be typed. In Touch typing mode you first find  character by touch of your finger and the moment you lift your finger the character is typed. This enables you to type much faster compared to Standard mode. I would suggest that if you are a new VO user you may begin with Standard mode as it is good at the early stages of learning. Once you gain some confidence, you can switch over to Touch mode. In order to select the appropriate mode you need to follow the following steps: 

  1. Go to any application where software keyboard is active, for example, you can go to notes. The best thing is to go to search page by clicking home button once.
  2. Use rotor to select the item typing mode
  3. Flick one finger up or down and you will hear Standard Typing or touch typing, select whatever you prefer.


 How to Use a Software Keyboard 

In order to use your keyboard efficiently and effectively, you need to learn some tricks. First and foremost you have to familiarize yourself with the layout of the keyboard and the options available. All Apple iDevices come with a standard QWERTY keyboard, with a layout similar to any computer keyboard or the old typewriters. However, there are slight differences between iPad and iPhone in terms of the characters available on the keyboard. Since iPhone keyboard has a smaller area it does not have few keys on the first screen, for instance, you can find ‘Period’ and ‘Comma’ on iPad but not on iPhone. So I will use iPhone as an example to explain some of the features.


  1. When you open any typing application (email, messages, notes, search, contacts) on your iPhone, you will find a keyboard with letters without any numbers, signs or symbols.
  2. While using Safari or Email, the keyboard will offer some additional keys to facilitate typing of email addresses and website URL.
  3. To type numbers, touch the button located on the left side of the space bar, it says “More Numbers.” Once you select this the next screen will appear with numbers in the top row and some signs or symbols underneath. If you need more signs and symbols choose the button just above the button you touched before. To go back touch the same buttons.
  4. To put a ‘Period’ you need to tap the space bar four times. This saves you from the hassle of going to number screen, however, in order to type a ‘Comma’, you have to go to number keyboard as explained above.
  5. While typing letters, the first letter will always be typed in capital, to type another letter in CAPS, you have to touch shift. To type continuously in CAPS you have to tap shift button four times, to go back just double tap.
  6.  In touch mode all keys will work with one touch, but ‘Return’, ‘Search’ and may be some other buttons  will work with double tap.
  7. Newer versions of iPhone will also have a microphone button as explained above.


 iTip of the Day 

Use keyboard shortcuts for faster typing. You can create two or three letter shortcuts for frequently used words or sentences and do not need to enter all the text every time. For example, I use a shortcut to type my email address or I just type AK to enter my name.

 Go to Setting>General>Keyboard>Shortcuts and add your shortcuts.

Customize Your iDevice

VoiceOver offers many options to customize your iDevice according to your own personal needs. It is a good idea to be familiar with Voiceover settings so that you can set up your device the way you find it more convenient to use. Today I will take you through various VO settings and we will see what kind of different features and facilities are available.

 Let’s go to Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver.  The first item on this screen is Voiceover with on/off button, you are already familiar with this. The next item is VO practice, which I introduced last time and I hope you found it helpful. Let us explore the other items one by one.

  1. Speak Hints: When this option is turned on, VO gives you some voice hints with different gestures. For example, when you touch an item it says “double tap to open”. This is a good feature for new users of VO, but once you have a good handle on VO gestures you may not need it and it also becomes little annoying. When you switch to VO, it is on by default, you can turn it off when you don’t need it.
  2. Speaking Rate: Enables you to change the pace of VO speech. It was explained in detail in one of the previous posts.
  3. Typing Feedback: When you touch this item you will hear “typing feedback” followed by “Button”. Please remember as a general tip that whenever you hear “Button’ it means double tap will take you to the next screen where you can find some more options. Typing feedback is a very helpful feature as it tells you what character or word you have typed when you are typing with a soft or hard keyboard. You have the option to choose characters/ words or both, I recommend that you choose both. This is going to be clearer when I give you lessons on the use of keyboard.
  4. Use Phonetics: Another good feature to facilitate keyboarding. When you receive typing feedback for characters, at times it is hard to differentiate between some characters, for instance, I am always confused between ‘M’ and ‘N’; they sound very much the same to me. When this feature is on, you can hear phonetics of each character, such as TANGO for ‘T’, VICTOR for ‘V’. I suggest you keep it on as it improves your typing accuracy.
  5. Use Pitch Change:  While using the keyboard, when you touch a key you hear the character under your finger. When the character is typed the feedback echoes in a higher pitch so that you know that the text has been entered. It is a very intelligent way of differentiating two different actions. This feature is on by default and I suggest you keep it that way.
  6. Use Compact Voice: You can use this option to choose a voice quality of your choice.
  7.  Braille: This feature is used to connect Braille devices through Bluetooth.
  8. Rotor: This is a very interesting and useful feature, which is only available in VO mode. Rotor is designed as a virtual dial or knob, which you can rotate with two fingers on the screen. Normally we use our fore finger and thumb to perform this function just like we rotate a real dial, see the image below:




To use the rotor, you rotate your fingers on the screen in clockwise or anti clockwise direction and you can listen to various items, such as, characters, words, headings, language, speech rate etc. Once you select an item, you can flick one finger up or down to use the options available within that item. For example, while rotating you may stop at speech rate, when you flick up/down the value of speech rate will change. Please note that all items in the rotor may not be relevant in all apps, you will use whatever works in a particular app. For instance, rotor is a great help while browsing a webpage in safari. If you want to explore only the headings in a webpage, choose headings from the rotor and flick one finger up or down to move through the headings, same applies to links. Uses of this amazing feature will become clearer when we will discuss its application in different apps.

You can add to or delete items from rotor depending upon your needs. In VoiceOver settings, double tap on Rotor, on the next screen you will find a long list of item, select or deselect an item by double tap.

  1. Language Rotor: This is used to add languages to your rotor list. When you double tap, you will find a long list of languages which you can select by double tap and they will be added to your rotor. For example, US English is selected by default, but you can also choose British English or Australian English. If you are bilingual, say English and French speaker, you can keep both the languages in your rotor and choose the one whenever required. This is good feature if your device is being used by multilingual users.

This is all you need to know about VoiceOver customization at this stage. Next time we will talk about some more general settings.

By Azhar Karim


Magical Gestures 

Last time we learned the basics of VoiceOver; in order to use VO effectively, you need to know a number of gestures that give you full control of your iDevice.  In the beginning you will have to spend some time to train yourself, but with little practice you will become an expert. Most of these gestures work only with VO and give you plenty of additional features that regular users do not enjoy. I am sure once you start using your devices with these gestures, you will definitely admire the remarkable ingenuity of those who conceived and developed this technology. The following is an initial list of VO gestures, some advanced gestures will be discussed later.

  VoiceOver Gestures



Try out these gestures on your iDevices and see how they work for you. To practice VO gestures go to Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver and select VoiceOver practice, you can practice gestures on a blank screen.  You can also download an app called Looktel VO Tutorial from the app store, it teaches you VO gestures in a very interesting manner.  There are also plenty of video clips on YouTube that describe and demonstrate VO gestures. It’s a good idea to use all possible resources to enhance your learning.

 iTip of the Day 

If you want VO to read aloud your emails, documents, books and web pages, select the first line of the text and then flick down with two fingers, VO will keep reading the page until you pause with two finger single tap, it will even flip pages in books and magazines.

By Azhar Karim

Let Your iDevice Talk to You

Today we will go straight to VoiceOver (VO). 

A word of caution before we move ahead, please read all the information first and then activate VO, if you immediately turn it on you may not be able to operate the device without knowing some special gestures. 

Another word of caution, blind and partially sighted users will not be able to turn on VO on their own; they have the following three options:

  1. Get help from an Apple store, they offer very professional technical support. Ask them to activate VO and set up Triple Home Click to VO. The rest I will explain.
  2. Get help from a friend or family member and ask them to follow the instructions given below in the next section.
  3. If you are able to use a PC with the help of a screen reader, then you can do it yourself, follow these steps:
    1. Connect your idevice to your PC with the USB cable
    2. Open iTunes on your PC
    3. In the left navigation bar you can find your device, click on it, in the main screen the details of the device will appear
    4. Click on Summary tab and scroll down until you reach Options
    5. Under Options you will find a list of items, look for Configure Universal Access. Click on this button and a box will open up with various accessibility options
    6. Select VoiceOver and hit OK.
    7. Your device will switch to VO and you will hear  “VoiceOver is on”. Disconnect the  device and you are now ready to use it with VO.  Please learn additional things by following the discussion below.

 Using VoiceOver 

Go to Settings and choose General (Please note that the layout of Settings screen is little different on iPhone compared to iPad, see images below, it is single list on iPhone, but on iPad there is menu on the left with details on the right)






  1. Under General you will find a long list of items, towards the end of the list, you will find Accessibility
  2. Open Accessibility, what do you see? Yes, the first heading is Vision. Under Vision the first item is VoiceOver, followed by the other three applications that we talked about earlier.
  3. If you now click VoiceOver, you will go to the next screen where you can turn it on
  4. Before you turn on VO, just read the description given right under the VO button. This is very important because the moment you turn on VO, the device switches to a different mode and cannot be operated with normal gestures that you are familiar with. Three important gestures are introduced here. First, in VO mode when you touch an item you will hear a voice description of the item, unlike the normal mode where you touch and the item activates. This is a great feature because a user who cannot see needs to know first what item is under his/her finger. So you touch or tap to select an item. Second, to activate the selected item, double tap with one finger anywhere on the screen.  Please note, you don’t have to double tap exactly on the selected item, but you can tap anywhere, this makes things very simple. So we are talking about a sequence, Touch>Listen>Go, let’s call it TLG sequence, by the way, this term is my own creation. Your entire device will operate with TLG sequence. The third gesture that you should know about is swipe or flick with three fingers to scroll, this enables you to move up or down the screen.
  5. Now go ahead and turn VO on. When you hit the On button, a dialogue box will pop up (don’t worry if it does not) with the voice of a woman speaking in American English explaining how VO works. To close the box you need to click OK and you will have to follow the TLG to do it.
  6. VO is now active, stay at the same screen and explore the screen with touch of one finger. Whenever you hit an item, you will hear a click and a description of the item.
  7. Here it is a good time to learn one more gesture. Flick right with one finger to move to the next item and flick left to go back.
  8. There are two things you may like to do before you close Settings. If you do not like the speed at which this lady is talking to you, just adjust the speaking rate. This is how you do it, move down through the list of items until you hit Speaking Rate, touch to select Speaking Rate, you will hear a value in percentage. To change the value swipe up or down with one finger. You can hear the value and can also feel the difference in speaking rate, choose whatever sounds good to you.

10. Go back to Accessibility screen, how would you do that? In the top left corner of every screen there is a button to go back to previous screen, right now you are in VO screen, on the top you will find Accessibility button, double tap and you will go back.

11. Go to the last item on Accessibility screen, which is, Triple Click Home. This is a great feature, specially for users who want to switch between VO and the regular mode. With the help of this feature you can set up your Home button to turn on/off VO with triple click, so next time when you have to turn VO on/off you don’t need to go through all the steps. Isn’t this cool?  To activate, double tap on this button and on the next screen select VoiceOver

12. Press Home button to close Settings and you will be back to home screen 

There is one last step before we close this session. Turn off your device by pressing the Hold button.  I want you to learn how would you turn your device on while in VO mode. Press Home or Hold button, lock screen will appear and you will hear the time. Flick one finger right and you will hear the date, flick right once again and you will hear “slide to unlock.” You don’t need to slide anything, just double tap anywhere on the screen. You can also go directly to the bottom part of the screen until you hear a click and “slide to unlock” and then double tap.

 You are all set to go. Please practice everything again and again. You need some time to digest this information. Feel free to ask questions in the comments area, I shall try to get back as early as possible.


iTip of the Day

 Do you want to listen to your emails or books? Follow these steps

  1.    Stay in the normal mode (VO Off)
  2.   Go to Accessibility
  3.   Click  Speak Selection
  4.  Turn on Speak Selection and close Settings
  5.   Now select  some text in your email or any document
  6.   Press and hold your finger on the selected text until a menu pops up, which has the option of speak, hit speak and listen. You can select the entire page of a book and listen
  7.  You can use this feature without VO, the other method is to use VO and it reads out anything that you touch
  8. Next time I will tell you few more gestures that make it real fun


By Azhar Karim

The Anatomy of iDevices

In my last post I briefly introduced the accessibility features and I mentioned that in the next lesson we will learn how to activate and use different accessibility apps. However, before that I would like to give some important information, which is critical for new users, specially the blind and partially sighted. In order to use your device effectively, it is imperative that you fully understand its anatomy, that is to say, you are familiar with the physical shape, layout and buttons of your device. Many of you may find this information too basic, but remember we have to consider the learning needs of new users as well.

Regular users are requested to please appreciate the fact that this blog is specially written for visually challenged community, and you may find some discussions irrelevant. I must point out that all the instructions, descriptions and tips will be given while keeping in mind the needs and circumstances of totally blind and partially sighted users who are unable to see or read anything on their devices. Other users, with varying levels of vision, can easily understand and follow these instructions and may focus on what they find relevant. In addition to that you may use this information to help someone around you in your family or neighborhood.

A good thing about Apple products is that different devices and models are very similar to each other with some minor differences. If you learn to use one you can very easily handle all others. I will use the iPad as an example to highlight some physical features and will also talk about some differences between devices.

OK, here we go, while holding your iPad in portrait or vertical orientation, explore the sides or edges of your device with your fingers. This is what you will discover:  



  1. On the top edge, close to the right corner,  you can feel a button which you can press gently, don’t worry about what it does.  This is the Hold/Sleep button; it has many names and performs many different functions. We use this button to turn on/off the screen or in other words put the device to sleep and wake it up. The same button is used to completely shut down the device. We will learn some of the tricks later. This button is located at the same position on both the iPhone and iPod Touch.
  2. Now if you move to the right side of your iPad, just under the right corner, you will find two buttons. The one on the top, which slides up and down, is the Mute button and performs couple of other functions. Just beneath that is your volume button, it is slightly curved in the middle and the edges are raised a little. These two buttons are located on the left hand side of all models of iPhones. When you hold the iPhone in your left hand, these buttons will be right under your  thumb.
  3. Last but not the least, is the Home button, which is the only button on the front side of your iPad and it is located in the middle of the lower area of your device just above the bottom edge. It has a circular concaved shape which you can easily feel with your finger. This is one of the most used buttons and performs so many different functions. A single click of Home button wakes up your iPad, you press this button to close apps and folders and a single click brings you back to the home screen. We will cover some other functions later.

These are the only four buttons on all Apple iDevices that pretty much control everything. They have a tactile shape which can be handled easily by all users.  Please remember, in all future posts,  we will use the terms, Hold, Home, Mute and Volume for these buttons.

There are few other things that you need to know about your device’s physical features. On the top left side of your iPad, just before the left corner,  you can find a circular slot or hole, this is the headphone jack where you plug in your headphones. On some models of iPhone/iPod it is located at the bottom of the device.

It is a good idea for VoiceOver users to always keep a set of headphones handy. This is important for two reasons: first, when your machine is talking, people around you may find it annoying, particularly when you are in a public setting. But also don’t forget your family; show some mercy to them as well. Secondly, it is good for your own privacy, you don’t want others to listen to your emails, messages or personal information.

Next, at the bottom you will find a slot where you connect the USB cable for charging your iPad or connecting it to your computer. In newer models this slot is much smaller as they have a new cable design. The speaker is located at the back of lower right corner. Back camera is behind the top right corner and the front camera is in the middle of top front area.

This is all you need to know about the anatomy of your idevices at this stage. I would suggest check all these items again and again until you have a good feel of each one of them. Sighted users please use these links for more information iPhone , iPad

Thanks for your patience, next time we will start using VoiceOver. I will try to make a new post earlier than two weeks. In the mean time I would suggest that you install ITunes on your computer if you have not done it already. Just go to www.itunes.com and follow the instructions.


iTip of the Day

Do you know that you can take a screen shot of anything appearing on the screen of your iPhone or iPad? Just press the Hold and Home button simultaneously and a picture will be saved in your camera roll. It works very well, have fun!


Almost fifty years ago, when I started losing my vision, low vision assistive technology was virtually nonexistent. The only tool we had was a magnifying glass, available in different shapes and designs, which was not a great help for those who had very low vision. The best independent living skills that one could survive on were ample amounts of patience and perseverance. But now we live in a totally different world, a world that offers endless possibilities and opportunities for all of us to live a more independent and happy life. During the past two decades we have seen truly dramatic and mind boggling developments in information and communication technology, which have added new dimensions to the way we live and perform our daily activities. Thanks to the ingenuity, creativity and hard work of those who developed amazing technology tools which have revolutionized lives of millions in this world.

Blind and partially sighted people now have access to a huge variety of electronic and digital devices that enable them to perform so many daily activities and tremendously enhance their independence. One category of such accessible products is mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets. These devices offer some amazing applications which can totally change your life.


In this blog I am going to share with you some information about using accessible products offered by Apple including iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Based on my personal experience, I will also give some tips for regular users of iDevices who have no accessibility issues. I do not claim to be an expert, I just want to share with other users whatever information I have. My goal is to create awareness about accessible products so that more and more people can benefit from this technology. Please feel free to share additional tips through your comments and enrich this blog for everyone’s benefit. 

Now let me tell you some interesting and exciting things about how Apple products have been made accessible for people with disabilities and how can you use them independently without anybody’s help. Some other manufacturers of mobile devices have also introduced very sophisticated accessibility features which you need to explore before choosing a brand. As a user of Apple products, I can only provide information about iDevices.

Apple iDevices come with built in accessibility tools specially designed for visually challenged and users with hearing, physical and motor issues. These features are part of the standard products and you do not need to download or purchase any additional apps. In this blog I will mainly talk about accessibility features for the visually challenged.

There are four types of features available for people with different levels of vision. Both the blind and partially sighted users can equally benefit from these features. 
In this first post I will only introduce you to the accessibility features with a brief description of each.

1. VoiceOver
VoiceOver is designed for users who are totally blind or have very low vision and cannot see anything on the screen. VoiceOver is a very intelligently designed screen reader that reads out everything on the screen of an iDevice, the user can perform different functions by simply touching the screen and listening to the voice instructions. When VoiceOver is turned on the device goes into voice mode and works with special finger gestures which will be discussed in a later post.

2. Zoom
Zoom enables you to enlarge your screen if you find something too small to read. You can zoom in by double tap with three fingers and repeat the same gesture to zoom out. A very useful tool for users who just have poor eye sight and may not suffer from serious vision loss.

3. Large Text
This feature gives you the ability to increase the font size so that the text is easily readable. You can choose a font size from several options according to the condition of your vision.

4. Invert Color
Some low vision users do not feel comfortable with bright white background. This feature provides you with the option to change the background color to black with white text. 

In the next post I will tell you where to find these features and how to activate them. Yes, you have to be little patient to learn more.

iTip for regular users
Do you know VoiceOver is not only for visually challenged? Now many users prefer to use VoiceOver for reading their emails, books and other materials. Wait for my next post if you want to learn more about the use of VoiceOver

Almost fifty years ago, when I started losing

By Azhar Karim