Mac’s VoiceOver Screen Reader: How to enable it

Apple has incorporated a native screen reader called VoiceOver on its Macs and MacBooks, starting with macOS X. The feature is conceived to help low-vision or blind users navigate their computers — and the internet — more efficiently. 

It operates by reading aloud text descriptions of everything on the screen and reading any displayed text. The technology also permits users to interact with elements on the screen.

While VoiceOver is primarily suggested for those with visual impairments, it can be beneficial in many different scenarios — for example, if you have a learning disability and prefer to attend to text rather than read it.

Apple has a complete user guide that gets into the nitty-gritty of using VoiceOver with refreshable braille displays and trackpad motions, as well as how to customize the feature to best suit your needs.

But if you’re beginning, here are a few easy ways to turn on VoiceOver.

Open System Preferences and then choose Accessibility. From the left-hand menu, in the Vision category, pick VoiceOver. Click Enable VoiceOver. You can also press the Open VoiceOver Training button to access the QuickStart training menu. Tapping the Open VoiceOver Utility button will open a menu where you can customize features like reading speed and voice profiles.

Press Command and F5 button. It should also bring up a Welcome to VoiceOver window. Click the Use VoiceOver switch. In the lower left-hand corner, there’s a Learn More button where you can get the core of basic commands, learn how the feature works, and practice using it effectively. You can turn it off by pressing the duplicate keys and clicking the “Turn Off VoiceOver” button.

If Siri is enabled on your Mac, you can ask it to “Turn VoiceOver on” or “Turn VoiceOver off.” If you don’t have Siri enabled, go to the Apple Menu in the top bar, select System Preferences, and then click the Siri icon. Once there, check the Enable Ask Siri box.

Press Option + Command and F5 to bring up the Accessibility shortcut panel. Push the tab key until you hear the VoiceOver option. Then press the space bar.

There’s an alternate shortcut if you’re on macOS Big Sur or later and your Mac has a TouchID button. At the same time, you are holding the Command button; fast press the TouchID button three times. It also works if your Magic Keyboard has a TouchID control.

You can also opt to have VoiceOver turn on whenever you log onto the computer. To do this:

  • Go to System Preferences.
  • Select Users & Groups, then select the Login Options button at the bottom of the user list.
  • Enter your administrator password if the lock icon at the bottom left is closed.
  • Click the Accessibility Options button on the right-hand side of the window.
  • Check the VoiceOver box and then click Apply.