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iOS devices are built with all users in mind: they come with several accessibility features for low-vision or legally blind users, settings for hard-of-hearing or deaf users, settings for individuals who have physical and motor difficulties, and settings for individuals with learning difficulties.

In this accessibility segment, I will be discussing how to make text speakable on an iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch:

There are two different ways to make text speakable on an iOS device, but before we do that and discuss how to do it, let’s first set up our iOS device so we can do it.

Open up Settings, tap on General, scroll all the way down toward the bottom until you see Accessibility.

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Tap on Accessibility.

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The first thing to do is to turn on Speak Selection. A Speak button will now appear when you select text.

Here you also have the option to change the dialect of the voice that will be doing the reading, adjust the speaking rate (how fast or how slow it is reading out loud), as well as to highlight words. Highlight words are great for kids who are just starting to learn how to read, or help the kids enhance their reading skills.

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To go back to the main Accessibility Settings page, tap the Accessibility arrow in the upper left hand corner. Scroll all the way down towards the bottom and press ‘Triple-click Home’.

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Then you will tap on VoiceOver. Now whenever you click the Home button three times, VoiceOver will be enabled.

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Now that we have adjusted our settings to make text speakable on an iOS device, let’s discuss the two methods.

  1. Speak Selection. Speak selection will work in apps where you are actually able to edit, or highlight the text, such as Mail, Notes, Reminders, Messages, and Safari. For example, in Mail tap and hold a little bit of the message until you see the magnifying bubble appear. Let go. Drag the blue pin on the right so it highlights all of the text, and then press speak. It will speak out loud everything that is highlighted in blue.

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Also notable is the Safari Reader function. The Reader button will appear automatically in the URL bar for most websites.

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When you tap on Reader, it removes distractions such as navigation bars and focuses on text and media. Now if you do the same thing: tap and hold until you see the magnifying bubble appear. Let go. Drag the blue circle on the right so it highlights all of the text. Then press the Speak button. It will read out loud everything in the article without reading the site navigation system.

2. VoiceOver. VoiceOver is a built in screen reader that will read out loud everything on an iOS device. VoiceOver works great in any of the book reading apps, like iBooks, Kindle, and Nook. You would first navigate the way you would normally navigate to the book reader app you are using and open the book you want to be read out loud to you. Triple-clicking the Home button will turn VoiceOver on. On top of the book, do a two finger swipe gesture down on the screen. This will start reading the book out loud, and it will turn the pages automatically. To stop the reading, do a two finger, single tap on the screen to stop the reading. To continue, do a two finger swipe gesture down on the screen, on top of the book.

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When you are done reading the book, and want to turn VoiceOver off, triple-click the home button.

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5 Responses to “How-to: Have your iOS device read text for you”

  1. Wow! This is actually really cool! It’s smart enough to know that FYI is for your information. I wonder is it can speak WTF… Just kidding :)

  2. It even speaks Emoji! Happy face with normal eyes XD! Classic!

  3. Funtechblog says:

    That was a nice tutorial. But you may want to reduce the size of the screenshots.

  4. Highly useful article, thank you.

    I wonder why, in VoiceOver unlike Read Selection, you can’t choose other voices. I really dislike the default voice, it grates.

    BTW, Kindle Fire HD has a wonderful text-to-speech function and voice. It’s the only reason I have the device, and I’m glad I got it.

  5. can it read iBook competently or it is shitty?