Getting Familiar with iOS VoiceOver’s Rotor

Amanreet Bajwa

2 min read

Feb 9, 2021

Getting Familiar with iOS VoiceOver’s Rotor

The VoiceOver rotor is a key component for iOS accessibility that is often overlooked. It allows users to change VoiceOver settings, select specific content types to focus on, adjust volume, and more. Getting familiar with the rotor and different VoiceOver navigation options is essential to understanding how accessibility implementations affect your application.

Starting VoiceOver

Starting VoiceOver is easy.

  1. Navigate to Settings
  2. Select “Accessibility”
  3. Select “VoiceOver”
  4. Enable VoiceOver

Tip: The “VoiceOver Practice” page is a great way to try out gestures and see what they do!

Rotor Use Basics

The rotor is accessed by using a two-finger rotation gesture. To bring it up, ensure VoiceOver is enabled, then place two fingers slightly spread apart on the screen. Keep one finger as a pivot point and move the other finger around as if to draw a circle. You should see the dial appear and move between options as you rotate. Enabling an option is as simple as just stopping the gesture with that option selected. Once you have selected an option you can use an up or down one-finger flick gesture to adjust the option. For example, if you select “Speaking Rate” on the rotor then flick up, the rate of speech will increase. VoiceOver will speak and let you know the new rate with every flick up or down.

There are default options that come pre-set with the rotor including characters, words, lines, and speaking rate, but the rotor is not limited to just these options. If you head back to the same VoiceOver menu in Settings there is a rotor menu that allows you to select and reorder the rotor options you wish to use. There are a whole variety of additional navigation options and settings.

screenshot of iOS rotor menuRotor Navigation Example

Let’s go through an example of one of the navigation options:

  1. Enable VoiceOver (Pro tip: ask Siri to “Turn on VoiceOver”)
  2. Launch the Apple News App (ask Siri to “Open Apple News”)
  3. Navigate to a news article
  4. Using the two-finger rotation gesture, pull up the rotor and select “Words”

At this point, you’re set to navigate through the page contents word by word. When you flick down, the system will highlight each word and read it out loud.

animation showing navigation by wordsThere are a variety of different VoiceOver navigation options available in the rotor. You can navigate by characters, words, lines, containers, headings, links, images, and more.

Up Next

Now that you have an understanding of all of the different rotor settings it’s time to get familiar with VoiceOver implementation and make a custom rotor to take your app’s accessibility to the next level!

Further Reading

Apple’s “About the VoiceOver rotor on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch” introduces the rotor and its capabilities.

Amanreet Bajwa

Author Big Nerd Ranch

Amanreet Bajwa has been an iOS developer for 9 years working on a variety of different apps including healthcare, streaming, e-commerce, and sports. She has an interest in accessibility and making apps a great experience for everyone. When she’s not working she enjoys hiking and playing board games.

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