Everything you need to know about the new VO updates to iOS 5. Custom labels, Item Chooser and did you know that camera got face detection?

No Help Needed! VoiceOver Direct From Setup.

The best thing about the iPhone and the iOS devices is that blind and visually impaired can do almost everything as a fully sighted person can – without help. Now you don’t even need sighted assistance for setting up the device! Or even take a photo


When starting up the device before there was a screen telling you to connect to iTunes. Now it says welcome and start the set-up. From here just press the Home Button 3 times to start VoiceOver or even tap 3 times with 3 fingers to Zoom.

You can also use Apple’s keyboard dock but no bluetooth keyboards or braille displays.

Tip: By turning VO on then off and then Zoom, you can now toggle them with triple press Home.


The Camera App has been updated with a feature for iOS devices that got the \”A5\” processor (iPad 2 and iPhone 4S), that now announces if one or more faces is in the shot. For example VoiceOver says: \”small face center\”, so you can take those holiday family picture, again without assistance from sighted family members.

You can also use the volume up button to take a photo so you don’t have to hear or record VO. This also works with headset buttons.

Also, you now need to double tap to change focus and exposure.

New Ways to Navigate.

Now it’s even easier to find what you are looking for, wether on the home screen, an app or in Safari.

Item Chooser and Search

This is feature that has been on the mac and now comes to iOS. What it does is to bring up a pop-up with a complete list of all items on the screen and puts them in alphabetic order. When selecting an item it even says where on the screen it’s located. The list also contains a search field for an even easier way to find that app, folder or button you were looking for.

To activate the Item Chooser tap 3 times with 2 fingers or with a keyboard VO + I. You can also search directly from a keyboard with VO + F then enter the search query and pressing Enter You can move between matching queries with VO + G for next and hold Shift for previous.

Tip: Search works very well in Safari as well as everywhere else.

Vertical Navigation and Rotor

One of my favorite new feature is the Vertical Navigation, which is a rotor option that lets you navigate to the next vertical item. This is really nice in 2 column lists like when sorting rotor options in the settings or grid based layouts, for example a chess game or a spread sheet.

Another change is that you now can choose what elements to include in the rotor from the VoiceOVer settings. You can include Heading so you can jump to between headings everywhere, like in address book to go to next letter group.

Also on the iPad the 4 finger swipe left/right is now switching to next/previous open app. And the old function; go to next/previous Container is now a rotor option. Although it still work with Control + left or right And + Tab goes to next open app with the keyboard.

Safari Keyboard Shortcuts

It is now possible to navigate between headings, links, text fields and much more with just one key.

That’s right just press H for next heading or L for next Link, there is a lot of new shortcut and you can read a full list of VoiceOver Commands here

What did you say VoiceOver?

Custom Labels

There has always been certain words that was hard to hear or buttons that were missing a label and just said \”button\”. Now that’s all going to change.

When you do encounter a button that’s not labeled correctly or at all you can now tap 2 times with 2 fingers and hold to set a new custom label. A sound will indicate if you have done the right gesture and then a text field and keyboard will appear. After typing your new label VO will remember it and always speak it the way you want.

New Voices

If you still have a hard time hearing Apple has added some new voices, like British Daniel.

But with great power comes great responsibility, right? The down side to the new voices is that they have removed some of the old ones. This mens for example my favorite synthetic voice of all time, Swedish Oskar is replaced with much harder to hear Alva. And no way to change that.

It’s also possible to enable non-compressed voices. When enabled iOS downloads you default language voice with high-quality in the background (if you are connected to Wi-Fi and power supply).

There is now also support for Arabic in VoiceOver.

Other Nifty Improvements

There is like always with a new OS many minor enhancements and fixes here’s some.