Training sighted users to teach VO to the sight-disadvantaged

macOS and Mac Apps


I volunteer at a local community centre where we have a number of regulars who suffer from various degrees of vision impairment. Our current IT suite is based around Windows 7 and we have a couple of machines set up with NVDA, Dolphin and SupaNova. One of our regulars is virtually blind and relies on these programs on his home system (XP) to interact with his computer. Recently, I got myself a Mac mini to replace my rather elderly iMac that had suffered a logic board failure.

I decided I would familiarise myself with the basics of VO and take my machine over to the centre to demonstrate it to our vision-impaired group—the reaction was remarkable, despite my lack of familiarity with VO. Neither Dolphin nor SupaNova are particularly cheap and the fact that a base-model Mac mini, with VO included out of the box, could be obtained for not much more cost of these two programs struck a chord.

The centre is the only one in County Durham that has an active IT support program for the vision-impaired: even the website was designed to cater for not only the vision-impaired, but also those people with dyslexia and for people for whom English is not their first language. As part of our continuing development strategy, we have applied for funding which will, among other things, provide for the purchase of four iMacs for our primary IT suite. To that end, I would like recommendations for training resources that guide sighted personnel to best practices for teaching VO to the vision-impaired.

Your comments and suggestions are most appreciated.




Submitted by sockhopsinger on Thursday, August 21, 2014


This sounds like a great thing that you are doing at the center. For help with Voiceover, might I suggest first starting with Apple's extensive Voiceover help? You can access the VO help by holding down control + option (referred to as VO key) plus h. That will get you into the help system. They have a whole user guide for using Voiceover built right in.

After you look through that help system, you might look on Applevis under Guides as I believe there are quite a few set up to assist with getting started with a Mac.

Hope this helps at least some.

Submitted by DoctorChas on Friday, August 22, 2014

In reply to by sockhopsinger

I have already become somewhat familiar with VO's help system and trying out VO, albeit slowly, via the inbuilt guide but the guides on this site should prove most useful.

Thanks :)

Submitted by DoctorChas on Friday, August 22, 2014

In reply to by J.P.

Well that's certainly very useful for those transitioning from Windows to the Mac but I was thinking more along the lines of myself as a sighted user helping vision-impaired users to learn VO. What the best starting points are (apart from the obvious) and what possible pitfalls one could encounter.


Submitted by Ekaj on Friday, August 22, 2014

Hi. I just read through this thread and I have a thought, and perhaps this is also a question. I'm wondering if perhaps a local Apple store would be of any assistance in this regard, if there is one in your area. The reason I bring this up is that I remember somebody posting awhile back on here that Apple has started offering accessibility workshops in their stores. Just from my own personal experience, the training which I received at an Apple store in my area was quite good. I only ended up going to one training session, because of travel limitations and because of this site. But the trainer I had was great, and he has been working with a sister of mine who is also a VoiceOver user. So what I'm wondering is if you could either observe one of these accessibility workshops, or otherwise get some information about this from an Apple store employee. Just thinking off the top of my head here.

Submitted by Michael Hansen on Friday, August 22, 2014

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hello DoctorChas,

First, a very warm welcome to the AppleVis community!

I do not know of any documentation designed specifically for sighted people wishing to learn VoiceOver, but of course that does not mean such documentation does not exist.

AppleVis has a dedicated page for new Mac users. The page is available at Below are some guides from this page that may help you and the person whom you are teaching get started with a Mac with VoiceOver. AppleVis also has a series of Mac Basics podcasts that explain and demonstrate the basics of using Mac OS X with VoiceOver.
Getting started with your Mac using VoiceOver…
Getting VoiceOver Help on Your Mac…
VoiceOver Keyboard Shortcuts for Mac OS X

Submitted by JT on Friday, August 22, 2014

There's a fabulous free book on iBooks called something like Mastering the Mac with VoiceOver. I think it would easily be adapted by someone - if not, you really should be doing something else.

Submitted by J.P. on Friday, August 22, 2014

The book is Mastering the Macintosh with Voice Over. The author is Tim Sniffen. It gets right to the point.

Submitted by Ro on Saturday, August 23, 2014


I think it is wonderful what you would like to do for the blind and visually impaired people at your center. I don't have any ideas for training a sighted person on how to train a blind person on how to use VO. I did however, want to make a suggestion and I hope you take this well.

Most people who are blind or visually impaired are fine with those two descriptions. When the subject of this forum post came up the other day I did a virtual double take when the post came up on Twitter. Today there has been more discussion on Twitter about the "sight-disadvantaged" title. I know this post was well meaning, and since no one else spoke up about the title, I thought I would. It would be too bad if some people at the center reacted to that description of the blind and visually impaired the way people are reacting to it on Twitter.

Ok, just felt the need to speak up. Back to lurking now.

Submitted by Fleurppel on Saturday, August 23, 2014


I am a certified rehabilitation therapist who also does AT instruction. The biggest problem you'll run into teaching VO to people is orientation, especially if they are transitioning from Windows. Let me explain:

with a Windows screen reader--JAWS, NVDA, Window-Eyes, etc.--things are generally presented in a linear fashion, meaning there's an item, hit the down arrow and there's another item and so on, until you get towhat you want. The Tab key also works in the same way for Windows dialogue boxes, as well as split views such as the Windows 7 start menu. This means that so long as the user knows which button to push, they'll get where they wat to go, and they can get there faster with shortcuts. apple devices, however, are very much about the appearance of things--how pretty it looks. Since VO was built by Apple, it moves and presents things based on their placement on the screen, rather than in a convenient linear fashion. This means that while navigating with VO, the user will hear things like, "verticle," or "horrizontal splitter," indicating to the user that they have moved from one portion of the screen to another.
The user can cycle through the things on the screen until they get where they need to be, but they'll need this concept of orientation for the quickest, most convenient experience. your best bet for driving this concept home is to use a scrabble board or some other manipulative.

As for sighted users learning to teach VO, the biggest abstacle is that sighted users will need to figure out how to reconcile what VO tells them. This is best done by practice.

Submitted by Ekaj on Saturday, February 28, 2015

I just downloaded this book yesterday and read the intro this morning. Just from what the author said in the intro, I can tell this is going to be another great read. I really liked Janet Ingber's book about VoiceOver, but I decided to give this one a try too just to see if there's any additional information.