How to Read Math Expressions with VoiceOver on an IOS Device

In this post, you will learn how students can access math materials digitally on an IOS device such as an iPhone or iPad using the built in VoiceOver screen reader.  Your student will need the following tools:

  • an IOS Device with VoiceOver enabled
  • iBooks

VoiceOver is a screen reader that is built into all IOS devices such as iPhones and iPads.  You should be able to tell Siri to turn on VoiceOver, but if this does not work or you are unsure of what to do, the following link will walk you through the steps.  How to Activate VoiceOver iBooks is a free app that is included on all IOS devices.  Students can also access information with a braille display.  Both Nemeth Code and UEB should be supported by going to the Settings for VoiceOver.

Here's a short video of Brice navigating a simple worksheet as a student would. 

Accessing the Worksheet

In order to access the worksheet, the student will need to know some basic VoiceOver gestures. 

  • flick left (one finger) - goes to the previous item
  • flick right (one finger) - goes the the next item
  • flick down (one finger) - must choose small expressions on the rotor; reads the next item in an expression
  • flick up (one finger) - must choose small expressions on the rotor reads the previous item in an expression
  • operate the rotor (rotate two fingers) - allows you to use the rotor like a dial to choose specific settings or how to interact with material.
  • double tap (one finger) - select or focus on a specific equation or part of an equation; whatever is selected will also be isolated and magnified on the screen visually

Recommendations and Considerations

Although this method allows great access via braille and audio support, there are some glitches that need to be worked out.  First, VoiceOver tends to want to read just the math expressions and then the text instead of reading the material as it appears visually.  This could cause a great deal of discontinuity for some students.  If this were a worksheet, it may not be a big deal, but if it were a textbook it definitely would be.  In addition, should the student double tap to focus on an expression, when they are done, the VoiceOver focus returns to the "Library" button instead of where the student left off. 

On a final note about using IOS devices, in theory you should also be able to read HTML pages with MathML content--and it does without the discontinuity of iBooks.  However, there seems to be a glitch here too where grouping symbols such as parentheses and absolute value bars are shown visually but not detected by VoiceOver.  I will continue to track updates to these issues and update this post as issues are resolved.

For more information on how the sample worksheet was crated in iBooks please see the post Creating Digital Math Worksheets that can be Accessed on iOS Devices.

Sample Worksheets

Digital Math Worksheet.ibooks 





Read more about: Assistive Technology