How to make your Mac Speak Selectively

Featured Image: 
Mac Screenshot of Text to Speech settings.

For some low vision students, having the ability to listen to text read aloud without having to turn on VoiceOver may be beneficial.  VoiceOver requires learning a new set of keyboard commands in order to navigate and interact with the Mac.  Another option is Speak Text, which enables the student to choose to have the main body of text read aloud using one simple key command.  However, Speak Text does not announce buttons and other areas outside of the main body of content.  Speak Text is not appropriate for a student who is blind or has severe vision loss.  Speak Text may be appropriate for a student who is low vision while that student is learning to use auditory input and/or in the process of transitioning to VoiceOver.  Speak Text may also be beneficial for a low vision student who may not have the mental ability or physical dexterity to learn or produce the more complex VoiceOver keyboard commands.

To set up Text to Speech (Speak Text):

Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Dictation & Speech, then click Text to Speech.

Select the “Speak selected text when the key is pressed” checkbox. By default, speaking is enabled when you simultaneously press Option + Esc. To choose a different key combination, click Change Key, press one or more modifier keys (Command, Shift, Option, or Control) together with another key, then click OK.

To have your Mac start speaking, press the specified key. To stop the speaking, press the key again. If text is selected when you press the key, the selected text is spoken. Otherwise, available text items in the current window are spoken; for example, if Mail is the current window, an email message (main content) is read; however, the "To" and "From" sections of the email are not read.  If no text items are available, you will hear a tone.

You can also use VoiceOver, the spoken interface for OS X, to hear descriptions of every item on the screen and to control your Mac using the keyboard.