Tutorials for Eyes-Free Operation

This page contains tutorials for eyes-free operation of List Recorder using the iPhone's Voice Over capability.

These tutorials are written specifically for Voice Over users. As such they will describe the audio sequences and precise gestures being used. In non-Voice Over tutorials “tap” is used is used to signify the gesture used to activate a button. That gesture is a tap unless Voice Over is on, in which case it becomes a double tap. In the Voice Over beginning tutorials the precise gesture, either tap or double tap is used as appropriate.

You can read the tutorials online by using the following links. To download all the tutorials on this page as a single Microsoft Word document, click here.

Go to tutorial: Exploring an item that already has audio

Go to tutorial: Controlling all the voices

Tutorial: Exploring an item that already has audio

Find the item you want.  It will say, “Has audio.”  It will also begin to play for the number of seconds set for audio preview in the Settings toolbar button.

Double tap to open the item.  The preview audio will stop if it has not stopped already.

Playing the audio

You will be placed on the “Play” button.  Double tap it to begin the playback.  The audio will start at the beginning and continue playing to the end unless interrupted.  The “Play” button will become a “Pause” button in order to allow you to pause the playback.  You switch between playing and pausing the audio each time you press the button.  Swiping to the left will place you on the “Stop” button.  Unlike the “Pause” button which will keep track of the current place in the audio, the “Stop” button will stop the playback and reset the audio to the beginning. 

What comes before the Play button

If you swipe to the left one more time, you will hear the date on which the file was created. Another left swipe will take you to the Actions button. One more swipe will again announce the title and yet one more swipe will take you back to the button that says “Home.” Double tapping the Home button will close the current item and take you back to the list of items.

Things you can do while the audio is playing

Starting at the play button, swipe once to the right and you will be given the total time of the recorded file along with an announcement of the current time position. For example, you may hear something like “18 seconds, positioned at 8 seconds.”

Swipe once more to the right and you will be on the slider that allows you to go forward and back through the recording.  For example, if you are at the mid way point in the file, you will hear, “50% adjustable. Swipe up or down to adjust the value.”  Thus swiping up once may take you to 62%, while swiping down may take you to 37%.  How far you go with one swipe is about 12% but it is not exact.  You can do this when in play or in pause.

The title, text and do date fields

Swiping to the right once more will take you to the title field.  If there is a title, it will be announced.  You will also hear the message that says, “Text field.  Double tap to edit.”

One more swipe to the right gets you to the text field. If the field is empty it will say “Empty text field.” If there is text, the first sentence of the text is read without any announcement of the field name or status. You can continue to read sentence by sentence by swiping right and left. You can read continuously from where you are with a two finger swipe down.

The last field on the screen holds the do date. If no do date has been assigned it will say “No do date.” The field acts as button that brings up a screen for editing the do date.

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Tutorial: Controlling all the voices

List recorder includes much more audio feedback than your typical iPhone app. First, there is the familiar Voice Over voice, announcing the controls and reading text in all the ways you are used to. Apple is to be commended for creating the first main stream mobile device with built-in accessibility. If you are still learning the Voice Over interface, there are links at the end of this tutorial to documents that are helpful. Also, the screen in system settings where you turn on Voice Over has a mode where you can practice Voice Over gestures, which is great if you are just starting out with Voice Over.

Pre-recorded versus text-to-speech

In addition to Voice over, List Recorder uses pre-recorded audio to provide audio feedback such as the “editing on,” “editing off” or the audio toolbar menu. Pre-recorded audio is, as it implies, a recording of the desired speech or sound.  The VoiceOver voice is created using a different technology where the computer is given text, such as a sentence in a text field, and uses some fairly complex processing to generate sound that we can recognize as the sentence being spoken. This technology is called text-to-speech or synthesized speech. With text-to-speech the computer can speak text without having to know beforehand what the speech is. That is a big advantage over pre-recorded audio where you need to know beforehand what to
record. Also, recorded speech can take a lot of space to store. On the other hand, pre-recorded speech is much easier to listen to. Who wouldn’t prefer to listen to Neal’s voice rather than the synthesized VoiceOver voice?

As of iPhone OS 4, Apple limits the use of text-to-speech to things like VoiceOver. Apps like List Recorder do not have access to text-to-speech. So when List Recorder needs to provide audio feedback, it must either get VoiceOver to speak the feedback or use pre-recorded audio.

What we’ve done in List Recorder is combine VoiceOver’s synthesized voice with pre-recorded audio to give you a rich audio experience.  There are also many ways to adjust the audio experience, which are described below. Often times the method you use to control audio depends on whether the audio is recorded or synthesized.

Adjusting the volume

The volume control buttons on the left edge on the iPhone adjust the volume for all types of audio. One confusing aspect is that the volume control buttons switch between controlling the volume of VoiceOver and the ringer volume.

In general, if no sound is playing, the volume control buttons control ringer volume. If VoiceOver or recorded audio is playing the buttons instead control the volume of those. Since the auditory feedback is the same, it is easy to think you are reducing the volume of VoiceOver but instead are turning down the ringer. Not only will you not hear the phone ring, but system alerts are also turned down. Since the short auditory messages in List Recorder are considered system alerts, you won't hear those either.

If you use the volume control buttons while the type of audio you wish to adjust is playing, you can be sure you are adjusting the audio you expect while verifying the volume adjustment. There is also a way to change how volume control works in the system settings that make things a bit simpler.

You can control the volume of the ringer and system alerts with a slider found under Settings / Sounds / Ringer and alerts - sound volume. Below the slider is a button labeled Change with Buttons. If you turn this button off, the physical volume control buttons will control only VoiceOver and recorded audio, regardless of what’s playing. So if you turn off Change with Buttons, you will then have to use the slider in settings to adjust the volume of ringer and system alerts, eliminating the possibility of changing it accidentally.

Pause or silence the audio

To pause Voice Over audio use a two finger tap. A second two finger tap will continue where you left off. Two finger tap does not work for recorded audio. Instead use the methods described below.

Silencing audio preview

Audio preview plays an item’s audio while in list view if the item does not have a title. You can set the number of seconds the preview plays by changing “Audio preview length” in the settings toolbar button.

A double-tap-hold gesture will silence an audio preview as will a left tilt. In addition, moving the Voice Over cursor, opening the item, or doing most any other functions will also silence the audio preview as part of the function being performed.

Silencing audio being played

To silence the audio playback in the item detail view use the pause/play/stop buttons which are designed to perform these functions.

A left tilt while playing the audio is the equivalent of tapping the stop button. A second left tilt however, will take you back to the list view.

Changing the audio speed

To change the speed of Voice Over audio, use the “Speaking Rate” slider in accessibility screen in the system settings app. When in system settings tap General, followed by Accessibility and Voice Over and scroll down to the “Speaking Rate” slider. In iOS 4.2 and higher, you can toggle a setting below the Speaking Rate slider that allows you to include speaking rate in the rotor.

Changing the speed of recorded text is not currently possible in List Recorder.

Links for learning Voice Over

Apple's website that covers VoiceOver and other accessibility features on the iPhone and related devices:

Apple's website that covers VoiceOver on all its platforms:

A discussion group covering the iPhone as it relates to access in the Visually Impaired community:

A site devoted to iPhone, iPad & iPod Touch from a vision impaired perspective:

A good site to find podcasts to help beginners with VoiceOver and the iPhones in general:

Audio tours of apps for iOS devices:

A good site to follow for news about all things Apple and accessibility:

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