Index finger on the

3 Steps to Becoming a Tech Power User

The use of gestures, the rotor and then single letter commands on an iPad helps students transition to being tech power laptop users!

Tech power users are those students and adults who quickly and efficiently navigate around their screen. This does not mean swiping right multiple times quickly on smart phone or tablet (or using the right arrow key on a computer); there are numerous navigation commands that enable users to efficiently jump through text. There are several levels of efficiency when using a touch screen device and these tech skills directly transfer to computer use. As always, students should be exposed to and should become efficient with commands early!

This article will focus on progressing through the tech levels on an iPad with VoiceOver paired with a Bluetooth keyboard. Keep in mind that there are similar commands for every device and screen reader; you can apply this information to other devices and screen readers. We will specifically be building tech skills for navigate web pages using Quick Nav, rotor, and single letter navigation. Keep in mind that screen readers on Macs and Windows computers also use single letter navigation!

First Level

Use the drag gesture to learn the spatial layout of the screen, before introducing the right or left sipe gesture or arrow keys on a Bluetooth keyboard commands.

The power of a touch screen device is the ability to touch the screen and know exactly where you are. (Example: When touching the Back button, the student’s finger is physically located at the top left corner of the screen.) Touching the screen enables the user to build a mental map of the screen. To navigate efficiently, students need to understand the standard webpage layout. Example: When in Safari, the Tool Bar is a row of buttons at the top of the screen; the Tool bar includes the Search/URL Textfield and buttons. The next row is the Tabs row; use the tabs to quickly move between open websites. Initially, students should explore the webpage by dragging a finger around the screen to discover what is there and where things are located. When multiple right swipes are initially used to explore the screen, the spatial relationships and mental map is not developed; swiping eliminates the opportunity of learning where things are located.

Students also need to listen to the various screen reader announcements. VoiceOver will announce things such as “headings”, “buttons”, and “links”. Students should listen for and understand these elements; power users will use commands to navigate by these element types.

Keep in mind that the top two rows (Tool bar and Tabs) will remain on each webpage. The content layout of each webpage can vary; some webpages will have a drop-down menu on the left, some will have another row of buttons across the top of the page, and some will have popup advertisements on the right or even embedded into the content. On some webpages, using the swipe right gesture (or right arrow key) requires moving through all the buttons and tabs at the top of the page before arriving at the content.

Note 1: Websites that are built with accessibility in mind will include a hidden “Skip to Content” button for screen reader users. This enables the user to jump directly into the content of the webpage without having to navigate through all the tabs and buttons at the top of the page. 

Note 2: Once a webpage is opened or an article is selected, eliminate all the ads and clutter on the page using the Reader Feature. Learn more about the Reader feature here.

Second Level

The second level is navigating by the rotor. Rotor navigation includes options such as Headings, Form Controls, Links, Buttons, Text Fields, Containers, etc.

Learn more about the Rotor here.

Note: The rotor has multiple navigation options when on a webpage. 

Must select your rotor options in the Settings app for these options to appear. Go to Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Rotor and then check the desired rotor options. 

Note: Some rotor options will change, depending on the app. When you are on a webpage, navigating by Headings is a must for power tech users. First, navigating by headings will jump past things such as the open tabs. Second, navigating by Headings provides a quick overview of what is on the page and the order of these items. This allows the student to “skim” to find if the page has what he/she is looking for and enables the student to quickly jump to a desired area.

Forms, Buttons, and links are ways to jump directly to these areas. After reading through the website or article, the student may want to go back and open a link or find a button that is embedded in the page. Use the rotor to navigate quickly to these elements on the page.

There are other options, such as lists and tables, that might also be beneficial, so be sure to browse through the rotor options. Keep in mind that the more options you select, the more things you have to go through when rotating through the rotor. Try to find a happy balance!

As always, once the student has explored and understands standard website layout, then using the Bluetooth keyboard commands is more efficient than using gestures.

Rotor Gestures 

To activate the rotor: Two-finger clockwise or counterclockwise twist

Select the next or previous item in the rotor: swipe down or swipe up

Rotor Bluetooth keyboard command

To activate the rotor: Up + right arrow to move clockwise through the rotor

                                    Up + left arrow to move counterclockwise through the rotor

Select the next or previous item in the rotor: down arrow or up arrow

In the beginning of this video, Becca demonstrates using the rotor to navigate by Headings. Once the rotor is set to Headings (up + right arrow), she navigates through the Headings on the page using the down arrow.

Note: In the video, Becca mentions turning Quick Nav on before activating the rotor. The rotor will now activate when Quick Nav is on or off.

Third Level

Third level is the “Tech Power User” level – single letter Bluetooth keyboard commands. Note: 

Toggle Single Letter Quick Nav on/off: VO + Q 

Then, select the desired element:

Headings: H

Links: L

Buttons: B

“VO” means to press and hold the Control + Option keys plus tapping another key. For example, if the student wants to skim the headings, then hold Control + Option while tapping H multiple times.

To move backwards through the desired element, press Shift + the desired single letter command.

This video demonstrates using single letter navigation. In the video, Becca demonstrated how to navigate by headings, links, and images. Listen for the VoiceOver announcement to know which element that Becca was navigating by. Example: VoiceOver will announce the text, then “Heading Level 1”; this means Becca was navigating by Headings, using the single letter H.

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