With the “Speak Screen” feature in iOS, you can have your device read whatever’s on the screen to you just by swiping two fingers down from the top of the page. It can read just about anything, from settings pages to web sites to ebooks. While it’s obviously useful if you have some form of visual impairment, it can also be really handy when you want to catch up on your reading but don’t want your eyes glued to a screen. Here’s how to set it up.
The Speak Screen feature is pretty robust, but there are a couple of things you should be aware of. First, Speak Screen will read everything that’s on your screen, including ads on web pages if they include text. If you’re going to be doing a lot of web page reading, you’d be wise to use it in conjunction with Safari’s Reader Mode or any of the other tools out there for saving web pages to read later. Also, for ebook reading, Speak Screen works well with iBooks and the Kindle app, but can be a little glitchy with Nook and Google Play Books.
To enable the Speak Screen feature, fire up your Settings app and tap General.
On the General settings page, tap Accessibility.
In the Accessibility settings, tap Speech.
On the Speech page, turn the “Speak Screen” toggle on.
When you turn Speak Screen on, three additional settings appear. Tap Voices to add different voices from multiple languages and dialects and select the default voice. The “Speaking Rate” slider lets you adjust how fast Speak Screen will read the selection. You can also adjust this on the fly when you activate Speak Screen, so there’s really not much point in setting it here. Enable “Highlight Content” to have Speak Screen highlight what it’s reading on screen so you can follow along easier.
When you have Speak Screen enabled, you can activate it on any screen by sliding down from the top of the screen with two fingers. Speak Screen immediately starts reading. It also displays a control panel that you can use to pause the speech, skip forward or backward, and change the reading speed (the turtle and rabbit buttons).
You can also tap the Minimize button (the left arrow) to get the control panel out of your way. Just tap the icon to get the full control panel back.
While Speak Screen is reading to you, you can scroll the page up or down (or change pages in your ebook reader) without interrupting the speech. You can even close the app you’re having it read from and open up another app while Speak Screen is still reading whatever screen you started it on. If you want Speak Screen to switch to reading a new screen, just swipe down from the top with two fingers on the new screen.
And there you have it. Speak Screen is great for catching up on reading while you’re doing other things, whether you have a visual impairment or not. I often have it read web pages to me while I poke through email or clean up my photos, but it’s also great for turning just about any ebook into an audiobook.