Chapter 6. Browsing the Internet

This chapter provides information about using VoiceOver to browse and navigate webpages effectively using two different navigation modes, tables, images, frames, and web spots, as well as the VoiceOver Web Item rotor.

Ways to browse webpages

There are several ways you can browse and navigate webpages.

Web developers can assign keyboard shortcuts, called “access keys,” to webpage items such as links and buttons, to make them easier to interact with. VoiceOver can notify you when it detects access keys. For example, if VoiceOver detects an access key on a link, it might say “Access key available: s,” where “s” is the access key. You can then press Control-S to open the link. To hear access keys, you must select the option to speak help tags in the Hints pane of the Verbosity category in VoiceOver Utility.

Hear a summary of a webpage

When you browse webpages using VoiceOver, you can hear a summary of webpage statistics that tells you how many headings, links, tables, landmarks, live regions, and more are on the page. This information can help you assess the scope and structure of the webpage and navigate in ways that best suit the webpage.

To hear the statistics for the current webpage, press VO-Shift-I. You can set an option in the Web category in VoiceOver Utility to have the summary automatically read when a webpage opens.

VoiceOver speaks statistics only for the items listed in the Web rotor.

Navigate webpages using DOM or group mode

VoiceOver provides two modes for navigating webpages: by a webpage’s Document Object Model (DOM), or by grouping related items. Navigating by DOM moves left and right, in the order set by the webpage’s author. (Moving up and down in DOM mode is based on the current setting of the Web Item rotor.) Navigating by group moves in any direction, to help give you a sense of context.

You set the default web navigation mode in VoiceOver Utility, but you can easily switch modes to best suit the current webpage.

Set the default navigation mode
  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Web in the category table, click Navigation, and then select the “DOM order” or “Grouping items” radio button.
Switch navigation modes

Do one of the following:

Navigate by DOM

To navigate list items, press VO-arrow keys (you don’t need to interact with a list to navigate the list items).

Navigate by grouping items

To navigate the items in a list, interact with the list. You don’t need to interact with groups that contain only one item.

When you navigate to a list, VoiceOver indicates the number of items in the list and when it has reached the end of the list.

If you’re using VoiceOver gestures, the current web navigation mode affects how you navigate webpages using the rotor. If you’re navigating in DOM mode, flicking up or down moves to the previous or next instance of the item that matches the current rotor setting. For example, if the rotor is set to Headings, flicking up or down moves to the previous or next heading. If you’re navigating by grouping items, flicking up or down moves to the previous or next group of related items. You can assign the “Toggle Web Navigation DOM or Group” command to a gesture using the Trackpad Commander, to easily switch modes to suit your needs.

Navigate webpages using images

Webpages typically contain images, some of which may be used as links. Some images include a description, called “alt text.” You can navigate only to images that contain alt text, never navigate to images, or always navigate to images.

Customize image navigation
  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Web in the category table, click Navigation, and then choose an option from the Navigate Images pop-up menu.

    For a description of the options, click the Help button in the lower-right corner of the pane.

Navigate to images

When you navigate to an image that doesn’t have a description, VoiceOver speaks the image filename. You can create a custom label for these images, or for images whose alt text isn’t useful.

If images are listed in the Web rotor, you can listen to the webpage summary to hear how many images are on the current webpage.

Navigate tables on webpages

Tables are used extensively on webpages to create visual layouts and to present data. You can navigate data tables by grouping items within the tables. When you navigate tables by grouping, you hear a summary of a table and its cells as you press the arrow keys to navigate the table. You don’t need to interact with the table unless you hear something that you want to explore in detail. You can use a VoiceOver command to turn grouping on or off to best suit the current table.

Turn on grouping for all tables
  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Web in the category table, click Navigation, and then select the “Group items within” checkbox.
Turn grouping on or off for the current table

Press VO-=.

Only the table you’re currently in is affected by this command; other tables will still use the setting specified in VoiceOver Utility. VoiceOver remembers the setting for the current table and will use it each time you navigate to that table. When you turn off grouping for a table, you must interact with the table.

Navigate tables when grouped

When you’re navigating tables without grouping, you can navigate more quickly to the next column by pressing VO-Command-Y or navigate to the previous column by pressing VO-Command-Shift-Y.

Navigate webpages using live regions

Some webpages contain areas whose content is updated without refreshing the entire page. These areas are called “live regions.” For example, a webpage might contain a live region that displays stock prices that are continuously updated, or a banner that displays a new ad every minute. VoiceOver can detect live regions on a webpage, even when the focus is elsewhere on the webpage, and speak the content in the live region as it changes. You can turn on all live regions, or turn specific live regions on or off.

Turn all live regions on or off
  1. When VoiceOver is on, open VoiceOver Utility by pressing VO-F8.
  2. Click Web in the category table, and then select the Enable Live Regions checkbox.

    VoiceOver will speak the content of every live region it detects.

To turn off all live regions, deselect the checkbox.

Turn a live region on or off
  1. If live regions are listed in the Web rotor, use the rotor to move to a specific live region.
  2. While in the selected live region, press the O key to turn the live region on or off. The live region remains on or off until you press the O key again.

You can use the Trackpad, NumPad, Keyboard, and Quick Nav Commanders to specify gestures or keys for navigating to the next or previous live region on a webpage, or for turning a live region on or off. You can also specify input keys on a refreshable braille display to work with live regions.

Navigate webpages using landmarks

Web developers can assign landmark roles to areas of a webpage to identify the purpose or type of content of an area to screen readers, and to make it easier to navigate the webpage. Landmarks are not visible on a webpage. For an example of a webpage that contains landmarks, visit store.apple.com.

VoiceOver supports all landmarks, including:

Banner: The area that contains the page name, logo, or other identifying information.

Complementary: An area, such as a sidebar, that supports the main content area.

Content info: The area that contains footnote-type information, such as copyright or privacy statements.

Main: The area that contains the main content.

Navigation: The area that contains a navigation bar or other links for navigating the webpage or website.

Search: The area that contains a search field for searching the webpage or website.

If landmarks are listed in the Web rotor, you can use the rotor to move to a specific landmark.

You can use the Trackpad, NumPad, Keyboard, and Quick Nav Commanders to specify gestures or keys for navigating to the next or previous landmark on a webpage. You can also specify input keys on a refreshable braille display to navigate to landmarks.

Navigate webpages using web spots

As VoiceOver opens a webpage, it evaluates the visual design, groups items based on the design, and creates an “auto web spot” on the first item in each group on the page. VoiceOver briefly outlines the group with a large rectangle, which transitions into the VoiceOver cursor, positioned on the first auto web spot in the first group.

You can jump from one auto web spot to another and hear the content in each auto web spot, scanning the webpage for content that interests you.

You can also create your own web spots to mark favorite content on a webpage (say, the top headlines or sports scores) and navigate there more quickly. If you mark one of your web spots as the “sweet spot,” it appears first in the list of web spots in the Web rotor, and can have the focus when a web page is displayed.

Use web spots
Create a web spot

Press VO-Command-Shift-}.

You can create an unlimited number of web spots for a webpage.

Remove a web spot

Press VO-Command-Shift-{.

You can delete only web spots you create.

Set a sweet spot

Press VO-Command-Shift-}-}.

To have the VoiceOver cursor focused on the sweet spot when the webpage opens, choose the “Move the VoiceOver cursor to it” checkbox on the Page Loading pane of the Web category in VoiceOver Utility.

To open the Web rotor to use the lists of auto web spots and web spots you created, press VO-U. You can use the rotor with VoiceOver gestures.

If the design of a webpage changes significantly and VoiceOver can’t locate a web spot that previously existed on the page, it creates a new one that closely matches the original one.

Navigate webpages using frames

Some webpages organize information into separate areas called “frames.” Sometimes one frame contains links that update the contents of other frames on the page. You may find it easier to navigate these webpages using frames.

If frames are listed in the Web rotor, you can listen to the webpage summary to hear how many frames are on the current webpage.

Navigate webpages using the Web rotor

When you browse a webpage, you can display the Web rotor and use it to jump directly to a specific heading, table, link, text field, checkbox, or other item on the webpage, or to navigate a webpage line by line.

  1. While browsing a webpage, open the Web rotor by pressing VO-U.
  2. Navigate the lists using the Right Arrow or Left Arrow key until you hear the list you want, such as Headings or Links.
  3. Navigate the items in the list using the Up Arrow or Down Arrow key until you find the item you want.
    • If you know the name of an item in a list, type some letters of its name to narrow the list to only items that contain those letters. If you’re in the Headings list, you can type the heading level (such as 3) to narrow the list to only headings of that level.

      To show all items in the list again, press the Delete key.

    • To hear an item’s Internet address, if applicable, press VO-Shift-U. To hear the item’s help tag, if available, press VO-Shift-H.
    • If you don’t find the item you want, press the Escape key to exit the rotor without making a selection.
  4. Press Return or the Space bar to select the item and jump to it on the webpage.

    The Web rotor closes.

You can choose the types of items that are listed in the Web rotor.

If you’re using VoiceOver gestures, you can access the web-related rotor settings with a gesture.