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My Screen Reader Cheatsheet

Here’s a list of useful Screen Reader commands and tips for my reference and yours. This is a work in progress and I’ll update it as I go.

VoiceOver (Mac)

Initial setup:

  1. Open Safari > Preferences > Advanced; then
  2. check the checkbox “Press tab to highlight each item on a webpage”.


  • Open the page you want to test in your web browser (you might favour Safari for VoiceOver).
  • Cmd-F5 to turn VoiceOver on.
  • Cmd-F5 (again) to turn VoiceOver off.

Get Cmd-F5 for “toggling on and off” into your muscle memory!


  • Ctrl-Option-A to have VoiceOver read the entire page.
  • Ctrl to pause VoiceOver, and Ctrl again to resume.
  • Find any unexpected issues by


Tab through items on the page using the tab key. This will move to the next focusable item (button, link, input). You can verify all interactive elements have a focus style, all interactive elements are reachable by keyboard, all off-screen or hidden elements don’t get focused when they shouldn’t and that the spoken label for each interactive element has sufficient context to understand it (“click here” and “menu” isn’t sufficient).

Navigate through all the content using Ctrl-Option-→. While this is not how most screen reader users will read the page, it doesn’t take long and lets you confirm that everything VoiceOver announces makes sense.

Using Rotor to scan and jump to specific elements

  • Ctrl-Option-U to open Rotor
  • Browse categories using left and right arrows. This includes the Landmarks menu.
  • Down arrow to browse within the categories
  • press Return to select an item

This is a great way to check if your content structure makes sense to a screen reader. Checking the headings illustrates the outline of the page. Viewing the links helps ensure they all have a name that makes sense without visual context. Checking landmarks helps ensure that the proper ARIA roles have been applied. You might find that a list of articles is not titled appropriately or that headings are not properly nested.


  • Navigate to a table using Ctrl-Option-Cmd-T
  • It should read a caption and give you info about the size of the table
  • Ctrl-Cmd-{arrowkey} to navigate inside the table.


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