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Problems using VoiceOver on Apple TV

VoiceOver is a screen-reader, or text-to-speech software, on Apple TV that's primarily used by blind and partially sighted people. When you highlight an item on your Apple TV 4K or Apple TV HD, VoiceOver speaks the item and any associated text.

The NOW app on Apple TV has been designed to work well with VoiceOver, but there are a couple of things you may need to adjust if you're having problems using it.

Need a hand? If you've tried the fixes below and you're still having problems, or if you need help, contact our Accessibility team.

Having trouble with the navigation?

VoiceOver users have the choice of 2 navigation methods: Follow Focus and Direct Touch.

For the best experience in the NOW app, we recommend using Follow Focus. This should be selected by default, but if not, follow these steps to switch to it:

How to change the navigation method
  1. Open the Settings app on your Apple TV.
  2. Select Accessibility in the menu, then select VoiceOver.
  3. On the next screen, go to Navigation Style.
  4. Click the touchpad to toggle between Direct Touch and Follow Focus, then press Menu or Home to exit and save your selection.
 

How to use Follow Focus

  • Swipe up, down, left and right on the remote control touchpad to move the cursor one item at a time.
  • VoiceOver will read out the highlighted item and any related information.
  • Click the touchpad to select.

How to use Direct Touch

  • A short swipe up, down, left or right should move the cursor one item at a time, while a long swipe should move the cursor by multiple items in one go. This is currently not performing as expected in the NOW app, with cursor movement and speech being erratic.
  • You can also tap (not click) the touchpad towards the top, bottom, left or right edge to move the cursor one item at a time. This does work as expected in the NOW app.
  • Once you have found the option you want, click the touchpad to select.

 

Is part of the audio being cut off?

We've heard from a few users who've told us that the beginning of some phrases is being missed off when they're spoken. For example:

  • Instead of Entertainment, VoiceOver says tainment
  • Instead of Game of Thrones, 2 of 14, VoiceOver says Thrones, 2 of 14
  • Instead of Rewind button, VoiceOver says Button.

What you can do to fix it

Our tech team is working hard to investigate and resolve this issue, but in the meantime, there are a couple of workarounds you can try.

  1. Is your Apple TV connected to an external speaker or soundbar? You might find that the problem disappears if you use your TV audio instead. Try switching your audio output to your TV speakers when using the NOW app.
  2. Another temporary solution is to change the rate (or speed) of VoiceOver’s speech. Many users prefer a faster rate, but our testing shows that the faster the rate of speech, the more of the phrase is cut off. For example, for the phrase Game of Thrones, 2 of 14:
  • At Speech Rate 100%: No speech is heard
  • At Speech Rate 80%: You hear 2 of 14
  • At Speech Rate 55%: You hear Thrones, 2 of 14
  • At Speech Rate 35%: You hear Game of Thrones, 2 of 14.

So if you're missing the beginning of audio phrases, we recommend setting a slower speech rate while you're using the NOW app so you get to hear the full spoken phrase.

How to change the speech rate

There are 2 ways to change the rate of speech.

In Settings

  1. Open the Settings app on your Apple TV.
  2. Select Accessibility in the menu, then select VoiceOver.
  3. On the next screen, select Speech Rate.
  4. Swipe up or down to adjust the value, then press Menu or Home to exit and save your selection.

Using the rotor

  1. Place 2 fingers on the touchpad and move them in opposite directions, like turning a virtual dial.
  2. Repeat this until VoiceOver says Speaking Rate.
  3. Swipe up or down to adjust the value.

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