The Split Tap

An interested party left a comment on a post I wrote back in November of last year, called The frustrations of VoiceOver. The commenter wondered if the situation I described in said post was the same for VoiceOver in Safari on iOS (meaning on both the iPhone and iPad). Problem being, I had a one helluva time testing the “bug” with VoiceOver on iOS.

Long, and somewhat uninteresting (for the scope of this piece, at least), story short, I was able to clear the biggest impediment I had toward testing this quirk in iOS yesterday. How do I even turn VoiceOver on to test? It, as in iOS, will not recognize my double taps when it asks for confirmation for turning VoiceOver on. “Is this really what you want to do? iOS’s gestures change when VoiceOver is turned on” (I’m quoting from memory, it’s more than likely that isn’t what it says). So I put a call out on Twitter asking how I might overcome this.

Although the solution isn’t all the intuitive to discover on one’s own, that doesn’t necessarily make any solution any less liberating or powerful.

You can’t do that!

Turns out slowing the double tap speed, or more accurately increasing the time iOS requires between events iOS needs to recognize a user is in fact wanting to double tap, isn’t something it will allow a user to do. And looking in the “Accessibility” section in the “General” Settings for a solution wasn’t apparent. I did, however, find and play with “Assistive Touch.” And I found it somewhat helpful, more generally. But it was of little help in this instance.

As with most things clarity comes with hindsight. “iOS gestures change when VoiceOver is turned on.” I really need to pay closer attention to what I’m doing. The solution I was after is covered by iOS “gestures.” Three people, @mixolydian, @SusanATX and @LeonieWatson, brought the concept of the “Split Tap” to my attention. And I’m so glad they did. It allowed me to do precisely what I needed.

(Unfortunately, as of the time of this writing, I’m still getting adjusted to how to use VoiceOver on iOS, so I’m not entirely sure of much with respect to the commenters question just yet. See the the addendum for a long overdue update.)

So what’s a “Split Tap”?

Granted it’s not exactly the most telling of names, in terms of it describing the action I mean. You’re not “splitting” anything. You’re merely doing something with two digits, in place of an action you’d otherwise perform with just one. I digress, but my mentioning it’s naming is relevant to understanding the concept, I found.

When performing a Split Tap you simply place and hold a finger on an element you wish to double tap. Then tap the screen, anywhere else apparently, with another digit. Personally I switch — depending on where the element I’m looking to interact with happens to lay on the screen (the edge of my device makes it awkward for me to use the same fingers for the same purpose constantly) — between my index and middle finger for placing and whichever of my other fingers is free to tap.

There you have the Split Tap. I thought I share my experiences with this gesture. Despite what I said above, “the solution isn’t all the intuitive to discover on one’s own,” on second thought, I’m not sure that assessment is entirely fair. An amount of trial and error was necessary for me to wrap my head around the concept. So some “intuition” was required on my part. And, if nothing else, what I wrote above adds to what I couldn’t find in the literal minute I Googled “Split Tap iOS.”

I hope this helps someone.

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