Accessibility Fixes And Improvements in iOS 8.1

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple Releases iOS 8.1 With a Number Of Fixes And Improvements For Blind And Low Vision Users

Following a short beta testing period, Apple today released iOS 8.1 to the public - the first major update to iOS 8 since its release last month. Along with the introduction of a number of new features, iOS 8.1 appears to include a number of accessibility-specific fixes and improvements.

Based upon what we have typically come to expect from a full point release of iOS, it is likely that some will be disappointed to see that this update does not include more fixes for the accessibility-related bugs that were introduced in iOS 8.0. However, it is worth noting that iOS 8.1 comes just a month after iOS 8.0, and that Apple appears to be working on a very different version schedule to what we have typically seen in the past. To illustrate, iOS 5.1 was released nearly five months after iOS 5.0; iOS 6.1 was released a little over four months after iOS 6.0; and iOS 7.1 was released nearly six months after iOS 7.0.

So, all that to say this: it's important to keep in mind that we are only a month into iOS 8, and isolating and fixing bugs takes time.

With Apple still needing to fit integration with the forthcoming Apple Watch into the life cycle of iOS 8, it is likely that we will see an iOS 8.2 (and possibly even an 8.3) release in the coming months. We can only hope that these - or any interim updates - will fix the outstanding bugs which are still affecting blind and low vision users.

Here are the fixes and improvements that we have found in our initial testing of iOS 8.1. Please do let us know in the comments any other changes that you find.

Accessibility-Related Fixes and Improvements in iOS 8.1

  1. Toggling the Braille Status Cell setting should no longer disable VoiceOver.

  2. Using the Handwriting Mode should no longer cause VoiceOver to crash.

  3. Typing Feedback now correctly reflects your setting (in earlier releases of iOS 8, there would be "echo" feedback, regardless of whether you had this enabled).

  4. A number of problems appear to have been resolved when using a bluetooth keyboard - for example, apps and VoiceOver should no longer crash, and VoiceOver key commands should work as expected.

  5. The Send button should now work when using the Share option to send a message from outside of the stock Messages app.

  6. The dialpad no longer appears to occasionally "stick" after entering a number.

  7. The bug which caused direct touch typing mode to prevent some third-party keyboards from working properly appears to be resolved. (Most notably, this bug prevented Fleksy from working, although there are still issues with this app. For now, we do not know if this is due to other VoiceOver issues or bugs in Fleksy itself.).

  8. The Purchase buttons in the iTunes Store, App Store and iBooks Store now appear to behave more reliably.

  9. When VoiceOver automatically switches languages, it should now use the Enhanced Quality voice if it is installed.

  10. Web form labels should now read correctly.

  11. There appear to be improvements which make it less likely that your device will auto-lock whilst VoiceOver is speaking.

  12. When using the Zoomed Display mode on an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, the touch and visual location of elements should now match.

Accessibility-Related Bugs Introduced in iOS 8.1

As is the nature of these things, a major update can introduce new bugs. If you encounter any which you believe to be new in this release, please let us know in the comments section.

For now, this is the only bug that we believe to be new:

  1. If your iPhone is muted via the side switch, VoiceOver doesn’t always provide feedback if you touch or swipe the screen when there is an incoming call. For obvious reasons, this makes handling of incoming calls somewhat of a challenge. In our early testing, this behaviour appears to be inconsistent and unpredictable. Unmuting your device does immediately bring VoiceOver back.

For a list of bugs introduced in iOS 8.0, please see our existing post: The Accessibility Bugs in iOS 8: From Serious To Minor

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Submitted by J.P. on Friday, October 24, 2014

I found a bug where after toggling speakerphone on in visual VMail, it doesn't turn on. Only after turning off speech with triple finger double tap does speakerphone work. I already reported.

Submitted by alex wallis on Saturday, October 25, 2014

I just upgraded to 8.1 and am beginning to regret doing so already,
I keep getting the issue where the virtual keyboard keeps popping up in places where it just isn't needed, I frequently get it in safari, and I also just had it in the test flight app when trying to install the fleksy beta, that issue was particularly annoying as I wasn't even touching the phone at the time and suddenly it just came up and started taking my screen space,
I am beginning to wonder if upgrading was really such a clever idea, I am also having great difficulty installing the fleksy beta through the test flight app, the install process doesn't seem easy or straight forward.

Submitted by forereel on Saturday, October 25, 2014

Over all, I am happy with 8.1. The few things I used that were not working correctly seem to now be better, or usable.

I’ve found that to clear the search box,in the stores, I can use the delete key if the edit field is on. Sure, that is slower than the clear key, but workable.

On Apples respect for the blind, I’d say they respect us the same. Think about it this way, if the sighted community receives bugs in there updates, why should we expect not to have any?
Many bugs, depending on device type, have not been fixed for the sighted either, so it seems to me Apple works for customers the same, and quickly as possible.

We’ve had some really specific new items added, so that indicates Apple is thinking about what could make our lives better.

Respectfully submitted.

Submitted by alex wallis on Saturday, October 25, 2014

I found a sort of work around for the virtual keyboard opening in places where it has no business, and that is to open my Bluetooth keyboard because it has a feature to hide the on screen keyboard.
Still, that is far from ideal because that wastes battery.

Submitted by alex wallis on Saturday, October 25, 2014

Not sure if this is a new one or not, I went into a contact to try to delete some custom labels I no longer need, and I found that the done button after you tap edit on the opening contact screen is always dimmed, has anyone else experienced this?

Submitted by Vash Rein on Saturday, October 25, 2014

Honestly, its a little upsetting for some of you to say we should be grateful for accessibility. No, Apple didn't have to have voiceover. But the fact is that it exists and the people who are frustrated and upset at these issues not being fixed have a right.

You're saying that everyone should shut up, but what gives any of you the right to tell anyone to be queit. The ones that are frustrated and who are taking the time out to report these issues benefit you in the end. This is because they make enough noise that these bugs do get resolved.

No, we shouldn't be taking legal action. that should be resolved for if Voiceover becomes unusable (completely unusable) or Apple decides to stop supporting voiceover. But for now, we are seeing fixes. Maybe slower than we would like, but we are seeing them. The more of us report these things, the more quickly these issues will be fixed.

Submitted by Vash Rein on Saturday, October 25, 2014

I realize that you guys may not be rich. But as a team dedicated to the advancement of accessibility for apple users, shouldn't you be doing things to have more iPhones or IPads, or etc.? How mahy bug reports do you actually submit because when I speak to any accessibility specialist, they are completely unfamiliar with most of the buts I bring up.

That is frustrating because it suggests that enough isn't being done to get these bugs noticed (maybe). As the individuals who can determine bugs and clearly state how to reproduce them, What is being done on your side beyond telling us to ensure that these bugs get fixed?

If it sounds like I am challenging you, I mean no offense, but I am curious as to any suggestions you have or even what you guys have done to make these bugs go away.

Submitted by Vash Rein on Saturday, October 25, 2014

So I read that Windows 10 will be universal on all devices. This means that the Windows 10 you get on a computer will be the same one you can use on a phone. Whether or not this is true, I don't know, but Android accessibility stinks andhaving more options would be great.

I imagine a windows 10 phone capable of running Jaws. Thus far, this would not be possible because Windows 8 and Windows phone 8 are not the same operating system; though they share some of the same code, their code is pretty different.

This may be Applevis and dedicated to Apple information, but if we are allowed to discuss it, what do you guys think?


You are complaining that the AppleVis Editorial Team are failing you by not testing beta software on a wider range of devices, right?

I’m intrigued by what picture you have in your head of AppleVis and its Editorial Team. You are aware that we receive no external funding or financial support, yes? You are aware that members of the Team voluntarily devote large amounts of their free time to maintain the website and contribute content, yes? Did I mention that they are doing this with no financial benefit? Should I mention that members of the Team actually put money towards the running costs of the site? Should I also mention that even having access to the beta software costs them money?

Apparently this isn’t enough for you, and you now demand that they go and spend their money on iOS and Mac devices to use as test units. Do you not think that this is a little bit unreasonable?

I’m sorry that we’re not doing enough for you. But, I’ll tell you what. You go hit the Donate button at the top of the page. Donate the $5000+ that it would cost to purchase a range of devices for us to use for testing (what would that get us? A MBP, a MacBook Air, an iPhone. an iPad, and iPad Mini and maybe an iPod Touch?).

Until then, I’ll keep testing on my single iOS device. The one that I rely on daily. So, yes, I’ll keep doing what sensible people always recommend that you don’t, which is to test pre-release software on devices that you rely on.

I’m sorry that’s not going to be enough for you (actually, no, I’m not, but you probably already guessed that).

As for telling you what testing and reporting I do … well, you really haven’t put me in the mood where I feel inclined to explain myself to you. What I will say, however, is that I am very comfortable with what the Team does, and that each and every bug we encounter gets reported to people who are actually in a position to do something about it. It seems that this is not the “Accessibility Specialists” that you speak with. But, you know what, I’m still very confident that we are speaking with the right people. Can you say as much?

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, but be careful not to trip over your soapbox on the way out …

Submitted by Orko on Sunday, October 26, 2014

In reply to by DPinWI

Ever since I installed IOS 8, I've had the entering phone numbers in contacts bug that DPinWI described. Even though the phone number you entered is stored correctly, when you enter the 8th digit, VO give incorrect feedback.

While IOS 8.1 may have fixed the problem for DPinWI, it didn't fix it for me.

Regarding the caller ID issue, could I ask if anyone has successfully got it back turning the "always speak notifications" Voiceover setting on? I turned it on, but when my phone is locked it stil will not read caller ID and I have to keep flicking left to hear the details. When my phone is ringing I can also not use 2-finger swipe up or down, which would be an easy way to hear caller ID even if it won't speak automatically.
So I think this is a bug at least on iPhone 5C, which I use.

Can I just say that the Applevis team are worthy of the utmost praise.
If they were resourced and funded by Apple and were dedicated solely to testing Apple accessibility then one would, of course, expect rigorous testing on multiple devices. As it happens, it is a voluntary community who, I assume, use their own devices and indeed run the risk of them becoming less usable to highlight bugs and issues that affect all of us, and that each of us have a responsibility to report things and feed back to Apple in support of their work.
One should not judge this team on the basis of how familiar or otherwise anyone at Apple is with these bugs. I'm afraid there's no shortcut to pointing things out yourself, and doing so as often as possible if you really want a fix.
I am grateful Apple strives to make these devices accessible. But I am also a customer who pays full price for Apple products so in that sense, whether accessibility is prominant or otherwise in Apple's priorities, every customer has an equal right to express satisfaction or otherwise with any aspect of the device. I think they do a good job for which I'm grateful, but that's a far cry from being somewhat apologetic about pointing out what isn't working, and this caller ID thing is annoying.

After another call to the Accessibility team yesterday. I can confirm there are some bugs specific to 5C, The team is aware and are diligently isolating those issues.

Submitted by Troy on Sunday, October 26, 2014

Over the weekend I stayed at a hotel, the holiday in to be exact. I have found a bug and I hear it's a voiceover bug in 8.0 and also 8.1 rather than the companies software. When you scroll through their agreement at the end it will ask for the access code. When you put it in you swipe and double tap submit, well vo is not activating the submit button. I did find a work around, you could either accidently come to the submit button instead of swyping, or instead of playing the guessing game to see if you found it, what I did is I finally got fed up and I actually swiped through the whole entire onscreen keybord until I got to the go button, when I double tapped the go button it finally worked.

I don't know but for some reason ever since I've owned an IPhone when putting a contact in the phone numbers, some of them don't speak when typing in a phone number, like for example 1 2 3 4 5 6. Vo will say 1 2 and then I press 3 it may not speak the 3 and will sometimes even say D E F. I am on a 4s, and I've noticed this problem ever since I got it starting with IOS6 as that is the ios I started with. However when I go back and review the phone number it will be correct.

Submitted by Laszlo on Monday, October 27, 2014

Has anyone else experienced a bug where the DTMF (dial pad) tones do not always sound in iOS 8.1? This is on an iPhone 6 Plus, and it persists even after doing a "Reset All Settings".

Submitted by Heart Shepherd on Monday, October 27, 2014

I am using an iPhone 6 anIOS 8.1. When I answer a call waiting I am unable to end that call and get back to my original call. This is frustrating and all my usual solutions have come up empty. No swap button appears the two finger double tap does not work, hiding the key pad does not produce a swap button. Is anyone else having this issue and is there a fix for it?

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Monday, October 27, 2014

It does not happen to me often but I have noticed it since updating to iOS 8.1. Rather strange bug.

Submitted by forereel on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Some suggestions about caller ID.
I understand some want it to speak with no interaction on their part, and this doesn’t happen.
How many are wear of new features being added that allow you to send a quick text, send the call directly to voicemail, answer the call after it has rang and the user has decided on an option?
I am thinking caller ID now requires looking at the screens so we can use the other features available. When I do this, I can see who’s calling me and options as to what I wish to do with that caller.
Pressing my lock button once or twice quickly causes different things to happen as well.
For me, having the phone announce my caller was a privacy issue, so I actually prefer having to interact in order to see who’s calling.
Last, under notifications, make sure you have phone set to show on the lock screen.
All I’ve suggested comes from the top of my head, but there is a section in the manual on this as well you might read to see if you can fix your problem to an extent.
In order to add these new features, it seems correct for Apple to have had to make some changes.
We must touch our screens in order to use the added features. With that in mind, I’d say Apple didn’t see the need for redundancy.
Maybe this isn’t an actual bug, but ask the user to change they way they make caller ID work?

Respectfully submitted.

Submitted by Santiago on Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I noticed that Safari tends to get extremely sluggish when performing a Google search, tapping on a search result, and going back to the Google results page using the back button and or VoiceOver gesture. A work-around for this is to refresh the page, but once in a while, it freezes up the phone completely, requiring you to lock and unlock it.

Submitted by Carol P on Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In reply to by Jessica Brown

Yes, I would say it is. The most marked improvement for me has been that VoiceOver doesn't keep turning on/off, though it still happens from time to time.

The article detailing the bug fixes doesn't quite tally with my experience using the 4S. I still cannot get any key clicks feedback when using the onboard Braille keyboard.

The other problem that remains for me is the ability to move apps freely around. The first page (main screen) appears to be the most difficult/impossible. The only work around has been to get items into the Doc and move them that way.

Submitted by Carol P on Saturday, November 1, 2014

I haven't seen this mentioned so forgive if I'm not responding in the best place.

Version 8 has required that sometimes we need to slide around the screen, locate a button and tap it directly onto the button. This usually has worked for me but I've just found an instance, when looking up someone on Facebook and trying to add as friend, where I just cannot find the button that way. I can flick to it but then it doesn't work because I'm not tapping on the button itself.

Anyone else reported this?

Off to do so now!

Submitted by Arthur on Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Hi folks, this is my first post so don't yell if I mess it up. Has anyone upgraded from iPhone 5 to 5s? I'd like to get some idea of whether or not it's worth the effort. Many thanks for any response.

Submitted by Arthur on Wednesday, October 29, 2014

In reply to by David Goodwin👨‍🦯

I personally think that you people are simply ace. Our community needs what help we can get, you do that wonderfully well. Who would have believed that a totally blind person would have the kind of access to the digital world that we have today. That's thanks to Apple and folks like the apple vis team. You have my thanks.

Submitted by flindt71 on Wednesday, October 29, 2014

I'm having a huge problem. I cant use my keyboard while using voiceover the problem started when I installed IOS 8.1 There is no problem when voiceover is of. Is anybody experiencing the same problem and what have you done to fix it? I would be very grateful if suggestions and of course solutions.

Submitted by bee on Thursday, October 30, 2014

Hi guys I'm also the one that Upgrade my IPhone to use IOS 8.1
Almost 2 weeks now for that.
But so far I'm quite happy with it.
Even though of course it was got some bug still.
I can say I'm still allright with it.
For Apple vis folks.
You guys done so much excellent job to give us such a good information for us to be aware before decide to do something.
By the way for the hang up the call by power button.
How can you guys do it.
Can someone kindly enough to give the instruction for me to do that tip?
For bt keyboard I also got problem as well.
But still got some way to solve it though.
By the way Thanks so much guys.

Submitted by sockhopsinger on Thursday, October 30, 2014

I just had to change my AppleID. It worked fine until I went into iCloud settings on my iPhone 5s running iOS 8.1. I went to my user ID, clicked on edit, and that's when the problem struck. I can edit my first name, and my last name. However, when I try to edit my email adderss, Voiceover will not let me into that text field. I have tried to click on it without Voiceover on. I have restarted Voiceover and tried to enter the text field again. Nothing works. I don't know if this is an iOS 8.1 bug or not, but it seems like it might be which is why I'm posting this here. Please help!!!!

Submitted by Orko on Saturday, November 1, 2014

I believe that VO not reading the caller ID information is a bug rather than an intentional choice made by Apple as someone suggested.

Although I'd rather have VO read the caller ID information, what I did with ring tones has at least, for me, made the bug not as big a problem as it might have been.

What I did was divide my contacts into groups such as family, friends, doctor's offices, business asociates, etc. I then bought an appropriate ring tone from iTunes for each group, and assigned them to each contact. Some examples; for family members, I chose the theme from "The Brady Bunch", because I come from a big family, for business asociates, I chose the theme from "Mission Impossible", because they always want a weeks worth of work done yesterday, and so on. Now when someone calls, if they are in my contact list, the ring tones will at least tell me what group they are in. If they are not in my contact list, the default ring tone, the classic theme from "Doctor Who", plays. Doctor Who for who's calling?

It's not perfect because I still don't know exactly who's calling, but better than having no clue at all.

Submitted by Vash Rein on Saturday, November 1, 2014

In reply to by David Goodwin👨‍🦯

Never said you were failing me or anyone. What I asked was why not have more devices? I did state that you may not be rich.

Also, I did not see the donate button. I cannot give you $5000, but I can provide something worth your time. Maybe you guys should be fund raising and requesting that everyone contribute so that you could have more to do more.

I am thankful that applevis exists and am very grateful for the team because you are providing us with useful information as well as a place to explore accessibility. However, how could you take the position you are when accessibility seems to get worse (in some cases) from year to year.

You are our leaders. You should have the devices, you should be speaking directly with Apple in regards to what you do and what you have discovered. And we should be supporting you financially and otherwise to do it.

Submitted by Poleaux on Friday, November 7, 2014

I installed 8.0 and noticed that the Handwriting feature wasn’t working, as it caused VoiceOver to shut down and restart. Nothing would get entered with handwriting as a result. With 8.1, I notice that this bug was fixed, but now I cannot select the “Upper Case” “Numeric” and “Punctuation” options of the feature, so all my text entries are forced to remain lower case with no punctuation.

Anyone else having this problem? I’m using an iPhone 5C.

Submitted by John Lipsey on Sunday, November 9, 2014

I just got a new iPhone 6, and I've noticed something strange. Wondering if anyone can confirm.
Enable touch ID for iPhone unlock. Lock your phone. Ask Siri to open an app. The "You'll need to unlock your iPhone first" screen will appear. When I touch the touch ID sensor here, nothing happens. I have to either disable Voiceover then use touch ID and reenable, or manually enter my passcode.
Anybody else notice this?

Submitted by Troy on Sunday, November 9, 2014

I don't have an IPhone 6, but I have a 4s which doesn't have the touch ID nor do I have a passcode, however with that being said I did come across this issue where Siri told me to unlock my phone when it was already unlocked so it must be a bug regardless of phone.

Submitted by John Hope on Monday, June 1, 2015

In reply to by AppleVis

Speech rate changes unexpectedly in any app. Default language is also changed unexpectedly.
Conflict between Voiceover and Bluetooth may be the issue.