Apple Releases iOS 8.3 with New Features and Bug Fixes for Blind and Low Vision Users

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Apple has today released iOS 8.3, bringing with it a host of new features and improvements across the operating system.

For blind and low vision users, Apple has made significant progress towards addressing many of the accessibility bugs still present in iOS 8.2. In addition, Apple has introduced a few new features specific to the needs of VoiceOver users.

At this point, it is worth noting that our testing of iOS 8.3 has been somewhat limited. While a majority of our editorial team has been using iOS 8.3 since late February, it is impossible for us to test all devices, apps, and use cases. Though we are quite confident in the accuracy of the information presented below, it is possible that, as with all software testing, we have overlooked some changes. With this in mind, we would greatly appreciate your help in ensuring that the information on this page is as complete and accurate as possible. If you spot any accessibility changes in iOS 8.3 that we do not have listed on this page, please do let us know in the comments. As additional information becomes available, we will update this post accordingly.

New Features for Blind and Low Vision Users in iOS 8.3

  • When using Braille Screen Input, it is now possible to delete entire words by performing a two-finger swipe to the left. Previously, it was only possible to delete by character.
  • iOS now supports the Baum VarioUltra 20 and VarioUltra 40 braille displays.
  • When using a Bluetooth keyboard, pressing VO-Q (Command, Option, Q) turns Quick Nav on and off. It is worth noting that toggling Quick Nav by pressing the left and right arrow keys together also appears to still work.
  • The delay before alternate characters are displayed by the default onscreen keyboard appears to have been increased. The implementation of this feature also now appears to be a little slicker when using VoiceOver.
  • It appears as though Apple has done some work to improve the quality of VoiceOver speech while a phone call is in progress.

Accessibility Bugs Fixed in iOS 8.3

  • Using the back button (or scrub gesture) in Safari now works correctly.
  • VoiceOver no longer freezes when viewing certain types of web content.
  • The issues with moving apps on the home screen appear to have been resolved.
  • The “Clear Section” buttons in the “All” section of the notification center are now labelled correctly and work as expected.
  • Enterring and deleting text in the search field in the App Store now works as intended.
  • VoiceOver now correctly navigates the Featured tab of the App Store.
  • VoiceOver now indicates when a Mail folder is empty.
  • The Mark Read/Unread flags in Mail, set via rotor actions, now work as intended
  • It is now possible to navigate to and from the “Minimize Draft” button when creating a new email message. Note: This button appears to be at the bottom of the window when using VoiceOver.
  • VoiceOver now behaves much more reliably when a draft is minimized in the Mail app.
  • The “Details” button in group message conversations is now properly labeled.
  • In group message conversations, VoiceOver now correctly recognizes the button to add a title to the conversation.
  • When a say-all is in progress, VoiceOver is no longer interupted by incoming text message notifications.
  • VoiceOver no longer crashes when attempting to navigate or change the Sounds settings.
  • The space gesture (a one-finger swipe right) in Braille Screen Input now works as intended.
  • It is now possible to use Braille Screen Input to enter text in Safari.
  • When using a Braille display, the Find command (Space + F) now works as intended.
  • When double-tapping on a contact name in App Switcher (Quick Contacts feature) to reveal the available contact options, VoiceOver now correctly announces the identifying label (home, work, cellular telephone, etc.).
  • When using the Quick Contacts feature in App Switcher, VoiceOver now correctly navigates between all contacts - even when details for one contact are expanded.
  • VoiceOver now correctly reads the prices and storage amounts in the iCloud subscription options (Settings> iCloud> iCloud Drive).
  • VoiceOver now correctly reads all time indicators in the stock Weather app when using 24-hour time.
  • Detailed descriptions have been added to the still photo wallpapers in Settings> Walpaper> Choose a New Wallpaper> Still photo wallpapers.

General New Features and Improvements in iOS 8.3

In addition to the accessibility features and improvements above, Apple's release notes, via 9to5Mac list the following new features and changes in iOS 8.3:

This release includes improved performance, bug fixes, and a redesigned Emoji keyboard. Changes include:

Improved performance for:

  • App launch
  • App responsiveness
  • Messages
  • Wi-Fi
  • Control Center
  • Safari tabs
  • 3rd-party keyboards
  • Keyboard shortcuts
  • Simplified Chinese keyboard

Wi-Fi and Bluetooth fixes

  • Fixes an issue where you could be continuously prompted for login credentials
  • Addresses an issue where some devices disconnect intermittently from Wi-Fi networks
  • Fixes an issue where hands-free phone calls could become disconnected
  • Fixes an issue where audio playback could stop working with some bluetooth speakers

Orientation and rotation fixes

  • Addresses an issue that sometimes prevented rotating back to portrait after having rotated to landscape
  • Improves performance and stability issues that occurred when rotating the device between portrait and landscape
  • Fixes an issue where device orientation appeared upside down after pulling the iPhone 6 Plus from your pocket
  • Resolves an issue that sometimes prevented apps from rotating to correct orientation after switching apps in multitasking

Messages fixes

  • Addresses issues that caused group messages to sometimes split
  • Fixes an issue that sometimes removed the ability to forward or delete individual messages
  • Resolves an issue that sometimes prevented a preview from appearing when taking a photo in Messages
  • Adds the ability to report junk messages directly from the Messages app
  • Adds the ability to filter out iMessages that are not sent by your contacts

Family Sharing fixes

  • Fixes a bug where certain apps would not launch or update on family members’ devices
  • Fixes a bug that prevented family members from downloading certain free apps
  • Increased reliability for Ask to Buy notifications

CarPlay fixes

  • Fixes an issue where Maps could come up as a black screen
  • Fixes an issue where the UI could be incorrectly rotated
  • Fixes an issue where the keyboard could appear on the CarPlay screen when it shouldn’t

Enterprise fixes

  • Improves reliability of installing and updating enterprise apps
  • Corrects the time zone of Calendar events created in IBM Notes
  • Fixes a problem that could cause web clip icons to become generic after restarting
  • Improves reliability of saving the password for a web proxy
  • Exchange out-of-office message can now be edited separately for external replies
  • Improves recovery of Exchange accounts from temporary connection problems*
  • Improves compatibility of VPN and web proxy solutions
  • Allows use of physical keyboards to log into Safari web sheets, such as for joining a public Wi-Fi network
  • Fixes an issue that caused Exchange meetings with long notes to be truncated

Accessibility fixes

  • Fixes an issue where using the back button in Safari causes VoiceOver gestures to not respond
  • Fixes an issue where VoiceOver focus becomes unreliable in draft Mail messages
  • Fixes an issue where Braille Screen Input cannot be used to type text in forms on webpages
  • Fixes an issue where toggling Quick Nav on a Braille Display announces that Quick Nav is off
  • Fixes an issue keeping app icons from being moveable on home screen when VoiceOver is enabled
  • Fixes an issue in Speak Screen where speech will not start again after pausing

Other improvements and bug fixes

  • Introduces a redesigned Emoji keyboard with over 300 new characters
  • iCloud Photo Library has been optimized to work with the new Photos app on OS X 10.10.3 and is now out of beta
  • Improves the pronunciation of street names during turn-by-turn navigation in Maps
  • Includes support for Baum VarioUltra 20 and VarioUltra 40 braille displays
  • Improves the display of Spotlight results when Reduce Transparency is turned on
  • Adds Italic and Underline format options for iPhone 6 Plus landscape keyboard
  • Adds the ability to remove shipping and billing addresses used with Apple Pay
  • Additional language and country support for Siri: English (India, New Zealand), Danish (Denmark), Dutch (Netherlands), Portuguese (Brazil), Russian (Russia), Swedish (Sweden), Thai (Thailand), Turkish (Turkey)
  • Additional dictation languages: Arabic (Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates) and Hebrew (Israel)
  • Improves stability for Phone, Mail, Bluetooth connectivity, Photos, Safari tabs, Settings, Weather and Genius Playlists in Music
  • Addresses an issue where Slide to Unlock could fail to work on certain devices
  • Addresses an issue that sometimes prevented swiping to answer a phone call on the Lock screen
  • Addresses an issue that prevented opening links in Safari PDFs
  • Fixes an issue where selecting Clear History and Website Data in Safari Settings did not clear all data
  • Fixes an issue that prevented autocorrecting “FYI”
  • Addresses an issue where contextual predictions did not appear in Quick Reply
  • Fixes an issue where Maps did not enter night mode from hybrid mode
  • Resolves an issue that prevented initiating FaceTime calls from a browser or 3rd-party app using FaceTime URLs
  • Fixes an issue that sometimes prevented photos from properly exporting to Digital Camera Image folders on Windows
  • Fixes an issue that sometimes prevented an iPad backup from completing with iTunes
  • Fixes an issue that could cause Podcast downloads to stall when switching from Wi-Fi to cellular networks
  • Fixes an issue where remaining time on timer would sometimes incorrectly display as 00:00 on Lock screen
  • Fixes an issue that sometimes prevented adjusting call volume

iOS 8.3 is available via Over-the-Air Update (Settings> General> Software Update) or from iTunes.

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Will do

I will. I wish there was a way i could show this. But i am going to report it.

one bug that is still present

I can say the dictation bug at least on the swarm app is back, and so is the bug where you start to type and the keyboard disappears and you go out of edit mode after a few words of typing/dictating. I thought they fixed it but I guess not. Restarting voice over did not help at all in this case.

facebook issues

For those of you who've been talking about the problem of voiceover announcing "product" at the end of a status update, I have discovered that but, but I don't believe this is a voiceover issue. Here's why, when I tried to respond to a friend request on facebook, the app completely crashed. Here's what I think the problem is, the facebook app has not been updated as of yet to be compatible with IOS8.3, and neither have some of these other apps such as camfind. this is why the third party apps that we rely on aren't working right, I mean that just makes sense to me. What do y'all think?

The deletion bug where

The deletion bug where multiple characters are deleted at the same time actually does still seem to be present for me, had it for the first time when deleting today. When I deleted with my Bluetooth keyboard two characters were deleted instead of one.

Notifications on lock screen.

I've noticed since updating that Voiceover no longer reads the sender and the content of an Imessage or sms message when the phone is locked. For me, this can be a slight frustration. Instead, it reads the time and announces one notification, whereas before it would tell you who the message was from and the contents. It's probably horses for courses, and what works for me, doesn't work for someone else.

bug with sim pin confirmed

Hi, I have a definite bug for entry into the bug tracker, I couldn't work out how to submit it myself.
The bug is that when you want to enable or change your sim pin the keypad is totally inaccessible to VoiceOver, I had to actually get someone sighted to assist me.
When they looked at the screen with VoiceOver enabled they were able to visually see the keypad but were unable to touch the numbers with VoiceOver, I had to turn VoiceOver off, let them enable my sim pin and then turn it back on, this is also the case if you want to change it. Unlocking your sim after rebooting the phone does work as expected though, please note I am talking about your sim pin, which puts a pin on your sim card under settings, phone and sim pin, not the code for locking your iPhone.
I have reported the bug to apple accessibility, but I guess this should be entered into the tracker, I am running ios 8.3 on a 6 plus.

You will get a notification

You will get a notification to enter in a password always or just every 15 minutes. There is no option to change this anyware I don't think, but wait until the alert comes up.

re: delete bug

I never had that issue with my bluetooth keyboard, but I did have it with the regular keyboard. . I did report this to apple 6 months ago but it bares reporting again.

save password for free items

When I downloaded a free ibook yesterday, I entered my password, and when I pressed the ok button, I got an alert with an option to save my password for installing free items. I don't know if this will work for free apps, but you never know.

new Siri voice in iOS 8.3

I kept reading before the 8.3 update was released, that Siri was going to be getting a brand new voice. However, Siri, for me, doesn't sound any different than it did in 8.2. Was something not updated right when I did it over the air? Also, sometimes when I ask siri what the temperature is, it will return with "There is no weather information." Has anyone else had this happen? Thanks for any help.

answering a few questions

Hi. just to answer a couple of questions...
Yes there actually is a setting so that you don't have to keep entering your password, but the tricky part is that you have to temporarily disable your touch ID and passcode. When you turn touch ID off, and then go into settings/iTunes and app store, there will be a setting that will allow you to disable asking for your password every time you buy a new app. I'm not exactly sure why this is, but that's the information I heard from an article posted by someone on twitter, and it was from a reliable source, so it wasn't someone just taking wild guesses. Also, There were supposed to be very slight changes in Siri's pronunciation of things, but I never heard there were any new voices. The only ones I see are the usual male and female voices.

Password for itunes

Club AppleVis Member

Hey Lisa,
You have control of password settings.
First, Go into Settings, then the tab for iTunes and App Store.
There is a button for password settings. By pressing it.. It opens new menu.
This menu has 2 options. The 1st is for purchases requiring money. You can have require password always or every 15 minutes
The 2nd option is for free downloads. For password required... Turn on/off.

Sometimes VoiceOver says quick Nav off at odd moments

This is a weird one because it doesn't happen consistently, but on both mine, and my gf's iPhone 6 using 8.3 sometimes VoiceOver will announce quick nav off at very odd moments. Keep in mind that when this happens, there is no Bluetooth keyboard turned on or in range, and like I said it seems to happen very randomly. If I find out more or if I can find a condition when it happens consistently I'll let you guys know. I don't want to report it to apple because there's not a lot of info to go on, and it's not easy to produce. I don't want to drive them anymore crazy than they already probably are.

Is it worth getting a Focus Blue 14?

I heard Bluetooth Braille keyboards were virtually unusable with IOS8.0. Now IOS 8.3 is noted as fixing this issue I wonder if anyone can comment directly on how well IOS8.3 works with Bluetooth Braille devices? I have been thinking of getting a Focus Blue 14 but was put off by previous reports.

My comments on IOS 8.3

Hi folks, I just updated my 4S to IOS8.3 mid night yesterday. I found the following issues on my 4S after updating:
The issues:
1. Over-all performance is some what slower as compare to IOS7.1.2.
2. When Voiceover came back after the update, the sound that comes prior to first item or after the last item on the screen did not work, and i had to do a hard re-set (power button and and the home button) to restart the phone after which it worked.
3. The audio ducking does not work accurately.
4. While typing in the password, the Voiceover does not make the click noice.
5. When an auto complete word is selected, Voiceover does not announce so when space is pressed.
Good things:
1. Bluetooth keyboard response is improved a bit.
2. The network signal seams to be much more stayble.

Issue with caller ID

Hi Guys,

When I was on IOS7, when I used to receive call, I used to perform a 2
finger swipe up in order to listen to the caller ID. Now since I
updated to IOS8.3, it no longer works. neither the swipe left or right
work. in have to explore the screen and find out whats there on the
screen. Any solution for this? I am finding this really annoying as
when we receive call, we hardly have time to explore screen.

I find that if you put a

I find that if you put a finger toward the top of the screen then you can swipe right on screen to find the info very quickly.

Has anyone tested BARD Mobile?

I'm one of those scaredy cats who hasn't even updated to 8 yet… mainly because of all of the problems with Safari and BARD. I'm encouraged to hear about all of the improvements in Safari, but has anyone tested BARD? That is one of my most used apps, so it's very important to me. Thanks for the info!

Twitter and facebook notifications issue.

Hello all,
I got my new iphone 6 about a month ago. I restored it from icloud backup. I've noticed that I'm not getting any twitter and facebook notifications from groups and close friends although I have everything enabled and all notifications are turned on. It works fine for other apps.
I have latest IOS installed.
Please does anyone know what I might have been doing wrong?
Thanks for your help in advance.

Pages is broken

There have been many wonderful bug fixes in iOS 8.3; however, Pages no longer works well when using VoiceOver. Main issue is when editing, you cannot navigate around the document. Example: When using the rotor to move character by character or word by word, the VO focus will jump from the first word in the first line to the first word in the second line, to the first word in the third line. When setting the rotor to lines, the VO focus will move correctly line by line; however, when there is a blank line (new paragraph), the VO focus becomes stuck. Refreshable Braille commands have numerous bugs in Pages, including the routing button will not move the Braille cursor to the desired word. When pressing the routing button, the braille cursor typically moves to the last word of the sentence on the print iPad screen. When typing sentences using the RBD, the first letter of some words will be moved to the end of the word. (Example: "I love books." will appear in print and in braille as "I love l books." Pages is being used in the schools by students with visual impairments/blindness; these Pages bugs are critical for students!