macOS 10.12 Sierra: What’s New and Changed for Blind and Low Vision Users

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Welcome to Sierra

Today, Apple released a free update to its Mac computers: macOS Sierra. Apart from the new name for this version (Sierra), you'll notice that Apple has re-branded the entire line of the Mac's operating system. No longer is it OS X; it's macOS, to line up with tvOS, watchOS, and iOS. As always, this is a free upgrade, available to anyone with a supported Mac. And, again as always, we urge you to back up important files before upgrading, just in case.

A few of us on the AppleVis team have been testing Sierra all summer, and I'm here to tell you about the new features--and bugs--specific to accessibility that we've found.

New Features

We'll start in VoiceOver, as that's the part of Sierra's accessibility most of you want to know about. There's nothing major in this release like Window Spots or a bunch of new voices, so don't expect anything earth-shaking this year. What the fine folks in Cupertino did focus on is overall usability. That is, they addressed as many bugs as they could, and did their best to make sure that every aspect of the operating system is as accessible as possible.

That's not to say that a few welcomed changes didn't come to VoiceOver, though. Three of my biggest annoyances were taken care of in this release, along with several more minor things that always bugged me. Apple even added a couple new keystrokes to make life easier.

If you press vo-hyphen, your volume will go down, and vo-equals will raise it. I'm not yet sure what this does that f11 and f12 don't, but for those with non-Apple keyboards on which there are no volume controls, it's a help. The other new command is vo-n, which lets you access any active notification alerts or banners. This means calendar/reminder alerts, message notifications, VIP email alerts, and anything else that appears in your Notification Center. Note that banners will quickly disappear from your screen, so will only briefly show up in the vo-n command's resulting menu. Once you press vo-n, simply up or down arrow to the notification you want, vo-space, and you're taken right to it. You can snooze a reminder, dismiss the calendar event, or anything else the notification offers. While this won't pick up system dialogs, it's a huge help and will mean I use my Notification Center far more than I've done in the past.

If you've always been mad at VoiceOver when it randomly shouts out, "1 row added", I have good news. There is now a way to disable this feature, or cause VO to play a click sound instead of announcing anything. Simply head to the VO Utility, select 'verbosity' from the list of categories, go to the 'announcements' tab, and find the popup menu for 'when number of rows changes under VoiceOver cursor'.

Speaking of announcements, VO has some revisions. In previous versions of macOS, interaction commands would always result in either 'interact with some item' or 'stop interacting with some item'. This was a clear message, but was rather verbose. Now, Sierra offers a pleasant change. Interacting with something will cause VO to say simply, 'in some item', while stopping interacting produces 'out of some item'. In the same vein as making interaction announcements smaller, HTML items have been given better names. Instead of being called 'HTML content' items, they are now 'web item' elements. Thus, if you stop interacting with a webpage in Safari, you will no longer hear 'stop interacting with HTML content'. Now, it's just 'out of web content'. Much faster to listen to!

I mentioned that one focus of Sierra's accessibility is VoiceOver support for all new features. As you use the parts of macOS new to Sierra, you'll see this focus. The Siri interface is fully accessible, with your inputs and Siri's responses sorted in a scroll area, with items representing responses from applications in cards with which you can interact. In Mail, you'll find a new way to filter messages, just left of the table of messages. This, too, is fully accessible and very easy to use.

Bugs and Problems: The Squashed and the Still Here

Apple has addressed a number of long-standing bugs in Sierra, which is great. But it's not all roses. Some bugs remain, while a few new ones have crept in. In years past, the first two or three incremental updates to the year's major macOS version have sorted out many of the lingering problems. Hopefully that happens again this year. Before all the problems, though, let's look at the good stuff.

Fixed Bugs

In Safari, you can toggle Quick Nav with no trouble once again, and password fields--if navigated to with the caps lock key as your VO modifier--will no longer cause problems. VoiceOver will also not be bothered if you loop past the end of a webpage in Reader view, though it still refuses to perform a say-all. Still, as it would completely lock up in the past, this is an improvement. VoiceOver also seems to keep its place on webpages better, so that if you open a link on a page and then close the new page, you are very probably going to be where you left off on the first page. Speaking of pages, you can now open tabs from the 'show all tabs' popover (cmd-shift-backslash). It's a minor thing, but the problem where VO would speak the first letter of whatever you'd just typed into the address bar in Safari when you hit enter is now fixed. If you use the arrow keys to navigate a page (with Quick Nav off), you'll find you get feedback about headings, images, and so on; before, VO would ignore such details unless you moved by vo-arrows. Finally, the bug where VoiceOver didn't always move to text fields (such as on Bookshare or this very website) seems to be gone.

Mail has gotten a fix or three. It seems that using enter to open and read messages is reliable, whereas it could take a while for messages to load in previous versions of macOS. Very complex emails, such as a newsletter with a lot of images and formatting, will take a moment to open, but that's to be expected and isn't part of the VoiceOver bug which has now been fixed. If you're a user of Mail's Classic View, you'll be happy to hear that the "disclosure triangle" announcement that preceded every message or thread has been removed. For Standard View users, the bug where VO would announce that a conversation had been expanded or collapsed, even if you were focused on a single message when you pressed an arrow key, is also gone. While we're on the topic of threads, those of you who rely on Mail's ability to give a preview of each email without you having to open it are in for a pleasant surprise. Apple has fixed an old bug, and previews are now spoken for all messages, even those in expanded threads. Oh, and on the subject of being digitally social, Apple has made the 'share to Twitter' dialog more usable now in that the number of characters remaining in your tweet is spoken when you move to it rather than being a hint.

In Calendar, there were sometimes odd problems in tabbing between events and making new ones. Both of these have been addressed, though you may still find focus returning to the first field of the 'new event' dialog under certain circumstances. I also want to point out that the "bug" AppleVis had previously reported, where the number of appointments on a given day was not appearing, was never a VoiceOver bug. Rather, it was a visual change that VoiceOver was simply following--in some views, the number of events had been removed from the display. So far as I can tell, this change has been reversed, and both 'week' and 'month' views show the number of events on a given day once more. Needless to say, this means that VoiceOver once again reads this information, which I am very happy to have back.

There's not much to say about word-processing, as the basic features already work as expected. However, one important bug has been fixed in Sierra: VoiceOver users can once again select text across page breaks. I've tested this in both Pages and Text Edit, and found it to work just fine.

A couple of minor bugs that need to be mentioned remain. The Trackpad Commander not working correctly, if enabled using caps lock as the VO modifier, has been fixed in Sierra. The bug with Nuance voices, where you would hear "capital" before a capital letter even if your capitalization announcement preference was to change pitch, is also fixed. This makes it that much nicer to use these voices if you don't like the Alex voice.

New Bugs

Any bugs that already exist which I haven't mentioned will still be active in Sierra, or are fixed and I missed them. There are a few new ones that you should know about, though. Please note that I can't test Sierra with a braille display, so have no idea what might be better or worse on that front.

Siri is a huge help, especially for opening apps, dealing with your calendar, and so on. However, one feature it has on iOS is missing from the Mac, at least for VoiceOver users. On iOS, if VO is on when you tell Siri to send a text, tweet, Facebook update, and so on, Siri reads the dictated text aloud before confirming that you want to send it. This, of course, is because most VO users can't read it on the screen. Siri on Mac lacks this feature, so you must find and review the text manually. Of course, you could also trust that Siri did the right thing.

In Safari, text fields can act odd. For one thing, tabbing to them will interact with them, meaning that vo-arrows move you through the text instead of moving from the text field to another element. Put another way, if vo-right is reading by word when you were actually trying to get away from the field, you've run into this bug. Simply stop interacting (vo-shift-up) once to get out. You'll also find other odd behavior: pressing the return key, with character typing feedback on, only speaks 'new line' the first time, not subsequent times; VO will sometimes seem to get stuck at the top or bottom of the text; and text searches act in a somewhat confusing way. Previously, performing a search (vo-f) in a text field would always make the "nothing found" sound. Now, it speaks the result of the search, which moves outside of the field before starting, even though focus remains inside the field, not moving at all. It's rather confusing unless you know what's going on; suffice it to say that vo-f remains unusable in text fields, just in a new way.

Should You Upgrade?

I will preface this with the large caveat that I am a single beta tester, and a tester who does not use braille with macOS. I don't use all the apps, in all the same ways, that you do, and I don't have the same needs as you do. This is all from my own perspective, and if you are hesitant to upgrade, you should post a forum topic on AppleVis and ask others what they think about the situation that has you concerned.

That said, I see no reason to avoid this upgrade. Apple has taken care of a good number of existing bugs, and the only major new ones I've found are either an iteration of an existing problem, or a single bug in an otherwise wonderful new feature (Siri). Understand that Siri not reading back messages or tweets is a bug, but it by no means renders Siri unusable. Speech recognition has gotten so good that I sometimes find myself sending off bits of text with Siri, on all my Apple devices, without checking them over. Plus, you don't need speech feedback to open apps, play music, find emails or files, ask for your new messages to be read aloud, and so on.

Bottom line: to me, this is a no-brainer. If your Mac can handle Sierra, definitely upgrade! There are no regressions as far as I know, some great new features for both general use and accessibility, and no price tag for any of it. Again, though, if you're wondering about a particular app or workflow, wait until others have upgraded and then ask about it. For the majority of users, though, I feel quite safe in recommending that you update as soon as you can.

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Submitted by Paul Martin on Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I didn't see any mention of the new Voiceover trick; VO+N. This will bring up a list of any currently visible alerts going across the screen at the given time. How to interact with them you ask? I'm not quite sure, and haven't been for this entire beta period.
Also, another notable change is that you'll now be asked if you'd like to delete voice files when you clear their associated check boxes in the Voiceover utility provided that they're not being used at all for TTS Options in system preferences for example.

Submitted by Lielle ben simon on Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Club AppleVis Member

Hi i had the beta of MacOS Seirra on my MAc. i had saw one change: for VarioUltra users, MacOS supports in usb connection for this braille display. it doesn't support in the option disc that allows to copy and paste things, but it's very welcomed and very importent.

Submitted by Daniel on Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hi all, for those who are running ios 10 and Mac os Sierra do you have to he using Bluetooth low energy to get it to work?

Submitted by jcdjmac (not verified) on Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hi, just updated my mac to the latest build. as far as the clipboard goes, I haven't tested it, but will and report back what I have found. so far, love this release.

Submitted by Apple Khmer on Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I see the issue wheer the name of emojis would be read letter by letter has been fixed.

Submitted by Dalia on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

For those who can’t get the Universal Clipboard to work, here are 3 things to check:

1. Are all devices using the same Apple ID.
2. Is your Mac compatible with the Continuity feature.
3. Is Hand-off enabled on all devices.

Submitted by Sebby on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

One of the biggest reasons I'm still on Yosemite is the activity-switching that actually works in apps with web views, including Safari. That still appears unfixed in Sierra.

At this point I'm thinking that if I'm not going back to Windows then I'd just better get used to life without activities. They were introduced in Yosemite and, contrary to features in subsequent releases, actually appear to work 100% reliably. I really want to like future releases of the OS, but this reluctance to get these silly bugs fixed is a big part of why it's so hard to welcome upgrades, and until Apple gets its thing together, I'm really not willing to play a game of "Guess the Bug".

Submitted by Tyler on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

When reading articles on CNN, I noticed Voiceover would randomly stop interacting with the web content. For example, I'd be reading in Safari reader and suddenly, Voiceover would announce, "Web content," and I have to interact with it and start reading again. Is anyone else able to reproduce this?

Submitted by Ekaj on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

I just updated last night and into this morning, and thus far I like it. QuickNav does seem to be a bit easier to toggle. I saw Siri listed in my applications, but haven't started playing around with it yet. But in addition to a better QuickNav, I'm noticing that Alex is even a bit faster on my system.

Submitted by chad on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Hi has anyone noticed when hitting the emogee button in the messages app, when you pick your emogee, voiceover don't read the type of emogee.
When i interact with the scroll area it says there's stuff there, but voiceover doesn't see it

Submitted by Megan on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

If you are a heavy user of Karabiner and Seal as I am, please don't do what I did and upgrade and end up with an unhappy surprise. Due to some serious changes with the mouse and keyboard drivers made in Sierra, they're completely unusable. The developer is working on a new solution, Karabiner Elements, but currently you have to have a fairly comprehensive knowledge of JSON structure to edit the configuration files by hand, or be a fairly quick study. I wouldn't recommend it if you aren't fairly comfortable with this...

Submitted by Megan on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

With QuickNav off, in an edit field, I can no longer use option with left and right arrow to move by word. Instead, it treats the block of text as one big word. This is a *huge* problem for me. aS in, almost a deal breaker. Essentially, my capacity to edit in Safari, which I use a *lot* for work, is super broken. Along with the breakage of Karabiner, which I mentioned above and which essentially makes my work keyboard useless to me, this upgrade just plain sucks for me. I wish I hadn't touched it. Worst OS upgrade I've ever had so far!

Submitted by Francisco crespo on Thursday, September 22, 2016

When a notification is shown on screen, Voiceover automatically interrupts whatever it is doing to read it. It is very frustrating to have to turn do not disturb on if at the time of working I get a bunch of notifications.

Submitted by Seanoevil on Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hi All
One of my favourite features of the recent IOS10 upgrade was the inclusion of Tapbacks in the Messages App.
I am told that Tapbacks have also been included in the Messages App on this Sierra release.
The only trouble is that, though the process is intuitive on IOS, I've yet to figure out how to do it on Sierra.
Can anyone teach me how to do a quick Tapback to an iMessage on Sierra?
Many thanks,

Submitted by Paul Smyth on Thursday, September 22, 2016

I've updated to Sierra but notice significant bug for low sight users reliant on running Voiceover and Zoom feature in parallel. Zoom works fine by itself but once Voiceover turned on alongside it, focus does not follow the mouse pointer and the user can't pan at all when using full screen zoom mode. Anyone else encountered this and any workarounds? I'd hold fire on upgrading for any folks who are heavy users of both as Zoom becomes next to useless for voiceover users

Submitted by Brian Giles on Thursday, September 22, 2016

I'm a bit disappointed that all we got as far as VO goes is a few little tweaks, though those are good (especially the turning off anouncing of new table rows). What Mac configs is everyone running Sierra on? In general, the OS seems a bit slower for me and I get the VO busy message a lot, accompanied I'm sure by the dreaded spinning beach ball on the screen. I've noticed Siri is so slow that it's not worth bothering with. All that could be though, that I'm running Sierra on a standard mid 2012 MBP (4gb ram, 500gb HDD), which I think you can, amazingly, still buy from Apple. I'm not sure paying a bunch to upgrade ram and stick an SSD in there would be any more worth it than just jumping off the macos ship and going back to windows.

Submitted by Tyler on Thursday, September 22, 2016

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

When sending an email with an attachment, Voiceover reads the message body field as, "Object replacement character edit text." I have not encountered this when sending emails without attachments, in which case Voiceover reads the message body field as expected without the object replacement character.

Submitted by Nickus on Thursday, September 22, 2016

Brian, maybe you should consider doing a clean install of Mac OS Sierra. Personally I find Sierra to be a improvement both in terms of over all snappyness and VO is also faster compared to El Capitan. I hated El Capitan, it was dog slow and VO was also very slow but so far Sierra is a welcome improvement. Even though my late 2013 iMac feels much faster again, I'm anyway going to do a clean Sierra install as soon as I have some free time over a weekend.
BTW a SSD and doubling of the RAM in that machine of yours is definatly worth it, I have a few friends with that same machine who had good results doing the SSD and RAM thing, some only did the SSD and still saw improvement.

Submitted by Jake on Thursday, September 22, 2016

One very nasty bug on the web seems to be squashed. In 10.11, there were some tables that would cause VO to say "table with 1 row, 0 columns" and then, rather than reading the table, it would simply be blank. The only way to read these was to tab to them if they had controls as part of the table. Needless to say they had far more than one row and no columns, too. I'm happy to say that so far, in Sierra, I've tried all the tables I know of that do this and they don't have that problem anymore. For that fix alone, I'd keep the update as I encountered these daily in my professional life.

Submitted by Jake on Thursday, September 22, 2016

I'm noticing that in Sierra, I can actually scroll through controls in Braille while panning rather than being stuck and having to move to the next control. This is particularly nice on web pages. Braille seems to be smooth and change focus appropriately, as it has done on iOS for some time. Very happy!

Submitted by Francisco crespo on Thursday, September 22, 2016

Yes, I can turn the one row announcement off. But Voiceover stills have the same behavior. If I'm Twitter in live streaming mode Vo keeps losing focus of the tweet. So it is not possible, for example, to spell a tweet.

Submitted by Michael Babcoc… on Thursday, September 22, 2016

It was a wonderful review of the new features/abilities in the new mac os.

Submitted by Megan on Thursday, September 22, 2016

Have any users of virtual machines updated? If so, what are you doing to get your caps lock key to be workable now that Karabiner and Seal are no longer options? I've been looking at different alternatives, and so far nothing quite does what i need it to. I need this for work, and *really* didn't want to have to spend my entire weekend completely erasing my Mac and restoring selectively from new, but I guess that's what I get for being an idiot and not cloning before I upgraded..... Here's to a wonderful freaking weekend in my world, guys! Just allow me to take this moment to say, once again, how very much I hate Sierra right now! That is all.

Submitted by Chris on Thursday, September 22, 2016

Sierra supports the Orbit Reader 20. This is fantastic news as I will be ordering one of these around Christmas time. I still wish we had an autoscroll feature so that the screen reader could pan the display automatically. Keep suggesting it to Apple and they might add it next year.

Submitted by Donal on Friday, September 23, 2016

Has anyone noticed that, in applications like night owl, pressing escape no longer causes auto-complete suggestions to populate edit boxes? This seems to be a universal thing (I tried in Coda and XCode as wel) and it doesn't seem to work anywhere.

Submitted by Vincenzo Rubano on Friday, September 23, 2016

Honestly, I am far from impressed from this update. Let me explain the reason why.

First off, it’s true that #Siri conversations are accessible, but the amount of interaction to read Siri's output in some cases, say to read the forecast or information about sports, is insane; and no, tabbing through the items does not work.

In my case #VoiceOver keeps its place in a web page much worse than before. E.G. Toggling quick nav on/of while the previous page is loading is enough for it to leave the focus at the beginning of the page. I suspect race conditions in the implementation, but I won’t go deeper into technical details ;) Anyway, on my machine #Safari behaves much worse than in previous versions; I hear the “Safari busy” message much more often and sometimes Safari freezes completely, not accepting any command for a few seconds.

While some bugs in #mail have been fixed, it’s still far from perfect. And there are even some regressions, such as the inability to tab/shift+tab between the folders list and the messages table when using the classic layout. In addition to this, “Mail busy” message is still a friend of us and reading complex HTML messages without getting crazy is still very, very far…

Saying that basic text editing works is perhaps too much. We still don’t have access to tables in #TextEdit (and in any standard #NSTextView instance). Toggling the layout to vertical in any NSTextView will cause Vo to stop reading the document at all. And many, many text attributes are not exposed through the #accessibility API yet (and often the accessibility API doesn’t even support them), so for instance we can forget about #Vo telling us when a text fragment is an heading or browsing a very long document by headings. Also VoiceOver does not work reliably with tables in pages documents when the document is very long (10+ pages). And advanced formatting is still a dream on the #mac. So yeah, #Apple definitely needs to work *a lot* on text editing!

Regarding VoiceOver support for #Braille displays (oh, has it ever had a serious support for them?), apart from giggling, I can say that nothing has changed. The same, very poor support is there without any improvements.

Finally, I have to say that I am getting tired of Vo/accessibility limitations on the mac. With this major release Apple lost an important chance to *really* improve things… I’ve stopped suggesting blind users using a mac in professional/educational areas some time ago, but now I’m really considering abandoning the OS myself. It’s unacceptable that in 2016 we still have to deal with “app_name busy” messages, Vo behaving strangely with complex web pages, an unacceptable iBooks screen reader usage experience, a very poor support for Braille displays that prevents you from *really* taking advantage of them and, most of all, with the lack of a decent support for reading PDF documents. Apple needs to work a lot more on Mac OS accessibility and increase its efforts in improving it, as it is really far from the high quality standards of iOS accessibility. But I’m worried that this will never happen, as they even stopped listening to our feedbacks and/or not acting on what they listen to; otherwise the Mac accessibility wouldn’t be so poor!

Submitted by crazyeyes on Friday, September 23, 2016

This is a low-vision issue: in previous Safari versions, there was a setting to prevent showing text below a specified point size. This feature is missing in macOS Sierra, and I'm unable to find a workaraound, other than creating custom CSS of some sort.

Submitted by splyt on Friday, September 23, 2016

Hello Vincenzo,

The more calm and lucid review of Mac OS accessibility I have read in a long time.

It completely sucks for students as advanced text editing and pdf reading do not work.
It completely sucks for devs as advanced text editing and internet naviggation do not work. At this time, xcode is no more than a stupid comedy and so is the terminal. Yes, it is possible to make things, as ultimately navigating the web and editing text, but at standards of the mid of 90s speaking of accessibility.
While sighted people are way productive on their macs on xcode and so we are making an insane amount of non documented, non reliable, strange work arounds to survive. Slow, not productive, and thiis is not to speak about the insane fear that Apple will break something we deppend on to run xcode and ultimately keep our jobs and study goingg on each small xcode update and each system update.
It *** completely *** sucks on web navigation.
Again a slow process, with VO getting unstable, loosing its focus, not behaving well on complex pages and, folks, we devs at least the normal ones who do not have 80 whole apis completely on top of their heads do need to access complex pages.
Speaking of memory, do you want to have full access to code completion in a productive way just like your sighted counterparts coleags do? Forget it. By the way, if you need to setup activities for xcode or terminal to makke punctuation be read in a different way, be aware that activity switching on the mac is no more than again a terrible bad written comedy ..
It completely sucks for braille readers.

I won't say that the system is unusable. For basic tasks and simple web navigation it is poorly usable.
For audio editing, because of Amadeus pro (not because of the system) it is a pleasant task.

And on each new os release, which happens once a year, we have to hear: "hey, what a cool release! Now VO no longer have a insignificant ridiculous small bug introduced 5 years ago!"
Real improvements on pdf reading, text editing, web navigation, xcode? Oh no, this is still to comme ... and we know it will never come.

But that's ok. Voiceover is a free screen reader distributed for free on every os release and it is fairly good for basic stuff, even better than narrator, its coleag on the Windows system.

So heavy users deserv a better screen reader. I got it. So let's write one or even better let's extend and script voiceover .... oh we can not because most accessibility apis are not openned to outsiders, the few that are open are stupdly poor documented and the few that are openned and documented are kind of buggy.

So what?

I'll keep up with Mac os, I deppend on it because of xcode. I am afraid of upgrading because of reports of safari keeping constantly busy busy, a crap that we do not have as much in os 10.11. If my access to safari, whon I deppend heavily on to read tutorials and api documentation, deteriorate even more I'll be in trouble.

My MBA is not capable of running windows, low storage and low memory. If I could I would use windows on fusion **** oooops, I can't anyways because we do not have a decent key manager for a time ** but if I had it I would use exclusively windows to make my tasks other than coding for iOS. Mac are exxpensive machines that do not deliver acceptable accessibility for their prices.

Again what makes me sad is that they do not, but they certainly could offer that accessibility level. And the system as a whole is cool, only the accessibility is poor. If Apple allowed us to tweak vo we could do so many things to make it comme to an acceptable level, like we did in so many other readers.

Oh well:

1- Apple won't change.
2- We will deppend on this crap should we keep working with iOS development.
3- All this is a huge time loss. Nobody will read, nobody cares, nothing will happen. I wish Apple could hire me or some other more talented blind people I know and let us fully alocated to solve Mac OS specific accessibility problems. I wish Apple would open VO for scripting like every other SR in the world is actually. I wish Apple did with Mac accessibility what they did with iOS accessibility. They have the expertise to do it but not the will to do it. I wish VO on Mac os had a chance to ** really succeed ** but I have almost no hope.


Submitted by Ekaj on Friday, September 23, 2016

Hello again everyone. I've had very good luck with this update so far. But one small bug I've found is that when navigating through forms, neither VO-Right arrow nor Tab takes me to the "Submit Button." What I have to do is tab twice to "Cancel" or whatever that button is called on a given website, and then Shift-tab one time. But I can deal with that. Even so, hopefully this bug will be fixed in subsequent patches. Regarding #Siri, this is my first time using it and I've found it to be pretty awesome. What's more, I like how it can be adjusted independent from VoiceOver.

Submitted by themusicman08 on Friday, September 23, 2016

I am a big Knight Rider fan so, my drives are named after parts of the show to reflect this. I notice with Voice Over now, my drives are read to me three times, or twice. For instance, what I mean is this.
Let's say I do a command-shift-a to go to the applications folder and then get out of it as I didn't mean to go in that folder. I press command-w and it takes me to my desktop. Then Voice over says Knight 2000 knight 2000 knight 2000.
Note, the first time is ok. But, then Voice over repeats that two more times. I did speak to someone in accessibility today and they were able to reproduce this issue. When I asked about this on VORail, I got the answer to reformat the machine and start from scratch. I don't want to do that unless it is absolutely necessary.
I told the representative this information and they said, let me try to reproduce this before we take that step. They were able to reproduce the steps that I took and they said they would submit this as an issue. They also told me not to reformat. So VoiceOver needs a bit of work when it comes to reading drives. It should only read them once. Not twice or three times.

Submitted by Milica Milić on Friday, September 23, 2016

Hi All, I'm not sure if this is just a Sierra bug or if it had been here previously, but I've noticed that in pages, tables which span more than one page are not properly announced. The first page is fine, but if I wanted to go from the last row on the first page, down to the first line on the second page and below, it won't let me. I have some vision so I was able to click with the mouse on the second page to keep working on the table, but that doesn't always work and the visual voiceover cursor no longer follows what is being spoken. If I go back to the first page though, everything is normal again. Although the bug is always there it reacts slightly differently almost every time so I wasn't sure how to report it to Apple.

Submitted by Chris on Friday, September 23, 2016


VoiceOver could be so much better on both platforms if Apple simply slowed down and quit releasing software every single year. I would be willing to wait two or three years for a Mac OS or iOS update is significant amounts of time were put into actually improving the screen reader. iOS and the Mac both ned better text accessibility. I can't comment on everything since I do not need advanced text editing functions. I'm not sure if there is anything we can do though. Apple does what they want and if you don't like it, you can take a hike. I do wish that more improvements were made in Sierra. I'm not noticing anything earth shatteringly new or better. Again, this is what happens when you constantly update your software and don't take the time to fully develop and test improvements. I wish we still had operating systems like Leopard and Snow Leopard which were really stable and fantastic in my opinion. However, I think that era of Apple is long gone along with Jobs.

Submitted by splyt on Friday, September 23, 2016

May I politely desagree with you, sir?

The discussion might get way too technical .. but I am a huge supporter of continuous integration.

I would preffer to have a weekly update ratter than a bi anual one.

But in order for this to take place bug fixing shall have a high priority.

I would loove to see Apple actively emproving VoiceOver and the OS accessibility in general and delivering fast, small and eficient packages every often.

The way things are now is we wait one year to have some bugs fixed and others introduced. Bugs are not clearly identified, tracked and people have no reliable way of knowing if they will ever be fixed and at what cost cinse the very same package fixing one bug might very well break something else.

If we kept packages small and one apart from others it would be easy to rollback something broken while still having access to new implementations and other stuff.

Closed the way Apple is they have to be the perfect company in order to let everyone satisfied. They once almost were or at least I thought so but they nolonger are so it should be time to change the way the public can deal with them.

I do not know if VO could be a separate package. Sure some stuff is integrated on the OS but not all. As an example, the stupid verbosity of voiceover on iOS 10 web navigation is something likely noot hooked to the OS, possibly the API's now return this info but the option of using it or not is not definned possibly on the OS itself. So releasing a package implementing the choice option of navigation verbosity could very well be distributed without having to wait for a major system release making us more quickly free of this ridiculous uimplementation they just did.

Submitted by Chris on Saturday, September 24, 2016

As far as I'm aware, this isn't possible. Mac OS X and iOS are not as modular as Android. This is where TalkBack trumps VoiceOver on Android. VO is too deeply integrated into the core of the operating system. I am not a programmer, so I do not know if that is completely true or not, but it seems to be from what I've heard.

Hey Paul, thanks for the post. I have been searching for someone else having this problem since I upgraded to Siera a couple of days ago. I am in the process of working out, and preparing to, downgrade back to El Cap. I am running a current 5K iMac. You? I even signed up for a free Apple developer account so that I could submit an official bug report. I did try to submit the correct info in the proper place, but who knows. I have not had a response yet.
Thanks again.
Andrew L

Submitted by Usman on Saturday, September 24, 2016

Hello everyone,
I installed Sierra twice. the first time the installation file I am pretty sure was corrupted. when I tried installing it, I could not get any speech in the installation window, and the box just sat there. It was stuck at 30 percent for around 3 hours. I then hard rebooted, a definite no no but given that I had no other choice, I really didn't have any other options. It did not boot up normally as could be expected but instead tried to re-initialize the installation which once again broke. I then managed to somehow load into recovery, and was able to use a time machine backup to restore my machine. After that, my installation was fairly straight forward and things seem to be running smoothly now.
As for my thoughts, the upgrade was definitely worth it. I definitely find it snappier, and programs just seem to load faster and with little to no voiceover lag. The one thing I have noticed is the emoji dialogue box in the messages app is cluttered to say the least, and an area I believe apple accessibility needs to improve on given how popular emoji's are now. The other thing I found was with siri. I tried asking it what the weather was going to be like, and all the response I got was, "it's going to be cloudy today", nothing more. I was hoping for more of a report than that. Has anyone else noticed that with siri?
Other than that, I like the update and I believe it is a lot more bug free than el capitan or Yosemite were.

Submitted by mario_hardrock on Saturday, September 24, 2016

thank you for being intelligent and speak openly of the great problem of accessibility in Mac OS.
I fully agree with everything that you wrote.
accessibility in Mac OS is dead.
Mac OS could be the el dorado for us blind, but apple is no longer interested in listening to us and go back to being serious and responsible as in the past.
I already predicted this a long time, the time to sell my imac and back again to the windows.
It will make four years that I abandoned the Mac OS, and went back to windows.
today I use windows and I am happy and very satisfied because I do much more than I would in Mac OS.
accessibility on VO in Mac OS is dead.
I'm sure that accessibility more and more in Mac OS OR IOS, will become worse in the present and future.
Apple does not care about the quality control in the resolution of issues in accessibility.
Apple does not hear us, and does not address accessibility issues in the cycles of betas every time a new version of the systems comes out
Apple does not solve the issues reported by the blind in the feedback app.

this is already proven in the past and now in recent IOS 10, and Mac OS sierra.
again, thank you for speaking the truth ...

Love the technical details in your post. I can wholeheartedly agree. There's been a long-standing bug in Preview (I can trace regression back 3 or so major OS versions) whereby the entire text isn't read. As an academic who has to manage multi-million Euro research grants, you can forget the Mac in a serious work environment. Let's face it, when the screenreader can't handle merged cells in a spreadsheet, what hope is there for the more complex tasks one has to perform? also, I'd like to be able to do things like announce indentation levels in code editors. I teach Python classes so it's essential. Can it be done in VO? Not as far as I know. I've downloaded the source of Textmate to see if I can do something at the application level but as yet I'm having no joy.

Submitted by Megan on Saturday, September 24, 2016

Voiceover, especially circa 2009, 10, and 11 when I was first getting into OS X, was so very promising! every release was bringing new and badly needed Voiceover improvements to the table. But it seems to me that since around 2012 or 2013, Voiceover has been fairly stagnant. I agree that accessibility, at least on OS X, is at a virtual standstill. Occasionally old bugs are fixed or a new one is introduced, but the improvements we've been requesting for years are still not forthcoming. Very, very disheartening when OS X has so much promise! I'm really starting to believe that as a serious developer or in a professional setting, you just can't rely solely on MacOS.

I've been using a Mac since the Tiger days. Bought my first 17" iMac back in 2006 or 7. I have now reached the point where I'm having, unwillingly, to rely on Windows to perform many of the daily tasks I need to do. As an example, we've switched to Google apps at the university in which I work. There's just no comparison in the UX of interacting with Docs, sheets or Slides using VO in comparison to other OS/screenreader combos. I will say that gmail, calendar and some of the other apps aren't bad. Mac isn't a dead loss by any means. Software such as Coda, Protools, Transmit, (and one or two others) are comparable in terms of their usability to similar tools on other operating systems. What it comes down to is that, and this is an absolutely personal viewpoint, I think that given the current state of OSX accessibility, it's just not possible to exclusively operate on Mac as a blind user in *some* professional settings where speed, productivity, and large amounts of data are required.

Submitted by Larry on Monday, September 26, 2016


No, so far I have not been able to replicate that bug. I have tried on a few different websites, including this comment field, and navigating word-by-word works fine for me.

Overall I think this OS runs better than previous versions. VoiceOver is quicker, especially when switching between windows.

I never liked JAWS, which was one reason why I switched to Mac. Sure JAWS is more powerful, but I think it is a bit unfair to compare an expensive, commercial software to a built-in one... If there is a profitable market for it I am sure JAWS would release a good Mac version.

Submitted by Jake on Monday, September 26, 2016

In reply to by Chris

It doesn't matter how modular the system is, if updates can only apply to the latest operating systems anyway. Do yourself a favor: take a look at the changes in Talkback. Now, take a look at the changes in Talkback that you can only get if running Android 7.0, some of which VoiceOver has had for years. Now, unless you're running a Nexus, what are the odds that your current device will ever see Android 7? So what good did that modularity do, in the end?

Submitted by Tree on Monday, September 26, 2016

I agree Larry that this OS update runs better then updates in the past.

It's Apple's fault that there are no third party screen readers on the mac. Apple will not open up the OS to make third party options possible. I do not believe that profit has anything to do with it.

If it's not fair to compare expensive Jaws to voice over then we can just compare NVDA. If an open source screen reader created primarily for free, can make voice over look like a joke, it's pretty o obvious that Apple, the most profitable compony in the world, does not prioritize accessibility on the mac.

Submitted by Donal on Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Has anyone found a setting to stop the position of applications in the doc being announced? In other words, I just want app name not the information relating to its position, and the number of items, to be spoken. As an example, VO now says "finder 1 of 29" on my system. This is far too verbose in my view and wasn't the case prior to this update.

Submitted by John Covici on Thursday, October 6, 2016

In reply to by Megan

I am getting a strange window when I try to log in which says invagent has no windows, sometimes I can turn vo off and on and it will go to the log in panel but vo is very flaky in this release, giving me no audio output and turning off and on does nothing, so I have to reboot, so looks like I have to downgrade to El Capitan. I was on the phone with Apple for long time today and gave them logs and all, but I doubt they will have a fix soon.

Submitted by Jake on Thursday, October 6, 2016

In reply to by Tree

All of the necessary facilities for implementing a custom third-party screen reader on the Mac exist. The API, the documentation, the tools. What doesn't exist, and is unlikely to since people would rather complain than actually get something together, are people who care enough to actually write something like this. It's a lot of work for little, if any, gain because VoiceOver is good enough for about 90% of use cases. NVDA exists on Windows because the commercial screen readers degraded in quality and there was nothing built into the operating system that was anything like good enough (still isn't).
We could have any screen reader you want on the Mac, provided it was developed. What you could not have is a third-party screen reader on iOS. The tools are there. Where's the demand?

Submitted by splyt on Thursday, October 6, 2016

In reply to by Jake


This is something that irritates me somewhat.

We say for example that programming in xcode being blind is hard because of x y z a b c.

Someone comes and says: you know what programming on xcode being blind is a brease, even faster and more pleasant than programming for it being sighted. You guys only complain complain complain instead of put your hands at work.

But, strangely, this person almost never responds to the questions of those who are having a hard time with the environment. Even those people reporting problems because they have extensively searched on the internet for ways of achieving what they couldn't.

You say that the features and tools to build a new screen reader on Mac do exist.

I have no reazons to doubt. Let me work at apple and have the full source code of the os X gui manager and of the accessibility apis and I would do it without a problem!

OOOps, but there is a problem here. Should I have access to all of this knowledge, I would be probably working with the VoiceOver itself wouldn't I? I think I very very probably would.

But the thing is: I do not work at Apple and do not have easy access to the source code and to documentation I would need.

It might be that some part of it is available on the internet. Exactly where, I have no idea and yes I have searched.

Now, of course, I could start disassemblying pieces of binary code to investigate the way internal stuff works. But how much time would it take?

Im comparison with MSAA, UIA and such, I think it would take many time. I also think that although virtually almost anything can be coded in the world it is very reazonable to assume that in practical way a software can be developped to a given OS only when there is plenty of well written documentation about a given resource, something that at least in my perspective is not the case when looking at the OS X accessibility framework.

As an example, I wanted to write an extension for XCode to make it a little more productive to just ctrl drag from a component to the code editor in one keystroke * something perfectly possible on visual studio and yes, I want productivity because money talks and my sighted coleags are fast, bilieve me.

What I needed to do, in unfortunately pseldo code ( .... it could be valid code) is something like this:

void onMenuActivated(int menu)
HANDLE hWindow = getFocusedComponent();
handle hwndEditor = findAssistantEditorTextWindow(); // implementation not written
PerformMouseAction(CTRL_DRAG, hWindow, hwndEditor);

Now, any decent screen reader should have access to the window hierarchy.
Any decent screen reader should have access to query information from a given window.
Any decent screen reader should have a way of installing listeners or of being notified of status changes on given windows.

And, If I had access to those apis, I could code this piece of logic to run on XCode even not having built a new screen reader ... and that would be cool. But please try recearching on the internet for how to achieve those things on os X.

You are likely to find nothing either this or find someone who has hooked code into compiled apis using undocumented ways of performing stuff.

Would the NVDA guys build NVDA if they had to analyse the way the dlls on Windows work by using disassemblers of by hooking observers in MS specific libraries? I don't think so.

Now, If I am completely wrong, point me out where are the docs and we can start thinking in the next generations of screen readers for Macs.

Be aware, though, that some folks are complaining about given acessibility apis of Apple returning wrong information, take a look at the eforts folks are making to become Android Studio accessible on Mthe Mac OS platform.