The New Features, Changes, and Accessibility Bugs in macOS Mojave for Blind and Low Vision Users
Welcome to Mojave
Today, Apple released macOS 10.14, named Mojave. As always, this is a free upgrade for Macs that support it. The good news is that we haven't found any serious bugs in our testing, so if you're running High Sierra already, you can probably upgrade without worrying about running into problems with the new OS. The less-great news is that there are no accessibility updates for us to talk about in Mojave. Much like iOS 12, Apple seems to have put their resources into bug fixes and stability this year, rather than making major changes. This is good, and I'm happy to see it.
Because there are no big changes in VoiceOver or Zoom, I'll focus on the mainstream features instead. I'll explain each feature briefly, then note any accessibility-specific details I, or the other testers on the AppleVis Editorial Team, have discovered. For full details on the non-VoiceOver changes in Mojave, I recommend Apple's Mojave overview page.
The Migration Begins
At WWDC in June 2018, Apple announced a project set to be released in a year or so. The goal is to allow developers to make apps that will work on both macOS and iOS, with minimal work from the developer. Partly as test subjects, and partly to introduce some much-needed productivity and utility to macOS, Apple started testing this feature on apps they make in-house. Mojave introduces News, Home, Voice Memos, and Stocks.
All four of these apps do what you'd expect, and act similar to their iOS counterparts. With the cloud syncing all your preferences and information (favorite stocks, news interests, and even Voice Memos recordings), each app feels like you're using the app's service, not the app itself. Whether you're on your Mac, iPad, or iPhone, you get the same information in a more-or-less familiar layout. It's quite nice, and I find myself liking News on macOS more than I like it on iOS in some ways. Think about how similar email is on either platform, and you'll understand where I'm coming from. In either case, you have lists of messages sorted into mailbox folders, and you can reply, forward, delete, move, and so on. The Mac offers more keyboard shortcuts and a different layout, but your mail and the actions it supports are the same.
Apple has started something similar with the migration of these apps. News, for example, will still show you stories from the outlets and topics you've set up on iOS, yet it does so in a somewhat more Mac-like manner. Rather than rotor actions and buttons to like a story or manage channels, you have hotkeys and dropdown menus. Instead of a list of stories broken up by headings, you get a table of contents from which you can pick a topic or channel, then a list of stories that fit your choice. Yet the whole experience is intuitive and easy.
Home--the other app I tested the most--has a similar feel. You can do everything you can in the iOS version, though I didn't try adding an accessory or making an automation. All the settings for all your homes will sync from macOS to iOS and vice versa, and you can get and set the actions for any of your devices. Yet, rather than tabs and rotor actions, you have a toolbar and more dropdown menus.
The only odd thing we found in testing is that some iOS behaviors seem to have followed these apps into Mac land. When you press vo-space, for instance, you hear the sound VoiceOver on iOS makes when you double-tap. Also, text fields sometimes have hints like, "press control, option, space to start editing", yet no such action is needed before the field will accept keyboard input. These small quirks don't get in the way, and I've even found that I really like the double-tap sound when I vo-space. I hope it comes to the rest of macOS in the future.
Desktop and Finder
There are a few changes here. I'll quickly list most of them without providing much detail, as none of us were able to test these.
- Dynamic Desktop wallpapers let the wallpaper change to match the time of day
- Stacks automatically uses file types, tags, and dates to make stacks of files on your desktop, organizing them without you having to do any manual sorting.
- Finder offers expanded options--from quick actions to basic file editing for some file types--right in Quick Look. It also shows full metadata.
- You can customize the available actions, metadata, and other details of the newly available views.
Now, the feature I did test, albeit relatively briefly: Gallery View. Visually, this new Finder view puts a preview of one file at a time on the screen, with file details below it. It's great for glancing over text files, PDFs, or images, especially when paired with actions. So why did I put it in its own section? I find it quite useful, believe it or not.
For VoiceOver users, Finder shows your current files, one at a time, as you navigate them. You'll hear the name of the newly selected file when you move to it, just as you always do in Finder. Movement is accomplished with left or right arrow, though, not up or down as you might be used to.
Here's the cool part, though. When a file is selected, you can press vo-left to land on the file's content. I use this with RTF documents, so I can interact with and read the text of the current file without opening the file in another app. If this is the file I want, I can press cmd-o to open it, else I can arrow to another file and try again. If I vo-right from the file list, there's a scroll area with file details--location, size, date, type, and so on. Finally, there's a button (which currently has no VoiceOver label) that lets you access the actions for the file. I haven't set those up yet.
Gallery View isn't something you'll use all the time. It has its place, though. You can certainly make the argument that it's as many keystrokes to vo-arrow and interact as it is to press cmd-i or use the Quick Look feature. Certainly, Quick Look wins if you're reviewing audio files, as it plays them automatically while Gallery view does not. Yet, Gallery View requires only basic VO commands, with no need to remember extra keystrokes or take your fingers away from where they are while you're using VoiceOver's navigation. I also suspect that low-vision users might find Gallery to be a useful option, though none of us using the Mojave betas have enough sight to test my theory.
Dark Mode has finally arrived on the Mac. While VoiceOver users may not care about what their screens look like, some low vision users will definitely enjoy this addition. Head to System Preferences > General to turn it on.
Dark Mode does what it says on the box: it darkens things. It doesn't turn screen brightness down, but rather makes backgrounds dark instead of white and adjusts the color of text accordingly. This can cut down on glare, making things easier to see for many users. I can only see the light on my screen, not what it's doing or any detail at all, but I've kept Dark Mode enabled the entire time I've tested Mojave. Why? It's dim enough that the glaring light of my screen is reduced, yet I can keep the screen on for when others need to look at it.
Mojave includes a lot of good features, but none that impact VoiceOver directly, to the best of our knowledge. I'll run through most of these below, but I again point you to Apple's website or other write-ups and articles for full information.
- Continuity Camera lets you request a photo on your Mac, take it on your iPhone when it automatically opens the Camera app, then have the photo appear on the Mac
- Safari lets you use website icons on tabs, block trackers more aggressively than ever, and more easily use strong passwords it can auto-generate
- Siri has more abilities, including control over HomeKit devices, locating saved passwords, and "knowledge" of food, celebrities, and motorsports, according to Apple's website
Now the bit we all hate: the problems. Mojave, like iOS 12, has relatively few new accessibility bugs to speak of. Plus, we found no serious bugs, as already mentioned. Here are the Mojave-specific bugs we were able to find. If you encounter any not on this list, and which haven't been present since before Mojave, please let us know in the comments.
- VoiceOver's reading of Wikipedia articles in the built-in Dictionary app is unreliable
- VoiceOver may announce “System Preferences has new window,” when navigating certain preference panes
- when going back a page in Safari, VoiceOver's focus does not always land on the point of the returned-to page from which you left
- when sending a message in Mail, VoiceOver speaks "send again" rather than "send," since the menu item for this action has the wrong text
- in Safari's address bar, VoiceOver may speak the character to the left of a character just erased, rather than the removed character itself
- Apps ported from iOS have small oddities, like playing the double-tap sound when vo-space is pressed
- there may be navigation problems in the App Store
- The TouchBar can, on rare occasions, act as though VoiceOver is not running, responding instantly to touches
- Finder's Gallery view has a menu button for file actions. This button lacks a label for VoiceOver and is spoken as "button," not even "menu button" as it should be
Mojave is a solid update. Its focus is stability and bug fixes, but it still manages to offer HomeKit control; Dark Mode; Gallery View; and a slew of other features and improvements. We can't think of any major bugs for VoiceOver users, and we encountered no show-stopping bugs elsewhere in this version of macOS. Our recommendation is to update when you're ready. You may want to give others some time to find the bugs or other problems we missed, but most users should be okay to pull the trigger now.
Let us know what you think of Mojave once you get it. If there are features, bugs, or other notes you feel should be included in this article, please leave a comment!
The new features are good but I think they do not care about accessibility on Mac as they do on IOS. Priview and Apple Books are still have issues with voiceover. Also the new Siri voices should have been added to voiceover. Sorry, but this is not the update I was looking forward to.
I figured you would want to know (I would), so I thought I would point out that your link to Apple‘s Mojave preview page Takes you to an Apple page that says “The page you are looking for can’t be found.“
Thanks for pointing this out, it has now been corrected.
Thanks for an awesome blog post as always. You are really doing an awesome job.
I think, both regarding to IOS12 and Mac OS, that a bug fixing update is what we need. I had a lot of issues myself, and I look forward to see how much things has improved.
Things I have noticed:
1. In Mail, you mention the "Send again" tag on the menu. It seems like Apple have messed it up in the following way:
Previously, there was a "send again" menu item when selecting a mail in your send post folder. So you both had a "send" feature and a "send again" feature. It seems like Apple wanted to get rid of the "send again" feature. Then they messed it up, removed the feature and then replaced the original "send" feature with the wrong tag.
2. When opening Safari, or when I open a new window, I get a "page not found." The weird thing is the address bar shows a "-" sign, like if it try to open a webside with the "-" address.
I look forward to see if there has been made any improvements to Braille, because there were some seriously frustrating issues in the previous OS.
- I also have a problem with the label send in the mail. Now it's send again.
- Sorting shortcuts in the Finder changed. (CTRL + CMD + OPT + ...). Conflict with VoiceOver and can not be sorted.
- Still bad accessibility of websites with pop-up windows or multi-line edit fields.
- Safari is always looping on the toolbar. Moving Tabulator.
The Desk works to open drives, etc. with a trackpad.
I upgraded to Mojave (from Yosemite) yesterday, and the immediate bug/barrier I noticed was that I can no longer get to security dialogs to enter my password. I previously did this by calling up the application menu, selecting system dialogs, and selecting the security dialog. In Mojave, I appear to have to randomly move the cursor with the trackpad and tap until I get lucky and land in the dialog to enter my password. Has anyone else noticed this?
Also, Apple appears to have swapped VO-home and VO-Shift-Home behavior without documenting the change in their online help. Not sure if there are other things I use everyday that were changed.
I never upgraded to High Sierra because I was told that the option to restart directly into Mac OS while running Windows through Bootcamp no longer worked. I assume this is still the case in Mojave?
I sent a mail to accessibility team and they replied to me saying they are researching bugs. But as you know this is a usual message. I hope they will really fix the bugs. İOS 12 is great and voiceover performance is better then İOS 11, it shouldn't be difficult to improve voiceover on Mac while they are improving İOS counterpart.
This is because windows side can not detects APFS partition. Maybe microsoft should be bring some update.
Thank you very much for such a detailed post on the accessibility of the new features. It really helps.
Did you have the opportunity to test the new App store during the beta process? I have found that the tabs are now identified as row headers, which is wrong in my opinion because users may try to interact with them just to find that they have no content. Also after performing a search I haven't figure out how to open a specific app page within the app results. The cards are there, but there is no way to interact with them. Any suggestion?
If you press VO+ space, you can go to the app page.
I have to say this is quite a good update for me and my Mac, and here's why.
Image recognition by holding VO+Shift+L now works in my native language as good as it does on iOS 12. The only issue here is that some words hasn't been translated from English, but I'm sure this will be solved in future updates.
I am finally getting APFS file system. This is very important and good for me because I use quite a slow Late 2014 Mac mini with base configuration. Now, after iOS and SSD Macs, HDD computers are receiving the new Apple's designed file system too, and I definitely can say it makes my nettop faster. Not so fast as I Thought, but the difference is felt. Also, "kernel_task" process now uses twice and a half times less RAM.
I don't want to be mistaking, but it seems like Apple has finally solved the very frustrating and annoying bug: VoiceOver doesn't stuck anymore. It may sound ridiculous, but I was even able to finish installation process without sighting help. In High Sierra, screen reader used to stuck after almost every update, and, of course, not only after this. I hope I will not need the "killall -9 VoiceOver" Terminal command in my clipboard anymore.
It seems like they've also solved issues with Power Nap feature. Now my Mac can make Time Machine backups while sleeping again, and external drives and other USB devices no longer disconnect after my Mac goes to sleep.
That were my first observations. Hope I'll find more new features and, maybe even more important, new bug fixes.
VoiceOver is integrated into Mac OS X and so must meet the same rigorous performance and stability requirements as the operating system itself. They are built together, tested together, and delivered together so VoiceOver can deliver the same extraordinary reliability for which Mac OS X is celebrated. To offer an added measure of safety and dependability, Mac OS X monitors VoiceOver to make sure it's running. If VoiceOver unexpectedly stops for any reason, Mac OS X instantly restarts it, so you can continue using the computer.
Why hasn't this been true for years? Mojave doesn't seem to fix any of the bugs that have been around for years. The Vocalizer voices still lag, Braille is still buggy, the new PDF support still has the issues from High Sierra, Apple Books is still garbage, etc etc etc. I'm sick of reporting the same issues over and over with no resolution. I'm sick of the Macintosh being neglected in favor of the iPhone and Apple Watch.
I remember when the Mac used to excite me! VoiceOver has so much potential, but someone in the chain of command decided long ago that VoiceOver and macOS aren't that important. Why?
These are the questions those I try to find answers. I reported accessibility team via mail at least three times and they always say that they are investigating these bugs. They improved voiceover on IOS but they didn't do anything about Mac. And I don't think they won't do anything in near future. They are happy about IOS, so no need for MacOS.
I updated to Mojave earlier today, and like it thus far. I haven't yet explored everything, but I did see the apps from iOS in my Applications folder. I notice that the button to log in upon entering my user credentials when booting up or restarting, has been renamed from "Go" to "Log in." Can't wait to check out everything else new in Mojave. I should also note that I don't think my system restarted once during the update process. If it did, I must not have heard it since I was doing apartment chores after my morning workout. I had my volume relatively low for part of it. But thanks for yet another great summary. Nice job Apple.
How do I delete a voice memo? I can't find the delete button anywhere in the interface.
In Facetime on the Mac, whilst in a call, there is a Sidebar, But it does nothing at the time of writing. It probably will when the next update comes out.
Since .x version of High Sierra, the Drag & Drop VoiceOver commands are broken. I tested the beta of Mojave and inform Apple of the problem. It is still present. Some of you, using non french version of macOS users have the same or it concern only french language version of macOS ?
I have noticed one more thing in Mail, which is an important fix for me:
The names of the attached files are now being read again when attaching documents to a mail.
Hi guys, I updated to Mojave and somehow voice changed to Daniel. I changed it to Alex for Voiceover and for system voice. Still some things are spoken by Daniel. How to change it so that Alex will speak everything?
Overall I am a bit disappointed with this new update. I don't like the app store so far. This may be because I just need to get used to the new layout. however the new apple books is a jumbled mess at best. It is still mostly unusable for Voiceover users. I still cannot figure out how to find the books in a collection. Once I enter into my bookshelf, it just says open or closed collection when I VO plus Space on one of the collections. How I can choose one of the books is a mystery. This is getting very very sad.
For what it's worth, I really like the revisions to the App Store. It's much easier to navigate and much easier to find and access each app's description. Books is another matter. Even less useful than before.
To delete a voice memo, interact with the recordings scroll area and focus on the memo you want to delete. Press VO Command Space to reveal the actions menu and select delete. Your memo will be moved to the recently deleted folder, where it will remain for 30 days unless you delete it from there sooner.
Has anyone else noticed problems with AppleScript in Mojave? Even the default right alt T keyboard command that launches an AppleScript to read the time of day, results in a dialog prompting me to open Security & Privacy and give permission for something called "scrod".
Even after granting permission for scrod to control my computer, some AppleScripts do not run as they did in High Sierra. For example, I have one simple script that activates Terminal then disables VoiceOver (because I use a different screen reader in Terminal). It disables VoiceOver by emulating a command F5 keypress. The script properly switches to Terminal, but fails to emulate the command F5 keypress (well, it doesn't disable VoiceOver, at least).
Looks like I'll be debugging this old script to try to find the cause, but not sure how it broke in Mojave. Any info would be appreciated.
FYI, I'm on a mid-2012 MBP.
I had the same thing happen when I pressed Cmd+T to read the time. I was asked to allow "scrod", which I did. After allowing this, I noticed the following bugs. Not sure what "scrod"is, or if it is related to the following bugs.
First, pressing spacebar to open quick view on a disk, such as Macintosh HD only sometimes allows me to see the size and free space on the disk. It will allow VO to read the contents once, after which VO jumps from "quick view image" to "close". Not critical but strange.
Secondly, when opening VO Utilities (VO+F8), some checkboxes are incorrectly reported. For example, under the General category, my Mac reports that 'speak greeting" is unchecked when it is, in fact, checked.
Finally, there is a bug with my version of iTunes. I am an Apple Music subscriber, and my computer is set to download music that I add to my library. However, even though I can play the songs added, in many cases, I receive an error saying the song could not be downloaded; try later. However, this error happens less frequently if I download while the song is playing. I was on the phone with Apple for an hour, and we tried several fixes but none worked. He said he will check on this further and get back to me. What is really strange is that this problem did not occur when I set up anew test user account and opened iTunes.
I did not have these problems until I updated to Mojavi, and I am not sure if it is related to "scrod"
I am using 2013 MacBook Air.
Interested in any feedback.
It appears that Speak Greeting in VO utility is no longer a checkbox. You either have text to read, or you don't. If you add text to read, there is no additional checkbox to check, so VoiceOver will not tell you it's checked. That might sound like it's not checked.
Log this one under the "minor" category.
In Mail, I compose a new message, then hit Command+Shift+D to send. VoiceOver announces "Send Again" rather than simply announcing "Send". I get the same behavior if I don't use the keyboard shortcut, and instead go to the Message menu and select Send. Again, VoiceOver announces "Send Again".
Thanks for clarifying this. My mistake. I was referring to the checkbox immediately after the greeting, which says "Display Welcome Message". I now realize that this is something different.
Learn something new each day.
An Apple Support phone rep told me they are aware of the scrod/applescript issue. Details recorded in the following AppleVis post.
I'm noticing that in Safari 12 and Mojave, VO no longer reads button labels. This is kind of a problem. Like with Amazon, VO just says "Submit Button" for the Helpful/Unhelpful buttons attached to reviews. Not sure what happened. Also, the YouTube video player no longer has button labels read.
I think youtube button labels has not been read by voiceover sins High Sierra introduced. Safari 12 fixes some compatibility issues about voiceover, but this label bug is directly bound with voiceover, at least this is my opinion.
By the way, in preview, I was able to read an 800 pages long document, but voiceover can not detects 1000 or higher pages.
Hi for Paul Marts,
You said you use a different screen reader in terminal... What screen reader do you use in terminal? Thanks.
Just as a sort of reality check, I updated my Mac after not turning it on for over six months, thinking I was about to put it up on EBay. Instead, what I realized is how much time I was wasting playing the "screen reader shuffle" on Windows. I have to use Edge for Wells Fargo, Chrome for Fidelity, Jaws with some sites, NVDA with others, and Narrator when all else fails. Familiar, right? Despite glitches, like pop-ups taking over the focus, Safari is often the most reliable standards-based browser, and Voiceover's performance in it is much more reliable than what happens on Windows in most use cases. And NVDA has taken to hanging for more than 10 seconds randomly in File Explorer on one of my computers and in Outlook on another. There was a brief moment when Windows and NVDA were running like a top, and High Sierra was pretty messed up. Looks like I won't quite be getting rid of my Mac yet, though.
I agree that Apple is letting Mac OS slide, and VO is along for that ride. Next up: they are continuing to fold Mac OS into IOS so that apps will use the same code base on both systems. IOS is probably going to swallow Mac OS, and the result will probably be a deterioration in flexibility and productivity but a boost in reliability. That might not be a bad thing, overall. Also coming up: Apple has said it's done with Intel chips. So, IPad and Mac will be much more similar on the inside, too. Bye-bye bootcap, bye-bye VMWare Fusion. If IOS finally becomes a laptop replacement in the process, I'm not sure it would be a bad thing. I also made an attempt to switch to Android, by the way. Yeah, that lasted 4 miserable months--it was my second and final attempt to find greener grass on the mobile front.
Both Windows and Mac OS are mature operating systems--dinosaurs of 90s era computing, one could even say. There's not much room to innovate on either platform. I've read that Windows is going to be shifting to an almost Chrome OS-like Web-based system, while Mac is going to play on the success of IOS. It'll be interesting to see what computing is like in five years. By interesting, I mean it's probably going to suck before accessibility catches up with these next shifts.
In this comment, I want to talk about invert colors and dark mode in the latest 10.14.6.
I've traditionally used invert colors to have light text on a dark background. This worked well up until the change to never invert images. It was impossible to invert screen shots, so images of text always came up as black on white. This is still a bug. Also, images were generally washed out when invert colors was enabled. This has been fixed in 10.14.6, thankfully. But 10.14.6 introduces a new issue by changing either the font or how the font is rendered. The result is that fonts, with invert colors enabled, are now a medium gray rather than white, making them more difficult to see.
Regarding dark mode, Safari doesn't obey it except in reader mode. And I recently discovered that the Pages app also ignores dark mode. For both of these apps, data is still displayed as black text on a white background. This is almost certainly because HTML allows the content to specify colors, and I imagine Pages also has content color control. But my point is there's no way to override this. Various dark modes have been available on a variety of operating systems for years, and none of them have ever functioned with web browsers, so Apple isn't alone in this issue.
As a low vision user who needs light text on a dark background, the fact that Safari ignores the dark mode setting is a deal killer for me. I'm back to using invert colors, still frustrated that images no longer invert, and with 10.14.6 newly frustrated that text comes out medium grey instead of white. Overall impression: disappointed.
With dark mode off and invert colors on, zoom appears to be broken. Fonts are visible (but small) at 1.0 zoom, but greater magnification levels renders fonts incorrectly.
The problem is specific to invert colors..With invert colors off, using dark mode instead, the problem doesn't occur. I'm unable to test with both dark mode and invert colors off, as there is too much glare for me to see the fonts clearly.
1`0.14.6 is a pretty bad break for low vision users. I'm considering time machine restore to 10.14.5.