What's New and Changed for Blind and Low Vision Users in iOS 7.1

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team
iOS 7.1 is now available for download via Over-the-Air Update and iTunes.
 
Since November of last year, members of the AppleVis Editorial Team have been busy testing iOS 7.1 in all stages of the beta process. Beginning with Beta 3, two of our team ran the betas on their primary devices and found it to be a very enjoyable experience that only got better as the beta cycle continued
 
While no software from any manufacturer is ever bug-free, we were impressed with the number of VoiceOver bug fixes in iOS 7.1 and applaud the Apple Accessibility team for a job well done.
 
Below is a list of the new accessibility features and accessibility improvements we are aware of in iOS 7.1. As always, it is entirely possible that we have overlooked something. So, if you notice any other changes or have a question about something we did not cover, please do post below in the comments.
 

New Accessibility Features in iOS 7.1:

  1. A new Accessibility option that turns on "Button Shapes". This is intended to make buttons easier to distinguish from other text on the screen (such as icon labels).
  2. The increase contrast setting found at Settings>General>Accessibility now contains three options rather than being a single Toggle. This should make it easier for low-vision users to fine-tune the settings to something that best suits their personal circumstances. The 3 options are:
    1. Reduce Transparency: when enabled, this should make some text and page elements become solid colours, thus providing a better contrast against the background.
    2. Darken Colors: when enabled, this uses slightly darker versions of the colors used in some apps (for example, the light blue used in Safari and Settings becomes a darker shade of blue)
    3. Reduce White Point: when enabled, this makes the general whiteness of iOS 7 a little duller, so should help those who suffer from glare.
  3. Enabling the Bold Text option now thickens icons as well as text on iOS labels. It also now changes the fonts used in the keyboard and the calculator.
  4. The option to Reduce Motion now also effects the native Weather app, Messages, and multitasking UI animations.
  5. There are new wallpapers which low-vision users may find make it easier for them to see text and images. These wallpapers are available in a selection of solid colors with a polka dot pattern.
  6. You can now set different speech rates for each language that you have on the language rotor. To do so, go to Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver>Languages & Dialects and double-tap the ‘Info’ button that you will find next to the relevant language from the list of those enabled on the rotor.

Accessibility Improvements in iOS 7.1:

  1. The quality of the Vocalizer compact voices for United States English, British English, Australian English, and several other languages has been improved.  While not directly related to accessibility, new Siri voices (with gender options) are available for U.K. English, Australian English and some other languages.
  2. Folder badges now work as intended.
  3. The closing folder sound now works as intended.
  4. VoiceOver now reads all of the information on the Favorites tab in the Phone app.
  5. When creating a new text or iMessage, you can now swipe to the text field after entering a contact.
  6. VoiceOver focus is now more consistent when selecting multiple messages in the Mail app.
  7. VoiceOver focus is now more consistent when using the Actions rotor in the Mail app to delete messages.
  8. The Reminders app now gives feedback to VoiceOver users that lists are draggable for reordering.
  9. The Status bar on the lock screen now has hints for both the swiping up and swiping down gestures.
  10. VoiceOver no longer repeats the locked screen announcement.
  11. While adjusting the volume using the volume buttons with the screen locked, VoiceOver no longer says "screen locked" after the adjustment is made.
  12. VoiceOver volume can now be adjusted above 35% using the rotor on all devices.
  13. You can now swipe through all options under Settings>Music when iTunes Match is enabled.
  14. When you have just installed an app update, VoiceOver will now announce ‘Recently Updated’ right after the app’s name when you put VoiceOver focus on to its icon on the Home screen.
  15. VoiceOver no longer announces every time slot when swiping through the day’s calendar in the Notifications Center. Now, it will only announce any scheduled events.
  16. The random resetting of Inverted Colors no longer appears to happen.
  17. Pressing the control key on a Bluetooth keyboard now works as intended and stops VoiceOver from speaking.
  18. The editing commands in Braille, such as space with dots 2-3-5-6 to select all; space with C to copy, etc. now function as expected.
  19. The virtual keyboard can now be toggled on and off successfully with space and dots 1-4-6 in Braille.
  20. VoiceOver now correctly reads the information for Cellular Data Usage available through Settings.
  21. When Siri asks a question that requires a response, speech now usually finishes before the microphone is activated for your answer.
  22. All buttons now appear to be correctly labeled and work as expected when using the Music app to listen to an audiobook.
  23. When using the Photo app, VoiceOver now once again gives feedback on whether there are faces in the framed shot.
  24. When in the Messages app, VoiceOver now once again provides feedback when the other person in an iMessage exchange is typing.
  25. When Siri is active, a Magic Tap (two-finger double tap) once again toggles listening on and off. This was a feature in iOS 6, but broke in iOS 7.0.x.
  26. The letters which accompany the number keys on the phone keypad and passcode entry screen are once again announced by VoiceOver after the number itself is announced.
  27. You can once again have VoiceOver read a single line in iBooks by locating it with your finger.
  28. VoiceOver focus no longer jumps so easily from text edit fields if you inadvertently touch the screen outside of the field whilst entering text.

Bugs in iOS 7.1:

  1. Navigating the App Store is still unreliable and inconsistent with VoiceOver, although some minor improvements appear to have been made - such as when swiping left from the bottom menu bar on the Featured tab.
  2. Navigating by Heading in Safari remains inconsistent, and VoiceOver focus can still jump to the wrong place as you try to move through the page.
  3. Audio playback still does not consistently return to its previous level after being automatically lowered when VoiceOver is speaking, although it does appear to less evident.
  4. It can still sometimes take a second or two for VoiceOver to announce the time when the sleep/wake button is pressed. Likewise, there is still sometimes a delay for the screen to lock when pressing the lock button.
  5. VoiceOver focus can be inconsistent when navigating Settings on an iPad or iPad Mini.
  6. VoiceOver does not always give an audible alert and/or move focus when a pop-up alert/menu is displayed on screen.
  7. If you have autolock enabled there are some instances where the device will lock when you are actually using an app (MBraille and Fleksy are known examples).
  8. On the Activity page for Shared Photo Streams in the Photos App, VoiceOver does not read the text that accompanies items. For example, this text might say “Fred posted a photo. Fred’s Shared photos.” All that VoiceOver reads is the ‘Like’ button which is visually located next to this text.
  9. When using a Bluetooth keyboard or Braille display, VoiceOver does not consistently provide feedback when you have copied text using Command+c or Space+c.
  10. When using the App Switcher to close or move between apps, VoiceOver may say “App Switcher” when you return to the Home screen or switch apps. In the case of the Home screen, VoiceOver will say “App Switcher” followed by where its focus is (such as a folder name). In the case of switching apps, VoiceOver will announce the name of the app closely followed by “App Switcher”. This behavior does not appear to happen every time.
  11. When you search for a particular string in the Calendar app (such as ‘dentist’), a list of results is displayed. The date that VoiceOver announces for each of these events bears no resemblance to the dates actually displayed on the screen. And, it is the displayed dates which are the correct ones.
  12. Entering text with a Bluetooth keyboard can be problematic. In some circumstances VoiceOver will announce non-standard characters as you type. The number, navigation and function keys appear to work as expected. Some users report that turning the Bluetooth keyboard off and on again can temporarily correct this behavior.
  13. When content contains more than 1 language, VoiceOver detection of the switch between languages is unreliable.
  14. In the Game Center app, VoiceOver does not read the names listed in either the A-Z or Recents lists on the Friends tab.
We would like to express our gratitude to Amy Mason for her help in identifying the changes in iOS 7.1 for low-vision users.

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