VoiceOver focus can be unstable in Safari webpages, HTML views, and some apps

Category
Miscellaneous
Severity
Serious

Description

On some web pages in Safari; web views in apps; and some pages in apps, you may find that VoiceOver focus will spontaneously ‘jump’ to a different UI element.

This behaviour does not appear to be widespread, but can make navigation difficult and confusing when it does occur.

One example of this behaviour in Safari can be seen with Google search results when using the VoiceOver rotor to navigate by heading.

In the worst examples of this behaviour, you may find that it is impossible to activate a link or a button because VoiceOver focus will not remain on it long enough. In these cases, focus jumps instantly. Some people have reported that locating the item by touch has enabled them to activate an item in these cases.

An example of this behaviour in an app is the App Store app. In this app, if you go to the Today tab; double tap on “My Account”; and then double-tap on your name, the contents of the ‘Account’ page and many that it link to are extremely difficult to navigate due to VoiceOver focus constantly ‘jumping’.

Note that the examples given above are just that, examples.

In practice, you are likely to encounter similar behaviour in different apps and on various websites. And, in the case of website, not only when navigating by heading.

It does appear that the issue is related to actionable elements, such as links or buttons, as we are unaware of any situations when VoiceOver focus will jump when placed other types of UI elements.

Steps to reproduce

The above are good examples of this issue.

  1. Open Safari.
  2. Type a search term in to the address bar and submit it.
  3. On the resulting google search results, set the VoiceOver Rotor to its heading option and attempt to navigate the page by heading.

You should find that VoiceOver focus will briefly be placed on a heading, but then quickly jump elsewhere )most typically to the link next to the heading).

  1. Open the App Store app.
  2. Navigate to the Today tab.
  3. Double tap with 1 finger on the “My Account” button.
  4. Double tap with 1 finger on your name.
  5. Attempt to navigate the Account page by swiping.

You should find that VoiceOver focus will frequently jump to UI elements in what appears to be a random manner. This makes the page extremely difficult to navigate.

Bug First Encountered

iOS/iPadOS 14.0

Device(s) bug has been encountered on

iPhone

How often the bug occurs

Sometimes

Apple feedback #

FB8655060

Status

Fixed

Fixed In

iOS/iPadOS 14.1

Options

Comments

Submitted by Dennis D on Tuesday, October 20, 2020

I just installed 14.1 on my iPhone 11 and tried out Safari. I cannot enter a url nor anything in the search box. The focus jumps around with no ability to enter anything. I am not seeing a fix here.

Submitted by peter on Tuesday, October 20, 2020

In addition Apple accessibility said they were able to reproduce the following issues with Voiceover focus. The Apple feedback number is:
749154762

My system:
iOS 14.1
iPhone XR
Using Voiceover

Problem #1: Voiceover focus lands on app or folder in home screen when switching to the next widget in a stack.
Steps to reproduced:
1. I have a stack of 5 widgets on my home screen spanning rows 1-2 and columns 1-2 (in the upper left of the screen)
2. I move my finger to the widget to ensure Voiceover focus is within the widget.
3. I perform a three finger swipe down to switch to the next widget in the stack.
4. I hear Voiceover announce the new widget, but when Voiceover is done speaking the new widget (saying something like “widget 3”) Voiceover then speaks the name of one of the apps or folders that are present on my home screen. Thus, although the three finger swipe down did correctly switch to the next widget in the stakc, focus is now on some other app or folder when the switch has been completed. My expectation is that focus should remain on the top widget.
5. As a side note, the widgets don’t always seem to switch in order from 1 to 2 to 3, etc. Sometimes I can make 3 switches in my stack of 5 widgets using the three finger swipe down and wind up where I started after only the 3 switches, i.e., some widgets seemed to have been skipped. This most notably happens when the News app is in the stack and it will often be skipped.

Problem #2: When opening the app switcher, sometimes Voiceover still acts as if the user is in an open app.
1. I have “Back Tap” set to toggle Voiceover on/off by using a triple tap on the back of the phone.
2. Get into some app like News or Stocks, or Messages.
3. Perform a single finger swipe up from the bottom of the screen until the phone vibrates twice.
4. Voiceover announces “app switcher”.
5. Problem: Although voiceover announces that the app switcher is open, if one flicks left/right and/or moves their finger around the screen, one sees/hears the contents of the app that was opened before trying to open the app switcher.
6. I perform a triple tap on the back of the phone to turn Voiceover off.
7. I then perform a triple tap on the back of the phone to turn Voiceover on again.
8. When Voiceover is on again, it is now apparent that the user is in the app switcher.
9. Summary: When switching to the app switcher Voiceover seems not to be refreshing its display and sometimes still thinks the user is in the original open app.
10. Note: This issue isn’t 100% reproducible but I’ve observed it a number of times with several open apps. Again, it seems like there is either a timing issue or Voiceover isn’t refreshing its idea of what is on the screen properly.

--Pete