Update: macOS Sonoma 14.2 appears to have eliminated or significantly reduced the frequency of system freezes for most users.
As a result, we have decided to lower the severity rating of this entry from "Serious" to "Moderate" to reflect the improvements seen after upgrading to 14.2.
For users still on older OS versions, the original bug entry details and severity rating remain applicable. But upgrading to Sonoma 14.2 should significantly improve the browsing experience for VoiceOver users in most cases.
See the following AppleVis posts and replies for more information:
- Could Apple Have Finally Squashed the Longstanding “Safari Not Responding” macOS Bug?
- Apple's macOS 14.2 Release Aims to Finally Resolve Longstanding “Safari Not Responding” Bug While watchOS 10.2 and tvOS 17.2 Also Launch
When VoiceOver is enabled on macOS, users may experience system freezes where Safari and other WebKit-based applications become completely unresponsive. During these freezes, VoiceOver repeatedly announces "Safari not responding" or "[App name] not responding."
The frequency and duration of these freezes can vary and at times it is possible to switch away from the non responsive application or restart VoiceOver to restore functionality. At its worst, the Mac is unable to be controlled and no actions can be taken until the freeze resolves itself after a period of time, often lasting multiple minutes.
These freezes occur randomly when browsing websites or using apps and dramatically reduce productivity and usability for blind VoiceOver users on Mac. The bug persists across OS versions and can occur on even high spec Macs powered by Apple Silicon.
Steps to Reproduce:
- Enable VoiceOver on a Mac running a recent version of macOS (Monterey, Ventura or Sonoma)
- Launch Safari
- Browse websites, especially those with complex page layouts or frequent dynamic updates
- At random intervals, VoiceOver will begin repeatedly speaking "Safari not responding" and the system will become unresponsive for up to several minutes
- Safari, WebKit-based apps, and VoiceOver should function smoothly without extended periods of being unresponsive.
- VoiceOver repeatedly announces "Safari not responding"
- System becomes unresponsive, often for multiple minutes at a time
- Issue persists across OS versions and hardware configurations
- Often prevents user from switching apps or restarting VoiceOver during freeze
- This issue also affects other applications that utilise the WebKit browser engine. The freezing and unresponsiveness is not limited to only Safari.
- It is not uncommon for a web page to behave as expected for many visits, only to then exhibit the "not responding" behaviour seemingly spontaneously and without any change to its content or method of access. Pages that worked fine previously may suddenly trigger a freeze.
- This issue is not limited to complex or large web pages. It can also occur on relatively simple web pages with basic content, text and layout. Even web pages with minimal elements can randomly cause VoiceOver to freeze and become unresponsive.