Apple Releases iOS 8.1 With a Number Of Fixes And Improvements For Blind And Low Vision Users
Following a short beta testing period, Apple today released iOS 8.1 to the public - the first major update to iOS 8 since its release last month. Along with the introduction of a number of new features, iOS 8.1 appears to include a number of accessibility-specific fixes and improvements.
Based upon what we have typically come to expect from a full point release of iOS, it is likely that some will be disappointed to see that this update does not include more fixes for the accessibility-related bugs that were introduced in iOS 8.0. However, it is worth noting that iOS 8.1 comes just a month after iOS 8.0, and that Apple appears to be working on a very different version schedule to what we have typically seen in the past. To illustrate, iOS 5.1 was released nearly five months after iOS 5.0; iOS 6.1 was released a little over four months after iOS 6.0; and iOS 7.1 was released nearly six months after iOS 7.0.
So, all that to say this: it's important to keep in mind that we are only a month into iOS 8, and isolating and fixing bugs takes time.
With Apple still needing to fit integration with the forthcoming Apple Watch into the life cycle of iOS 8, it is likely that we will see an iOS 8.2 (and possibly even an 8.3) release in the coming months. We can only hope that these - or any interim updates - will fix the outstanding bugs which are still affecting blind and low vision users.
Here are the fixes and improvements that we have found in our initial testing of iOS 8.1. Please do let us know in the comments any other changes that you find.
Accessibility-Related Fixes and Improvements in iOS 8.1
Toggling the Braille Status Cell setting should no longer disable VoiceOver.
Using the Handwriting Mode should no longer cause VoiceOver to crash.
Typing Feedback now correctly reflects your setting (in earlier releases of iOS 8, there would be "echo" feedback, regardless of whether you had this enabled).
A number of problems appear to have been resolved when using a bluetooth keyboard - for example, apps and VoiceOver should no longer crash, and VoiceOver key commands should work as expected.
The Send button should now work when using the Share option to send a message from outside of the stock Messages app.
The dialpad no longer appears to occasionally "stick" after entering a number.
The bug which caused direct touch typing mode to prevent some third-party keyboards from working properly appears to be resolved. (Most notably, this bug prevented Fleksy from working, although there are still issues with this app. For now, we do not know if this is due to other VoiceOver issues or bugs in Fleksy itself.).
The Purchase buttons in the iTunes Store, App Store and iBooks Store now appear to behave more reliably.
When VoiceOver automatically switches languages, it should now use the Enhanced Quality voice if it is installed.
Web form labels should now read correctly.
There appear to be improvements which make it less likely that your device will auto-lock whilst VoiceOver is speaking.
When using the Zoomed Display mode on an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus, the touch and visual location of elements should now match.
Accessibility-Related Bugs Introduced in iOS 8.1
As is the nature of these things, a major update can introduce new bugs. If you encounter any which you believe to be new in this release, please let us know in the comments section.
For now, this is the only bug that we believe to be new:
- If your iPhone is muted via the side switch, VoiceOver doesn’t always provide feedback if you touch or swipe the screen when there is an incoming call. For obvious reasons, this makes handling of incoming calls somewhat of a challenge. In our early testing, this behaviour appears to be inconsistent and unpredictable. Unmuting your device does immediately bring VoiceOver back.
For a list of bugs introduced in iOS 8.0, please see our existing post: The Accessibility Bugs in iOS 8: From Serious To Minor