What's New in iOS 11 Accessibility for Blind, Low Vision and Deaf-Blind Users

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

iOS 11 has arrived for users of the iPhone 5S and later; the iPad fifth generation and later; and the iPod Touch 6th Generation. Mainstream changes such as the revamped Control Center, new HomeKit options, the new Files app, and many other enhancements have been added. Other blogs and videos will cover these changes, but as is the case with all major iOS releases dating back to iOS 5, there are many changes specific to accessibility which may not be well documented.

Without a doubt, there will be other features not written about here that people discover as they have their play with iOS 11. While I've been running the betas since June, I am certain I will learn of more changes as the masses get their opportunity to play with the update. While I consider myself a decent Tech Detective, I’m sure there are things I’ve missed. Please note that this article is not intended as a comprehensive guide to iOS 11; rather, it is designed to document changes likely to be of particular interest to users who are blind, have low vision, or who are deaf-blind.

Before proceeding, I would like to acknowledge the hard work that went in to documenting the visual modifications in iOS 11 done by Ryan Pugh of the NFB’s International Braille and Technology Center. Without his input, the details with regard to visual changes would not have been possible.

Important Information To Know Before Upgrading

This section applies equally to those who work with accessibility features and those who do not. iOS 11 has dropped support for applications developed for only the 32-bit platform. Before performing the upgrade, you may wish to check your device to see which apps will not be supported that are currently installed; for step-by-step instructions on how to do this, consult this guide. Note that you will need to be running iOS 10.3 or later to use this feature.

Type It, Don’t Speak It

In iOS 11, not only has Siri earned a spot under Accessibility Settings, but you can now type to Apple's virtual assistant instead of speaking to it. This makes it possible to perform queries silently. For Braille display users, coupled with another iOS 11 feature discussed below, you will now be able to fully utilize Siri from a Braille display without interacting with the touchscreen. Look for a guide on how to do this shortly after iOS 11 is released. To turn on this feature, go to Settings> General> Accessibility> Siri, and turn “Type to Siri” on. In this menu, you will also be able to control voice feedback. You can turn it on all the time, off all the time, or have Siri respect whether your device is muted or not. If you enable “Type to Siri,” you will no longer be able to speak to it unless you have “Hey Siri” enabled. Each time you bring up Siri, a keyboard will appear onscreen. For Braille users, though you will not be put in a text field, you can simply begin typing. Once you have completed what you wish to have Siri do, press dot 8 with space, or enter on the Bluetooth keyboard. To read responses through text using VoiceOver, you will then need to flick to the right 3 times, but if you leave Siri’s speech on, you will automatically get a verbal response. Speaking of voice feedback, there is a new Siri female voice which some find sounds more natural. The male Siri voices are the same, but they sound clearer since they are now at a higher sampling rate.

Indoor Mapping Comes to iOS

At the time of posting, I have yet to venture into a space that has this ability, but iOS 11 has support for indoor mapping functionality with the Maps application. Note that this will only apply to spaces where beacons exist.

More Control Over Accessibility

I wrote above about the newly revamped Control Center. It is now on one page instead of two, and can be customized to the users’ preferences to some degree. To add and remove items in your Control Center, head over to Settings> Control Center> Customize. Here you will find a total of seventeen features that you can insert or remove from the Control Center. Among other things, you will find the Accessibility Shortcut; Flashlight; Guided Access; Magnifier; and Text Size as options. This can be easily used to almost have a secondary Accessibility Shortcut since you can simply invoke the Control Center, and enable any of these options. This can come in handy for users who utilize different accessibility tools within the operating system at different times. Visually, the Control Center has been cleaned up and appears to be more intuitive. It has been reorganized into distinct groupings of functionality. The default contrast is significantly better. Cross screen bars have been replaced by banded blocks where possible.

I’ll Answer That

If you have ever been a person who finds answering calls to be a challenge for any reason, there is now the option to have calls answered automatically. Go to Settings>General>Accessibility>Call Audio Routing>Auto Answer Calls to configure this setting. Once turned on, you have the ability to tell your iOS device how long you would like the OS to wait before answering a call. Before auto answer kicks in, you can still dismiss the call through the methods already available in previous versions of iOS. You can set the time to have the call answered automatically anywhere from 0 up to 60 seconds after it comes in. This feature not only works for FaceTime and standard phone calls, but also appears to be functioning with several other third party applications that handle calls such as Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, and Google Hangouts.

VoiceOver

What Has Changed?

Before discussing new features, it may be important to note what has changed for VoiceOver users. While this section will not highlight a lot of changes, a few of what the author would view as noteworthy are listed below.

Moving Apps Becomes A Drag, Sort Of

Last autumn, Apple introduced a new way of moving apps around the various Home Screens via the rotor. The primary change to this method is that dragging of multiple apps is now an option. In iOS 11, instead of swiping up to “Arrange Apps,” the touchscreen VoiceOver user must double-tap and hold to invoke “Edit Mode.” For Bluetooth keyboard and Braille display users, you can still press up or down arrow, or space with dot 3 or 6, to move to “Edit Mode”.

Once you are in “Edit Mode,” you still will need to first locate the app you wish to drag. You have the options of delete, drag, or stop editing apps. Note that if you are in “Edit Mode,” and you wait about thirty seconds, iOS 11 will automatically exit you from this mode. If you wish to move an app, find it, and then select “Drag.” Then navigate to the place you wish to “Drop” the app, and choose the appropriate option. Your options are to drop it before, after, or to create a folder with the app VoiceOver focus is set to. You can also drop an app within a folder.

The final option is to “Add To Drag Session.” This option will allow you to move multiple apps at once. When multiple apps are added, you can still “drop” them before; after; add the app currently in focus to your “drag session”; add to a folder if one is in VoiceOver’s focus; or create a folder with these apps and the app currently in focus. This comes in handy when you wish to drop several apps into a folder, and wish to add apps at the same time from various Home screens. I’ve only tested adding four apps to one “drag session,” but found it worked effectively.

Moving apps around is good practice for using the “Drag and Drop” method on the iPad. While it works on the iPhone and iPod Touch for the purposes written above, it’s also possible to, for example, add a file in the Files app to a drag session, switch to the Mail app, and attach that file to a message you are composing by “dropping” the file in the Mail application.

Previews Are Back!

In iOS 10, VoiceOver users had to perform a 3 finger single tap on a message to hear the preview of their email messages. The preview will now be read out loud by VoiceOver without the user having to interact with their touchscreen.

More Options

Continuing to cover the Mail application, there are a few other changes. When you are reading a message, the VoiceOver user will now find an “Actions” option. This enables the user to take action on the message. This has been a feature available from the “All Messages” mailbox for several releases, but never before from the content of a message. The actions of this rotor option are to reply, archive, flag, mark as read/unread, and to activate. This comes in handy for those who use the threading options who wish to act on a specific message in the thread.

If you choose to sort your messages by thread, there is another new rotor option called “Expand/Collapse Thread”. When expanded, mail threads show all messages without the need to open the thread. This lets you easily read and deal with each message individually. I prefer to use the “Messages” rotor option, as I find that more effective as a Braille user. Casting my personal preference aside, it’s good to have multiple options for the threading of emails.

Assigning The Old New Names

I wrote above that Siri has new voices. However, if you have enjoyed using some of the old Siri voices with VoiceOver, you’ll be happy to know that these are still around, but they now have names. The old American Siri voices are now named Aaron and Nicky, the British voices are known as Arthur and Martha, and the Australian voices are known as Catherine and Gordon. These TTS engines are available for download along with the rest of the voices that were introduced in iOS 10.

Verbosity Gets More Verbose

iOS 11 includes several new options for the configuring of Verbosity settings. To find the features in the below subsections, go to Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver>Verbosity.

”I Periodically Have Questions”

If you have wanted to adjust the punctuation spoken with VoiceOver before, but didn’t enable this choice in your rotor, you now have the option here as well. Navigate to the punctuation setting under the Verbosity menu and select some, none, or all.

Updating In Real time

One of my small annoyances about earlier versions of iOS was that VoiceOver and Braille would not always report the status of certain things if one left the VoiceOver focus set to that element. A couple of examples include with transportation and delivery apps. If you left VoiceOver focus on the ETA element, it would not change automatically. This was an issue for those using Braille displays who wished to quickly check the status of something, but couldn’t without going to the previous or next element then navigating back to the element of interest. When turned on, Speak Detected Text will automatically speak any text that is changed on the focused element. It can still be turned off, so if you find it annoying, the option to disable it is also in this submenu.

Capitalize On This However You Want

Continuing to explore the new Verbosity options, you can now specify how VoiceOver speaks a capital letter. Your options are to speak the word “cap”, play a sound, change pitch, or do nothing. Another option under the Verbosity menu is “Deleting Text”, which offers similar options. You can have the word “deleted” spoken, play a sound each time something is deleted, change the pitch, or do nothing. The same options exist for embedded links. This means that if you encounter a link on a web page, you can have VoiceOver speak the word “link”, play a sound, change pitch, or do nothing.

Bringing More Verbosity Options To The Table

In this case, I’m not referring to the kitchen table, though I suppose I could be if you are using your iOS Device at said table. This refers to handling tables on the web. It’s now possible to control whether you have the headers of the column and row you are in spoken, as well as the number of the column and row you are currently in reported with VoiceOver speech. It was an option before, but now you can disable it if you would like. Note that if you decide to turn this information on, it is not displayed in Braille.

I’m Reading You Loud And Clear

Though the title of this option is “Media Descriptions”, this setting actually has to do with captions and subtitles. It’s now possible to read these with speech output, Braille, or to have both at the same time. If you are using Braille, you will need to be a fast Braille reader to keep up. This will come in handy for those who watch films where there are subtitles, or if you need some textual support to offset a hearing loss while watching a movie. This feature, however, will not work well for those who are totally deaf-blind since there is no context included within the captions and subtitles. For example, you will get everything that is being said, but you have no idea who may be saying it. It’s also worth noting that not all captioned videos are supported. This feature has been tested on Netflix and with iTunes movies, and found to work as expected with those services.

And… Here Comes The Pitch

It’s true that baseball season starts to heat up this time of year, but it’s also true that this has nothing to do with the feature discussed in this section. Under the “Speech” button of VoiceOver, you now have the ability to change the pitch of speech output. Whether you wish VoiceOver to sound like it has an Adam’s Apple the size of a medicine ball, has with lungs full of helium, or somewhere in between, you now have that ability. Leaving the slider at 50% will give you the pitch you are familiar with. It’s also worth noting that the pitch will be applied to all voices, and that these changes will also be applied to “Speak Screen” and “Speak Selection” functions. It would be nice to have “Pitch Change” as a rotor option so that it can quickly be adjusted on the fly, and to have it be something you can adjust with each voice.

Describe It All To Me! Well… Sort Of.

In iOS 10, Apple introduced the ability to generate alt text for the photos in your photo library and camera roll. With iOS 11, this has expanded to a few third party apps like Facebook. When you find an image you would like to have described, perform a 3 finger single tap when VoiceOver focus is set to that item. Note that for this feature to work, you will need to have the Screen Curtain disabled. To toggle the Screen Curtain on and off, perform a 3 finger triple tap. This also works to varying degrees with images containing text, where iOS will sometimes recognize text and perform OCR on it. It is not, however, a function that works across all applications. The best way to determine whether the app you are using is supported seems to be to just try it. If you are a Bluetooth keyboard user, you can also use this feature directly with the keyboard command VO+F3. Note that with some keyboards, you may also need to include the FN key in this command depending on how your keyboard is configured. You can also set up a Braille keyboard command for performing this function as described in the Braille section of this article.

VoiceOver On Demand

With Mac OS, you have always had the option to jump directly to the VoiceOver Utility. iOS 11 has this covered with the same keyboard command found in Mac OS: VO with F8. This will take you directly in to the VoiceOver menu instead of having to navigate to it from the “Settings” screen. You can also customize a keyboard command on a Braille display to perform this function, though it isn’t set up by default.

I Misspelled What?

While sighted users have always had an easy time finding misspelled words, this hasn’t been true for VoiceOver users unless you pause after each word to see if it is misspelled. There is a new rotor option, which now appears called “Misspelled Words”. It is not always appearing with each text field as was intended, but works well for finding those pesky spelling mistakes quickly. Once the VoiceOver rotor is set to this option, flicking up and down to cycle between misspelled words works well. However, if you wish to correct a word, you will still need to do the rest of the process through the “Edit” rotor options as it was done in previous versions of iOS.

New Gestures With New Features

Specifically, for iPad users, one of the changes is the addition of the Dock which is no longer limited to four items. The Dock now resembles what users of Mac OS have been experiencing for several years. The Dock has always been accessible from anywhere within the operating system, and this is now true for iPad users as well. To bring up the Dock, perform a 2 finger swipe up from the bottom of the screen, or press VO with D on a Bluetooth keyboard. You will find applications you have added manually, but also a list of your most recently used apps.

Putting the iPad in “Split View” functions much like it did in iOS 9, though now the Dock has become the main focal point for setting up “Split View” or “Slide over”. Start by using a 2 finger swipe up from the bottom of the screen to bring up the Dock. Then select an application, and in the “Actions” rotor, swipe up to choose “Open Side App”, (Slide Over) “Pin to Left”, or “Pin to Right”. Then double tap to carry out the desired action. Like before, you can tap the left, right or middle of the screen to switch between each app. You can also use the rotor to navigate to “Containers”, and then flick up and down to go between apps. Remember that Split View is only supported on the iPad Mini II and later, and also on the iPad Pro models.

If you are someone who has not enjoyed the Mail app when it is divided in to columns of messages on one side and then the message you are trying to read opens on the other, iOS 11 has given VoiceOver users the option to quickly jump from the table of messages to the message content. On the Mac, and also now on the iPad, this can be done with VO and the letter J. You can also perform a 2-finger swipe right if you are a touchscreen user.

Braille

Important Information Before Upgrading

If you are a Braille user, it’s worth noting that many users of Braille displays are reporting that their cursor puts them in random places on the screen when attempting to edit anything over a few sentences long. Further, if you are a fast typer with the Braille keyboard, it’s also been documented that the translator will miss letters. The longer the block of text, the more this happens. If you plan to do a lot of typing and editing with a Braille display, the first release of iOS 11 may not be for you. When working within any text field using either contracted or uncontracted Braille, these bugs seem to be present with both U.S. English and Unified English Braille. By typing rapidly, I mean anything over around 50 words a minute.

No Longer Lost In Translation

Those major bugs aside, there are many nice things about iOS 11 for Braille users. One of the changes is that you can natively use contracted Braille input without having to worry about the translator not taking what you have previously written into account. Though the translator works well, when editing, the cursor will exhibit the behavior documented above.

DIY W/BRL

Many users of Braille displays have desired for different commands to be part of the key mapping of iOS. Braille users of Mac OS have had the ability to customize Braille keyboard commands for quite some time. With iOS 11, you can decide not only what function you would like to be able to carry out from your Braille display, but also what keyboard combination you would like that command to have. If the command you desire is already in use by another function, that’s okay, you can change it to something else. The commands are specific to each Braille display. Though most Braille displays have a Perkins style keyboard, they also have buttons that make them unique. For example, the Braille Edge from HIMS has four rectangular buttons on either side of the spacebar. These can be assigned specific functions, or even Bluetooth keyboard equivalents. The same is true of the Focus displays, which have many controls on the front of the device that can be either assigned, or re-assigned, a specific command. The amount of options available for new commands will vary based on the Braille display’s specific capabilities and programmable buttons.

To assign a new command for your Braille display, go to Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver>Braille>More Info. While you still have the “Disconnect” and “Forget This Device” options, you will also find one called “Braille Commands”. Within this screen, you will find seven options for configuring new or existing commands. You will also find the option to “Reset All Commands” at the bottom of this screen. There are too many options to list, but I will describe how to add or change a command by example below.

One advantage to using a Bluetooth keyboard on iOS has always been the ability to carry out a lot of tasks quickly using a robust set of keyboard commands. It is possible to, for example, carry out many Bluetooth keyboard commands to make using the Mail app more efficient. Command plus N creates a new message, Command plus R will reply to an open message, Command plus Shift plus R will reply to all, etc. When formatting text, Command plus B will bold the selected text, Command plus I will italicize it, Command plus U will underline it, etc. Touchscreen users must use the rotor for these options which involves a lot more steps than the keyboard. Bearing the power of the "Command" key in mind, let’s set up a Braille command to invoke this key using a Braille display.

  1. After navigating to Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver>Braille>More Info>Braille Commands, activate the “Keyboard” button.
  2. Scroll down to the “Toggle Command” button. Note that there is also a “Command” button without the toggle, but I’ve found that trying to press a letter with this command doesn’t always work, whereas the toggle does.
  3. Navigate to "Assign New Braille Keys", and activate it.
  4. Press a key, or combination of keys, that you wish to be assigned this command. Be sure to either pick something you do not ever use, or a brand new command altogether. For example, on the VarioUltra, I used D4 and D5 pressed together. Though this has already been assigned a command, which will force VoiceOver to translate whatever I've typed, that command already exists with space and dots 4-5.
  5. If the command you have chosen doesn't already have something assigned to it, you will be done with this process. If the Braille keyboard assignment does have a command already associated with that keyboard combination, you will get an alert telling you what the already assigned action is, and asking you if you wish to change it.
  6. Choose "OK" or "Cancel", and the appropriate option will be chosen.

You can now press that Braille keyboard combination you have assigned this function, once to toggle the Command key on and once to toggle it off, and perform all of the commands I listed above and many more. For example, to bold a selected block of text, press the Command key toggle, the letter B, and then press the Command key toggle again. You have many other options, such as the ability to invoke Siri. This allows you to then use Siri from your Braille display without ever having to take your hands off the keyboard.

What's The Status Of The Formatting?

Another new feature in iOS 11 is the ability to detect what formatting attributes are in a document using the status cell. To turn this option on, go to Settings>General>Accessibility>Braille>Status Cells", and choose to turn on "Show Text Status". Cracking the code of what dot stands for each type of formatting will take a bit of memorizing, but you can easily pull up a list of which dots symbolize which text attribute by pressing the cursor routing button over the status cell. You can exit this mode by pressing Space with B. As the insertion point in your text changes by using the Braille cursor, so too should the status cell if the text formatting is different. If your cursor is not routed to somewhere on the screen, the formatting will follow wherever the insertion point is set to.

Feel Those Emoji’s

VoiceOver users who use speech have had the ability to listen to whatever emoji they have selected, or to whichever one they encounter. Prior to iOS 11, this was very limited for Braille users. They often saw a series of symbols that didn't differ from emoji to emoji. Now, Braille users can tell what emoji they are encountering just like their speech using counterparts.

The Text Goes On And ON And On And…

Another new Braille function is “Word Wrap”. No, this is not a feature which will quote various Hip-hop lyrics, but is a feature which will not break up the contents displayed by words. Instead, you may find that you have half of a word at the end of the display, and then when you pan forward, you will find the rest of the word. This option may come in handy for users who are on smaller displays. You will find it under Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver>Braille>Word Wrap.

Less Spaces Are Good

Prior to iOS 11, it was necessary to press the Spacebar in conjunction with dots 7 or 8 to perform a delete or to activate the Enter key. With iOS 11, you can simply press dot 7 or 8 without the Spacebar, and these functions will work correctly. However, as old habits die hard, you can still use the Spacebar with dot 7 or dot 8 like you could before.

Low Vision

General Clean-Up

The new features and enhancements in the below sections show that Apple has done substantial work to improve the low vision experience. While the below added functions are important, there are a lot of smaller changes to the appearance of the operating system that will make the upgrade potentially a good one. For example, a number of default icons have been visually cleaned up, removing “flair” to create a crisper and clearer presentation. Here are a few noteworthy changes, but not an exhaustive list:

  • The paintbrush ends on the App Store have been removed, and the lines across the pencil have been cleaned up to create a crisp overlapping “A” with curved lines.
  • The times on the clock have been boldened and clarified.
  • The Maps icon has been simplified to become more visually distinct.
  • The number of lines on the Notes and Reminders icons have been reduced.
  • The Calculator icon has been given a slight overhaul changing it from orange and gray boxes to a black calculator image with orange and white buttons on it.
  • The iTunes Store has a new icon changing from a music note to a crisp star.


Other little changes that can make a big difference include a larger navigation bar in some apps, a QR scanner built directly into the camera that eliminates the need for a third party app with unknown accessibility standards. Bigger, bolder and better controls for formatting in the notes app make the experience less of a strain.

The App Store Redesign

All around the App Store the off-white background has been removed in favor of a flat white theme throughout improving color contrast across the board. The install now buttons for apps are far larger and visually distinct, with a full button around the “install now” text. Reviews and ratings are now a dark gray instead of yellow, and much larger and more prominent, icons at the bottom of the screen are bigger and heavier. Search suggestions are twenty percent larger and far bolder. The search box itself has doubled in size and the grey of the box has been lighted to improve contrast against the black text as you type. The updates page has much larger text and icons and the buttons have a larger rounded look and there is even a system wide setting that has been added to disable feedback request inside of Apps to reduce visual clutter and eliminate those frustrating pop ups. The small cleanups around the Store are innumerable and make for a much more comfortable experience, the final big change that should be called out, there is finally an option to disable auto playing videos around the store and reduce the visual burden they can create.

iOS 11 Gets More Bold… Somewhat

Though iOS 11 sports more bold text, the issue is that it isn’t consistently done. For example, the passcode screen numbers are over twice as thick and significantly clearer than in iOS 10, while icons on the Home Screen and some native apps setup screens have only a modest increase in size and line thickness. One could easily miss that bold is even turned on, particularly on the web. This is a really nice feature in the areas where it has been implemented, but the places where it is functioning are the minority rather than the majority.

A More Dynamic iOS

iOS 11 brings with it more enhanced dynamic type. In all native menus and apps we examined, the line wrapping successfully shifted over lines and allowed the full body of text to be viewed. The irritating cutoffs and overflows that existed in iOS 10 have been removed. The tap and hold function for a larger pop out control in the middle of the screen does exactly what it says it will. However, the improvements do not carry over to the web where text appears to be presented exactly as it was in iOS 10. To enable this feature, head over to Settings>General>Accessibility>Text Size, and turn on “Larger Accessibility Sizes”.

Bigger Is Cleaner

In the Zoom window, the cleanness at high magnification levels is considerably improved. The Zoom window is not as impressive at enhancing images, but even at a 15x greater magnification level, it is still able to render a cleaner and smoother image than in iOS 10.

Sometimes, Being Negative Is Smart

Invert Colors has been made “smarter” in some places throughout the operating system. This feature is intended to not invert things like media, images, and some apps that have darker color styles to make them more clear. To enable “Smart Invert”, head over to Settings>General>Accessibility>Display Accommodations>Invert Colors and enable “Smart Invert”. It’s possible to use the Invert Colors functions from prior to iOS 11 by enabling “Classic Invert Colors”. Using smart inversion with the camera makes it easier to differentiate between objects of very similar colors, and apply tints to each to make them visually distinct. Smart Inversion determines whether to apply color inversion to a single object, or multiple objects, seemingly based on what is in frame. In some cases, this feature will invert one object, and not another directly beside it, to create sufficient contrast to differentiate the two.

With Smart Inversion active, there are still a few issues with app buttons that begin dark against a dark background, and light against a light background. Against a mostly black background, the background is not inverted, and neither is the Stocks icon. The edges of that image remain a little unclear. Native pictures and videos seem to not be inverted, but the same cannot be said for media on the web and third party applications. In Apple’s defense, this may require an update, or additional coding work by the app developers.

The biggest low vision issue we have been able to identify with the Smart Inversion is that pink and blue will turn green and orange. While providing improved color contrast, it is not sufficient to make it fully visually distinct on smaller items. This makes it markedly worse for those who are color blind. There are some holdover issues with inversion inside the Weather app. This is especially true where the inversion now creates an orange/brown background while the images of the sun remain a bright yellow. This makes them less distinct with inversed colors than without.

There are some inconsistencies in the way in which app logos are inverted. Examples include the list of apps in the Control Center, the Siri app suggestions were only sometimes inverted, the YouTube app was blue in one instance and then the normal red and white the next time, etc.

I Like More Colorful Speech, But Can You Give Me The Highlights?

Speak Selection has been around for several versions, but seems to get enhancements with each operating system. iOS 11 is no exception. You can now highlight colors with Speak Selection. This comes in two flavors: words and sentences. You can either use these functions independently or together. This can be used to track focus which is especially useful for complex web pages without intuitive reading orders. However, the line or colored band does not move in real time if you scroll the page until the next sentence is started. This could potentially create some visual confusion.

The selection of colors leaves something to be desired with only blue, yellow, green, pink, and purple available. The highlight bands are also inverted when Smart Inversion is active. Before inversion, a visually distinct sentence highlight of purple and green will be inverted into dark green and orange brown. This may result in having to repeatedly alter settings to use this function if you regularly use Smart Inversion. This is because the bad contrast will appear in only areas where the smart inversion actually inverts.

An Upgraded Magnifier

Though a slight delay still remains when going from darkness to bright light, this appears to be less than what is found in iOS 10. The Magnifier is now better able to handle glare, and adjust to rapidly changing light. Smaller objects, text, and stacked items seem to be receiving cleaner and faster focus. The upgrade is especially noticeable when using the magnifier to examine text either in print or on a computer screen.

Hearing

This Phone Was Made For You And My Hearing Aids

Over the years, Apple has been working with hearing aid manufacturers to develop Made For iPhone (MFI) hearing aids. iOS 10.2 saw some upgrades to the newer models, in that the technology behind AirPods and the w1 chip was implemented. It is my understanding, though I do not have a set of MFI hearing aids to test myself, that the stability issues found in iOS 10 have been addressed with the newer models using the w1 chip. Again, I do not have access to a set of MFI hearing aids, so it is impossible for me to tell you what else has been changed. It is my hope that someone who owns a pair of MFI hearing aids will take the time to inform us all of what has changed.

Can You Give Me More Background?

For those who are hard of hearing with low vision, or those who have low vision that wish to access subtitles, iOS 11 brings additional options for captioning. It is now possible to increase the size of captions, and to add an outline to make them more visually distinct. The outline functions presents the text in a far more consistent and clear manner than the bold function. This makes captions far more clear on the screen especially against a backdrop of a very bright, or very dark video. To play around with this new functionality yourself, navigate to Settings>General>Accessibility>Subtitle & Captions>Style.

Conclusion

Apple continues to make changes and enhancements to its mobile operating system for everyone. Their work toward inclusive design continues to keep them ahead of many other platforms in terms of built-in accessibility options. Certainly, the enhancements in iOS 11 prove this trend continues. Just like previous iOS releases, whether you should upgrade or not depends on whether the bugs present in the new release will impact you on a greater level than you can tolerate—and whether you feel the new features are worth the upgrade. If possible, it may be best to try out the new version of iOS on another device before installing it on your own. To check out a list of bugs related to VoiceOver and b/braille, check the this AppleVis post. To download the update over the air, go to Settings> General> Software Update, and follow the prompts onscreen. Alternatively, you can update your device through iTunes.

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10 Comments

Apple Smart Keyboard

Just FYI for anyone who is curious, even though Apple's smart keyboard does not natively have F1 through F12 keys, you can access the two VO keys described here by using VO+FN+the number. So, VO+F3 becomes VO+FN+3 (that's the number 3). The FN key is the lower left corner key, which normally on the smart keyboard functions as your input language selector.

Good information

Thank you for all this great information which will serve those of us who still haven't updated our devices to the new iOS 11. I will certainly do that this afternoon. The new features or functions are totally worth it for me. Happy updating, everyone.

subtitles

How do I get to the subtitles part? I want subtitles to read to me.

Media Descriptions Feature

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hey techluver I'm not sure if this is what you were looking for but try the following:

Try going to Settings -> General -> Accessibility -> VoiceOver -> Verbosity -> Media Descriptions

From here you will find the following choices.

Off, Speech, Braille, and Speech and Braille

HTH

VoiceOver keyboard commands in iOS 11

Here is a list of all VoiceOver keyboard commands in iOS 11, at least all I could find. I marked which ones are new in iOS 11.

VO-A: read all from current position
VO-B: read all from beginning
VO-C (in text): read current character (new)
VO-C-C (in text): read character phonetically (new)
VO-C (in tables): read column header (new)
VO-C-C (in tables): read entire column (new)
VO-Shift-C: copy last phrase to clipboard
VO-D: show or hide the dock (new)
VO-F: find
VO-Shift-F: perform 3D touch
VO-G: find next
VO-Shift-G: find previous
VO-H: home button
VO-I: item chooser
VO-J: jump to related content (new)
VO-K: VoiceOver help
VO-L: read current line (new)
VO-M: go to status bar
VO-Shift-M: tap and hold
VO-Shift-N: read VoiceOver hint (new)
VO-Q: toggle single letter Quick Nav
VO-R: read row header (new)
VO-R-R: read entire row (new)
VO-S: toggle speech
VO-T: read text style
VO-Shift-T: read table dimensions (new)
VO-Shift-T-T: read position in table (new)
VO-Shift-U: read link URL (new)
VO-W: read current word (new)
VO-W-W: spell current word (new)
VO-W-W-W: spell word phonetically (new)

VO-Space: activate
VO-Enter: mark position for selecting text (new)
VO-Slash: add custom label
VO-Semicolon: toggle VoiceOver modifier key lock
VO-Left Bracket: move to previous app in split view
VO-Right Bracket: move to next app in split view
VO-Hyphen: start or stop current action (magic tap)
VO-Accent: escape current context (scrub)
VO-Escape: escape current context (scrub)

VO-F3: VoiceOver focus summary (new)
VO-F3-F3: read number of lines in text field (new)
VO-F4: keyboard focus summary (new)
VO-F6: read selected text (new)
VO-F8: open VoiceOver settings (new)
VO-F11: toggle screen curtain (changed from VO-Shift-S)

VO-Left: move focus left
VO-Right: move focus right
VO-Up: move up based on rotor setting
VO-Down: move down based on rotor setting
VO-Shift-Left: move to previous character
VO-Shift-Right: move to next character
VO-Command-Left: select previous rotor item (new)
VO-Command-Right: select next rotor item (new)
VO-Command-Up: move up based on rotor setting (new)
VO-Command-Down: move down based on rotor setting (new)

VO-Home: move to first item (new)
VO-End: move to last item (new)
VO-Shift-Home: move to first item in container (new)
VO-Shift-End: move to last item in container (new)
VO-Page Up: go to notifications
VO-Page Down: go to Control Center
VO-Shift-Page Up: move to previous paragraph (new)
VO-Shift-Page Down: move to next paragraph (new)
VO-Command-Page Up: move to previous sentence (new)
VO-Command-Page Down: move to next sentence (new)

For the following, hold down Shift to go to the previous item instead of the next item:
VO-Command-B: next bold text (new)
VO-Command-C: next text style change (new)
VO-Command-D: next item of different type (new)
VO-Command-E: next misspelled word (new)
VO-Command-F: next frame (new)
VO-Command-G: next image (new)
VO-Command-H: next heading (new)
VO-Command-I: next italic text (new)
VO-Command-J: next form control (new)
VO-Command-K: next color change (new)
VO-Command-L: next link (new)
VO-Command-M: next heading of same level (new)
VO-Command-O: next font change (new)
VO-Command-P: next plain text (new)
VO-Command-Q: next block quote (new)
VO-Command-S: next item of same type (new)
VO-Command-T: next table (new)
VO-Command-U: next underlined text (new)
VO-Command-V: next visited link (new)
VO-Command-W: next block quote of same level (new)
VO-Command-X: next list (new)
VO-Command-Y: next column (new)

Left + Right: toggle Quick Nav
Left: move focus left
Right: move focus right
Up: move up based on rotor setting
Down: move down based on rotor setting
Up + Down: activate
Up + Left: select previous rotor item
Up + Right: select next rotor item
Option-Left: scroll left
Option-Right: scroll right
Option-Up: scroll up
Option-Down: scroll down
Control-Left: move to previous container
Control-Right: move to next container
Control-Up: move to first item
Control-Down: move to last item

For the following, make sure single letter Quick Nav is enabled by pressing VO-Q. Again, hold Shift to go to the previous item:
B: next button
C: next form control
H: next heading
I: next image
L: next link
M: next item of same type
R: next text field
S: next static text
T: next table
W: next landmark
X: next list
1: next heading level 1
2: next heading level 2
3: next heading level 3
4: next heading level 4
5: next heading level 5
6: next heading level 6

Thanks, great blog.

Member of the AppleVis Blog Team

Hi Scott,
This is a fantastic blog! Very thorough and filled with good information. I'll be updating now. :-)
Thanks for writing this. Great work!
Best regards.

@ dvdmth,
Thanks for the great iOS Bluetooth keyboard shortcuts list. You should think about tidying it up as a post and put it into the Guides section. Very timely!
Best.

One more thing...

First, thanks for a really thorough and readable article. There's one more low vision aspect of iOS 11 on iPad I'd like to mention. By default, iOS 11 seems to turn on "enable key flicks" in the keyboard settings. This results in a keyboard that has two characters displayed on each key, both the shifted and unshifted character. For example, the q key displays both q and the number 1. The characters are smaller and, of course, potentially confusing for some low vision users. Users with good enough sight can type the shifted character by dragging down on the key. Users with low vision may prefer to turn this feature off in order to return to a keyboard with just one character displayed on each key. Settings/general/keyboard/enable key flicks - off. You also mentioned MFi hearing aids. I have resound Linx MFi hearing aids and have experienced a significant increase in bluetooth disconnection issues since upgrading to iOS 11 on my iPhone 6. I expect these are bugs that will be fixed soon. Response to VoiceOver speech on my hearing aids is also slower.

Excellent blog

Great blog post. The update went nearly flawlessly for me, and after I restarted the phone again, everything seems to be working just fine.

VoiceOver keyboard commands

Please consider creating a new guide for these keyboard commands. If the original author can't or does not wish to do this, then please identify the source from which these were obtained, and I will do it as time permits. Thanks.

One haded keyboard

Don't forget, for those of you who have 3d touch phones there's one handed keyboard option. Force touch the next keyboard button, located next to the dictate button. You'll get a set of buttons where the keyboard normally is. Left, normal, and right. This will slide the keyboard to either side of the screen to make one handed typing easier on devices.