The Accessibility Bugs in iOS 11 for Blind and Low Vision Users; From Serious To Minor

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Today brings the release of iOS 11. And, as is generally the case with major updates of iOS, it comes with some new bugs for blind and low vision users. So, to help you with making an informed decision as to whether to update your device, we bring you here, details of the bugs that members of the AppleVis Editorial Team have identified during their own testing of iOS 11.

As is now our routine practice, each bug has been given a severity rating; these ratings are based upon what we believe to be the implications for accessing and using iOS features and functionality and the level of impact on the overall user experience.

If you have not already updated your device to iOS 11, we strongly recommend that you read through this post and any comments before doing so—as this will allow you to make an informed decision on whether to install iOS 11 at this time. This is particularly important for those who use and rely on braille displays, as there are some significant problems in this first release of iOS 11 that we believe you should be aware of before updating.

As we always stress, we can make no claims on the completeness or accuracy of our testing. We are only a small team, and it is simply impossible for us to test all devices, configurations, applications, and use cases.

Some of the bugs listed below will be specific to a certain device, configuration, or use case. So, it is entirely likely that you will not encounter all of what we list; and it is also very likely that you will encounter bugs or regressions that are not mentioned here.

To help us ensure that the information on this page is as complete and accurate as possible, we would appreciate feedback from those who have installed iOS 11 —both to confirm whether they are encountering the same problems (or have found workarounds), as well as to let us know of any additional issues that are not on this list. Of course, it’s even more important that you let Apple know of any additional bugs that you find (they already know about the ones currently listed here). This post explains why you should report bugs directly to Apple, as well as the best ways to do so.

With all of the disclaimers out of the way, here are the new bugs for blind and low vision users which we believe to be present in iOS 11:

Serious Bugs

  1. When using a braille display or braille keyboard for text input, if you type quickly, the translator will not recognize all text typed. We have observed this behavior occurring both with US and UEB braille, and with both uncontracted and contracted 6-dot input. The longer the string of text entered, the more characters the translator will miss.
  2. When using the VoiceOver Actions Menu to delete a conversation from the Messages app, it is not completely removed from the list of message threads. In it's place will be left a “broken” item in the list which VoiceOver announces as “null”. Whilst in this state, the message list will not update to display or give access to any new messages; to resolve this, you will need to close the Messages app via the App Switcher. To avoid this problem, we recommend that you use the “Edit” button to select and delete conversations and not the Actions menu.
  3. There are multiple issues when attempting to read a PDF file with VoiceOver. These issues are sporadic in nature; problems our team has identified include:
    • Upon opening a PDF document, the document sometimes is not seen by VoiceOver at all;
    • PDF documents sometimes are not read in their entirety by VoiceOver;
    • An inability to swipe around the screen to locate the beginning of a document, necessitating that VoiceOver users explore by touch or use the “Headings” Rotor option to attempt to locate the text; and
    • An inability to consistently navigate PDF documents by heading, even when headings are present.

Moderate Bugs

  1. When using a braille display to edit large blocks of text, you may find that the braille cursor and VoiceOver both become sluggish if you try to move the cursor to a different place in the text.
  2. When you have both VoiceOver and Zoom enabled, you cannot enter “Edit” mode on the Home screen—meaning that you cannot delete or organize apps/folders.
  3. When both VoiceOver and Zoom are enabled, the behaviour of multitouch gestures (typically those which have you use 3 or 4 fingers) is inconsistent and unreliable.
  4. If you use the VoiceOver Actions Menu in the App Switcher to close the app that you were just using, you will commonly find that your device will crash and respring. This does not occur if you close other apps.
  5. As of iOS 11, Home Screen icons are managed using a new “Drag” option accessed through the VoiceOver Actions menu. If you start performing a drag, and then use the “Cancel Drag” option from the Actions Menu, you will commonly find that the item initially marked for dragging ends up in a different location on the Home Screen to where it was at the start.
  6. You can no longer use the “React” option from the VoiceOver Actions Menu on notifications of new messages. If you use the “More” action to interact with a notification; the resulting page shows the message and a reply field. The Actions Menu can be accessed here on the body of the incoming message and includes “React”, but double-tapping on this does nothing.
  7. After using the “More” option from the VoiceOver Actions menu on a Lock Screen notification, you may find on occasions that 1 or more other notifications which were previously listed on the Lock Screen are now gone.

Minor Bugs

  1. When on the Lock Screen or Cover Sheet (formerly the Notifications Centre), flicking up or down with 1 finger on the “Page x of 3” control no longer moves you between pages. The control itself will change (for example, from “Page 2 of 3” to “Page 1 of 3”, etc.), but the page itself does not change.
  2. When VoiceOver speaks a notification when it initially arrives, you may find that on occasions part of that announcement will be “in 1 minute”, rather than “now”.
  3. If you are playing audio through an external device, the “Playback Destination” button on the Mini Player screen of the native Music app no longer includes the name of the destination device (although this information is visually present on screen, it is not spoken by VoiceOver).
  4. In the Files app that is new in iOS 11, the VoiceOver Actions Menu for files and folders includes two separate instances of “Delete”. In some instances, one of these will be “Delete Now”; on other occasions, both will be “Delete”.
  5. After performing a search in the App Store, VoiceOver will behave as if the list of Trending Searches is present at the end of the list of search results. This is not the case; this list is not visually present on screen, and apps reported by VoiceOver as being in this list cannot be accessed. Note that the list of Trending Searches is present and works as expected before you perform a search.
  6. When you first go to the Apps; Games; or Updates tab in the App Store, you should find a “My Account” button near the top of this page. However, if you swipe some way through the list of apps shown on this page, you will find that this button can no longer be located (either by swiping or touch). To temporarily resolve this issue, we recommend that you double-tap with 1 finger on the Status Bar.
  7. When reading text that includes the “£” symbol, VoiceOver speaks this in the form of “Pound Sign 10” rather than “10 Pounds” (note that this is the symbol for the UK currency).
  8. On the Emergency SOS settings screen (Settings > Emergency SOS), there is an unlabeled element immediately after the “Emergency SOS” heading. This is a graphic showing the location of the Power button, but it is not spoken at all by VoiceOver.
  9. On occasions, audio will begin to break up and “crackle” (this has been seen with the device's internal speaker, and when playing audio through a connected speaker or headset). We have found that toggling VoiceOver off and back on again will typically resolve this issue.
  10. VoiceOver no longer provides feedback when using the physical buttons on a device to change volume.
  11. When bluetooth is enabled, but no devices are connected, VoiceOver will announce “Bluetooth Connected” when focus is placed on the bluetooth icon in the Status Bar. In this scenario, VoiceOver should preferably announce “Bluetooth On”.
  12. This behavior itself is not new in iOS, but we have detected what we believe to be a slight increase in the frequency of voiceOver becoming unresponsive and needing to be restarted to resume normal working behavior. In particular, it seems more common that spoken output from VoiceOver will stop, but the other VoiceOver sound effects continue.

If you encounter any additional accessibility bugs in iOS 11, please let others know by posting a comment below. When doing so, please provide as much information as possible so that others know exactly what to expect; when and where the problem occurs; and any possible workarounds you have found.

Changes, Not Bugs

As is common with major OS updates from Apple, a few changes to VoiceOver behavior have been made in iOS 11. The first time that you encounter one of these and find things not working as you expect, you might reasonably believe that something is broken. so, to help avoid this, here are some of the more notable changes that we are already aware of:

  1. You now need to set the Home Screen to “Edit” mode before the VoiceOver Actions menu is available in full on app and folder icons. This is achieved by placing VoiceOver focus on to any Home Screen icon, and then performing a 1 finger double-tap and hold until VoiceOver announces “Started editing”. The Actions menu will now have the option to “Activate” (which is used to delete an app) and “Drag” (which is used to move and organize icons).
  2. In some apps (notably the Mail app), the last used option from the VoiceOver Actions Menu is persistent as you move VoiceOver focus between items. For example, you may use the Actions Menu to delete an email. With VoiceOver focus now on another email, a double-tap will also delete that email. Until you get used to this change in behavior, we would suggest that you check that the Actions Menu is definitely on your desired option before double-tapping. This need for some care is exacerbated by the fact that this pattern of behavior is not currently consistent across the OS and apps.
  3. In Safari views embedded within other apps, the positions of the address field, Reader button, and Done button have changed. Reader is now on the right, whilst Done is a little tricky at times to locate by touch. We recommend that you use a two-finger scrub instead, or touch the address field or Reader button, then swipe right.
  4. In Mail, double-tapping the body of a message when composing an email now puts you at the start, rather than at the end.
  5. The Status Bar can no longer be located by touch when in a Home Screen folder.

One final observation that we wanted to make in this post, is that our testing has suggested that the display of notifications on the Lock Screen is not completely consistent or reliable. If you believe that there should be more notifications displayed on the Lock Screen, then one suggestion is to use a 3 finger swipe down on the Status Bar, as we have found that on occasions this will reveal additional notifications. However, do not be surprised if when accessing the Cover Sheet (the new name for what was the Notifications Center when your device is unlocked) you find notifications that were not displayed on the Lock Screen. We have no reason to think that this is a VoiceOver-specific problem, but wanted to mention it here as it might be easy to assume that it is.

To close, we want to stress that based upon our own experience with the iOS 11 beta cycle, Apple's Accessibility Team has strived to make the final release as free of bugs as possible for blind and low vision users. Naturally, it is disappointing to be reporting that there are new bugs, but it is our expectation that Apple engineers will be working hard to resolve these and the other outstanding bugs as soon as possible.

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Submitted by JeffB on Monday, October 23, 2017

If you don't want to update but the update has downloaded onto your device. Go to settings, genral, storage and iCloud usage, manage storage and you can delete the update. Hope this helps.

Submitted by charles on Monday, October 23, 2017

In reply to by That Blind Canuck

I have never had this problem. When asked to agree to the agreement before an upgrade to a new operating system takes place, just don't agree to it, and the upgrade won't be done. I wonder if this could be a danger that you might encounter if you have your device set to automatically update? If so, I'm glad that I don't take the so-called "easy route"

Submitted by Weary Mouse on Tuesday, October 24, 2017

I don't know if this would be considered to be a bug, and if it is, it's not specifically for voiceover, but there is a new feature called Smart Punctuation which is not very smart. It is turned on by default, and if you type a word with an apostrophe in it, you will hear VO saying something like Right single quotation mark. Which is annoying to listen to, and is actually not correct. The punctuation mark in the middle of a conntracted word is an apostrophe, not a single quote. Single quotation marks should be used for nested quotations. So they presented this clumsy tool and it doesn't even work properly. Yes, there are issues with different publishers doing different things to apostrophe's and single quotation marks, and often in incorrect ways, because in the days of typewriters there was often only the one character for both. But in 2017, going to write something on my phone and discovering it won't even let me type n apostrophe, was quite alarming until I found the place to turn it off.

Submitted by DrummerGuy on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

In order to turn on or off the smart punctuation feature, open settings, general, Keyboard, and there you will find the smart punctuation feature. It is on, apparently, by default. You just need to double tap with one finger on it and it will be turned off. I hope it has helped.

Submitted by peter on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Have ever noticed how poorly VoiceOver speaks times such as:
(one hour and 56 minutes)
I run into this a lot with podcasts that are just over one hour. VoiceOver can't accurately tell me whetehr this is one hour and 56 seconds or one hour and 56 minutes.

Another VoiceOver punctuation problem is when speaking version numbers such as:
iOS 11.0.3

VoiceOver reads this as:
eleven dot point three

Come on Apple, certainly we can do better than this - JAWS does!

--peteyou ever every no

Submitted by peter on Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Another quirk I've found with iOS 11:

Notice that, in most apps, when you flick up once with the rotor set to "Actions", the first action is either "Clear" or "Delete".

However, when a new notification pops up at the top of the screen, one must flick down once to get to the "Clear" or "Delete" option.

Apple should design for a consistent UI experience throughout the platform. I hope this can be changed because it can lead to errors and a waste of time.

Can't wait until Apple gets around to addressing some of these newly introduced accesibility issues in iOS 11. We are not second class citizens!


Morning, all
Hope those who are complaining about bugs are reporting them to apple instead of just talking about it. Done so and will continue to report. I think iOS 11.1 probably will be out this Friday and hope they fix many issues. I saw that yesterday iOS 11.1 beta 5 was released and that probably means that new iOS 11.1 be out ready for iPhone X.

Submitted by Haroon Probst on Thursday, October 26, 2017

In reply to by Frank

Greetings all... just thought I would share my own findings on this subject. As of ios11 beta1, the external volume controls for your device have been sadly broken... and still remain that way. With the following caveats... these controls are not functioning only when voice-over is an abled… Or when Quicknav is off. I did try my USB keyboard connected via a camera connection kit plugged into both my iPhone and ipad... and found these controls worked correctly whilst using the external USB keyboard... but not with a keyboard via a Bluetooth pairing. I have tried four or five various different types of keyboards… And they all have the same issue. And I should also add... that the volume sounds are no longer present either. I have sent now upwards of 50 feedback reports To apple during the beta cycle... and sadly... the evidence subsequently speaks for itself..

Submitted by Andy Stokes on Monday, November 13, 2017

Yet again we see a new release of an IOS version which is full of bugs for accessibility users. Does apple not realise that it is those of us with accesability issues like visual impairment that are going to struggle the most with changes. The fact that it was released at all with these bugs is ridiculous. Though I don't actually believe they do any Beta testing on the accesability side anyway. At least not by people who use it every day. I'm currently having to toggle my voice over on and off so frequently I'm probably going to wear out the home button. Who knows what I'd do if i upgraded to an iPhone X. With no home button. When Apple released the first version of accesability it was a revelation. For the first time I could use my phone to the fullest. The fact that it was all their devices was great. Sadly though little by little it has gotten worse. There are so many little things they could do to vastly improve it across their devices, but I'll settle for some proper beta testing.

Submitted by MoffCh on Saturday, November 18, 2017

I upgraded my iPad Pro to 11.1.2 today and it totally destroyed my VoiceOver (VO) usability. I use VO to read webpages and books while I'm doing other tasks. Turning on VO causes both Safari and Chrome to crash (Chrome has to reload all my open tabs.). Or at least freeze the iPad until the home button is used to turn off VO. If you are on iOS 10.3.3 or below and rely on VO stay there until this is confirmed fixed. Apple won't let you downgrade back to 10.

And yes, I have reported this to Apple. Plus my battery life has dropped to less than 6 hrs.

Submitted by venova on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

I have only one bug and this is in the notes app. If I have notes in split view or slide over I cannot type in the edit field in the notes app wich kind of makes the notes app quite useless in split view or slide over.

Submitted by Aidan JK on Tuesday, February 20, 2018

On latest iOS, overall I must say really good and 11 is a huge step up from 10. The only problem I have is VO not announcing the number of new items against an app. Certain apps e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Skype and Messages are particularly affected. The notifications show up as a banner or on the lock screen as expected. Switching off the phone and turning back on resolves this temporarily but the behaviour soon reappears. A bit annoying. Does not occur on apps where the announcement is something other than "x new items," e.g. Mail, Calendar.

Submitted by Just saying on Tuesday, March 20, 2018

This update makes split screen present in landscape mode. No published fixes allow me to view a full screen. All the accessibility settings don’t help to view content at 50 or 60 % of screen now visible in landscape mode. Two hours today with apple support did not solve it. Nor did the complete reset back to new phone today. I hope someone here has some insights they will share with me. It wasn’t an issue before. I only use Safari. Perhaps there’s an app that would fix it. Thank you.

Submitted by Michael Taylor on Thursday, March 22, 2018

Hello. I have been having a lot of trouble when using the on screen keyboard in iOS 11 with voiceover. I am using an iPhone 8, but also have similar issues on an iPad that is also running iOS 11. When typing with voiceover using the on screen keyboard, voiceover often focuses on the wrong letter, or loses focus completely. For example, if I am trying to type the letter A, I will touch the A key on the screen, but when I double tap to activate it, another letter comes out. The letter that comes out is usually the letter I typed before the desired letter. For example, if I am typing the word door, I will tap D, double tap, then tap O, and double tap, then tap O again, and double tap, and then tap r, and double tap. About fifty percent of the time, I will get a third O instead of an R, even though the letter R was in voiceover focus. I do not know why this is happening. This issue is still present in the latest betas of iOS 11.3. I have never had any problems like this in any version of iOS prior to iOS 11. I hope Apple fixes this soon because it is super annoying. Thank you.