iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 Accessibility Report Card: VoiceOver, Braille, and Low Vision Issues and Improvements

Hello from the team at AppleVis!

Apple will publicly release iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 on Monday, September 18, 2023. As is tradition for the major updates of the year, we’ve posted a summary to the AppleVis website of new bugs impacting VoiceOver, Braille support, and low vision features that we have identified during testing of these upcoming releases. We have also included details on previously reported bugs that appear to be fixed in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 based on our testing.

For those who have already seen the post on our site, thanks for taking the time to read this newsletter edition as well. We aim to let all community members know what to expect from the public releases on Monday, so are sharing our summary with newsletter subscribers too.

As is our routine practice, each newly identified bug has been given a severity rating. These ratings are based upon what we believe to be the implications for accessing and using features and functionality for the average user, the level of impact on the overall user experience, and whether or not there is an effective workaround for the issue. However, as these ratings are subjective, it is possible that they may not reflect your own opinion or use case.

With our small team, it’s impossible to test every device, configuration, app, and use case. We can’t claim our bug list is comprehensive or that our assessments are infallible. Some issues may manifest only under specific conditions. You likely won’t experience every bug. Also, expect to encounter problems not listed that we missed in our testing.

We strongly recommend reading this full email and replies to our website post before updating. This will help you make an informed decision on whether to install iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 when they become available or to wait for a future release.

To ensure the accessibility information is as complete and accurate as possible, we welcome replies to our website post from those who have installed iOS 17 or iPadOS 17. Please confirm if you are encountering the same problems listed or if you have found workarounds. Please also let us know about any additional issues not mentioned here. Of course, it’s even more important that you report any new bugs directly to Apple - they are already aware of the ones listed here. [For an explanation of why and how to report bugs to Apple, see this post.

With all of the preamble out of the way, here are the new bugs for blind and low vision users which we believe to be present in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17:

Serious Bugs

Some users may encounter an intermittent issue that affects the operation of the VoiceOver double-tap gesture on iOS 17. When attempting to double-tap an actionable interface element, the resulting behaviour experienced is as if the user touched with 1 finger the area of the screen where they performed the gesture, rather than performed a double tap on the element that VoiceOver focus was on.

For instance, with VoiceOver focus on a button within Safari’s toolbar, performing a double tap might result in VoiceOver speaking the text content of the webpage that was under your finger at the time you performed the gesture, instead of activating the intended button in the toolbar.

When this behaviour occurs, VoiceOver focus typically moves to the interface element that was spoken. It’s necessary to relocate focus back to the intended element before attempting the double-tap again. While this movement of focus may sound similar to the longstanding issue for many users involving VoiceOver focus, the issue described here is new and noticeably different when experienced.

This issue is not limited to specific apps; it occurs across native and third-party applications. It impacts various types of actionable interface elements, including activating items on the VoiceOver rotor’s action menu.

In some cases, the double tap might function correctly on the second attempt, while in others, it might require multiple tries before registering accurately.

The underlying issue can also cause problems with the operation of the 1 finger triple-tap gesture and the 1 finger double-tap and hold.

It is important to note that this behaviour is not consistent—it doesn’t happen every time. Based on our testing, there is no discernible pattern to predict when it will occur or how frequently. But based on experience, it likely won’t be highly frequent for impacted users.

While serious, this issue does not appear to be widespread Based on our tracking of user experiences during the beta cycle. It has been encountered by five members of our Editorial Team. Additionally, A few other users across the wider community have reported experiencing this behaviour, including Jonathon Mosen and a listener to his Living Blindfully podcast. Beyond these known cases, there has been no indication that a significant portion of users are affected. Overall, current evidence suggests this is an intermittent issue impacting a small subset of users rather than something everyone should expect to encounter.

Adjusting the Double-Tap Timeout in Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver has been suggested as a partial workaround for the issue. However, based on limited testing, changing this setting does not appear to resolve the underlying problem. While you may want to experiment with adjusting the Timeout interval, keep in mind that this could disrupt your natural double-tap muscle memory which is accustomed to the default timing. Any benefits in reliability would need to outweigh the effort required to learn the new timing. At this point, the setting change seems unlikely to provide a sufficient or permanent fix.

We chose to rate this issue as serious because of the importance of the double-tap gesture and its frequency of use. Moreover, our assessment has taken into account the potential impact of this behaviour on individuals who are new to or less familiar with iOS. These users might reasonably assume that the behaviour is due to them not correctly performing the double tap gesture, possibly leading them to conclude that using an iPhone is more difficult than it actually is.

Moderate Bugs

  1. When using VoiceOver to navigate the main screen of the native Weather app, the movement of focus is inconsistent and unreliable. Specifically, focus can become stuck on an interface element, falsely suggesting there are no further elements to the right or left. Or focus may unexpectedly jump over elements as if they don’t exist on the screen.
  2. Using the “drag” action in the VoiceOver rotor to rearrange app icons on the Home Screen often does not work as expected. Specifically, when attempting to drag an app icon to a new position and place it before or after another app, the dragged app frequently ends up in a folder with the target app rather than moving to the desired location. It’s also been reported that on occasions some drag action options, such as “drop before” or “drop after”, may not always be available.
  3. Incoming banner notifications interrupt VoiceOver speech when the “Speak Notifications” accessibility setting is enabled. Specifically, any time a new notification banner appears, VoiceOver will immediately stop reading the current on-screen text or menu to announce the notification. This interrupts VoiceOver mid-sentence or mid-menu in a disruptive manner. In previous iOS versions, VoiceOver would finish reading the current paragraph, sentence, or menu before speaking a new notification. This prevented jarring mid-sentence interruptions.
  4. An intermittent bug can cause VoiceOver speech to stop after ending a phone call, while sound effects remain. There is no clear pattern as to when this issue occurs. Similar behaviour has also been reported when using WhatsApp.
  5. The new predictive text feature in iOS 17 provides recommended words inline as you type using the onscreen keyboard. There are verbosity settings that allow VoiceOver users to control what happens when predictive text appears and when predictive text feedback is entered. However, some users report that these verbosity settings are not being applied consistently across different apps. When the predictive text verbosity setting is set to speak recommendations, some VoiceOver users report that recommendations are silent in certain apps, even though they expect them to be spoken. Conversely, other users have found that with the predictive text setting configured to not speak recommendations, VoiceOver will still read out the recommendations in some apps like Mail.
  6. It is not possible to mark certain actions as favourites in the system share sheet due to the ‘Insert’ button and checkbox being recognised as part of a single element. Specifically, when editing the list of actions to be shown in the Share sheet and focusing on an action that can be enabled/disabled via a checkbox, VoiceOver announces the checkbox state and “Insert” together rather than separately. Double tapping toggles the checkbox but does not allow inserting the action as a favourite.

Minor Bugs

  1. VoiceOver no longer announces the time when the device wakes if there are pending notifications. Instead, it states the number of notifications present.
  2. When using VoiceOver Find with a braille display, searching does not function as expected. Specifically, pressing dot 8 does nothing after typing in a VoiceOver Find query with a connected braille display. The search is not carried out. As a workaround, prior to pressing dot 8 to execute the find function, press dots 2–7 followed by space with dot 8. Your search will now work as expected.
  3. When using the VoiceOver rotor to mark an email as read in the native Mail app, VoiceOver fails to provide clear confirmation feedback. Instead of announcing “read” to confirm the action, VoiceOver speaks an unclear and incomprehensible word or phrase.
  4. When you adjusts the volume slider in Control Center using the flick gesture, VoiceOver announces the previous volume level rather than the new level after the adjustment. Specifically, when a user focuses on the volume slider in Control Center with VoiceOver enabled, then performs a 1 finger flick up or down to change the volume, VoiceOver speaks the volume percentage. However, instead of announcing the new volume level, VoiceOver reads out the volume level prior to the flick gesture adjustment.
  5. When editing Safari bookmarks, the bookmark names and reorder icon label are incorrectly announced with “remove” prepended.
  6. Double tapping on a bookmark or folder title in Safari’s edit bookmarks screen incorrectly activates a delete button rather than opening the edit view. As a workaround, the contextual menu for actions includes an Edit option.
  7. Some users may experience inconsistent and less descriptive labelling of Control Center toggles. For example, the toggle for locking device screen orientation may simply be announced as “Locked” or “Unlocked” rather than using the more descriptive label “Lock Rotation” that was present in previous iOS versions. This degraded labelling does not appear isolated to any specific VoiceOver voice. Users of the Alex voice have reported experiencing the unclear labels, while others using Alex still hear the expected descriptive labels. Additionally, isolated reports indicate similar degraded labelling for other Control Center toggles beyond just the orientation lock. This bug seems to manifest unpredictably, affecting only a small subset of iOS 17 users. The inconsistent experience suggests an underlying issue, rather than a deliberate change in labelling.

Other Reported Issues

The Messages app will now automatically transcribe audio messages into plain text, a valuable addition for deaf-blind users. However, some users report the transcript preview and ‘Show More” button appear visually but cannot be accessed through Braille commands, VoiceOver gestures or menus. Our testing could not reproduce this inaccessibility - VoiceOver consistently announced no transcription available for our audio messages. As we were unable to independently validate the issue, we have not filed a formal bug report yet. We will continue investigating this issue to clarify its specific behaviour.

Additional user-reported issues that we have not independently validated are discussed in these forum threads. While our team has not personally reproduced or confirmed these bugs, the threads are worth reading to potentially identify other problems you may encounter:

If you know of any other VoiceOver, Braille, or low vision issues in iOS 17 or iPadOS 17 that aren’t already listed here, we encourage you to share details on our website to help fellow community members. When reporting a new bug or problem, please include as much helpful context as possible - describe exactly when and where the issue occurs, the steps to reproduce it, and any workarounds you’ve found to bypass or resolve it.

Accessibility Improvements in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17

We know that there will be considerable interest in discovering whether the longstanding VoiceOver focus jumping bug has been addressed in iOS 17. This particular bug has presented challenges in checking and documenting due to its varying impact on different users. While some have been unaffected by this issue on iOS 16, others encounter occasional instances or, in more severe cases, frequent occurrences rendering their device nearly impossible to use at times. A further complication is that no consistent pattern has emerged regarding the circumstances under which this behaviour manifests. For some people, the issue exclusively occurs within Safari, while for others, it can present itself across any application. Similarly, the focus might jump to the top of the current screen for some, whereas for others, it will jump anywhere within the same screen.

The purpose of outlining these complexities is to underscore the challenge in accurately determining the status of this bug in iOS 17. Reports from the iOS 17 beta cycle have been mixed. Some users say that they have seen a end to this behaviour, while others note a reduction in its occurrence or no improvement.

Our Editorial Team’s experience is similarly mixed. Given the inconsistent experiences, it’s impossible to forecast post-update results for each user. You may be among the lucky subset that sees this issue fully resolved or observes some level of improvement, but we recommend regarding either outcome as a bonus rather than something to be expected after installing iOS 17.

Our testing suggests that the following pre-existing accessibility bugs have been resolved or significantly addressed in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17:

If you encounter any additional fixes or improvements during your own use of iOS 17 or iPadOS 17, please let us know by posting a reply to our website post.

In Closing

Our team has compiled lists of new accessibility bugs for every major iOS and iPadOS release since iOS 7. Based on our testing, iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 have introduced fewer critical VoiceOver and Braille bugs compared to previous major updates. Overall, these seem to be the most stable and usable major releases for blind and low vision users in recent years. However, if you haven’t already upgraded, we would strongly recommend that you take a few moments to read through any replies to our website post before doing so in case other users’ experiences differ from our own. Also consider that historically Apple has delivered fixes for many accessibility bugs within the first few x.x.1 updates following major releases. Upgrading to iOS 17 or iPadOS 17 appears low risk for most use cases, but waiting briefly may allow Apple to resolve initial problems reported after the public release.

"It’s not uncommon that simply toggling VoiceOver off and on again or restarting your device can resolve some issues that may arise following an OS update. Therefore, we highly recommend including these steps as part of your standard troubleshooting process. If, despite these actions, you continue to encounter new problems that haven’t been reported by others, it might be worth considering a reset of your device’s OS settings to their original defaults.

While this approach requires manually restoring your customised settings, including those related to accessibility, it’s worth noting that a reset has proven effective for numerous individuals in resolving various issues. This suggests that occasionally, problems can be attributed to local factors rather than being OS bugs. If you choose to perform a reset and find that it doesn’t address the problems, you have the option to restore your device from an iCloud backup, eliminating the need for manual reconfiguration of your settings."

If posting a reply to our website post, please keep the discussion focused on accessibility issues specifically introduced or fixed in iOS 17 and iPadOS 17. These posts tend to garner helpful responses, so it’s important readers can easily find relevant details. Also, remember upgrade decisions are personal with each user’s situation unique - there is no right or wrong choice. Comments criticising others’ decisions are not constructive and do nothing to add to the discussion. Furthermore, not experiencing an issue yourself does not mean it doesn’t exist for others, as bugs can be configuration-specific. Stating an issue doesn’t exist simply because you haven’t encountered it is unhelpful. Our aim is constructive exchange of experiences to inform decisions.

In closing, we thank Apple’s Accessibility team for their prompt response in fixing many of the bugs reported during the iOS 17 and iPadOS 17 beta period. Their dedication to addressing the issues raised by our team shows that Apple continues to prioritise accessibility. However, some problems remain unresolved. We encourage Apple to promptly address the outstanding accessibility issues discussed in our post and the comments so that iOS and iPadOS can be as accessible, usable, and enjoyable as possible for all users.

Wishing you good health and happiness.

The AppleVis Editorial Team

Follow AppleVis on X
Follow AppleVis on Mastodon
Visit and like the AppleVis Facebook Page

If you enjoy and value AppleVis, please consider joining Club AppleVis by making a single or recurring micro donation. These contributions support our mission and the continued success of AppleVis - and this is your chance to be part of this special donor community!