The Accessibility Bugs Introduced and Resolved in iOS 13 for Blind and Low Vision Users

iOS 13 was released to the public on 19 September, 2019. This post contains details of the VoiceOver and braille bugs which we believe to have been introduced in iOS 13; as well as details of the pre-existing bugs which we believe have been resolved.

As is our routine practice, each new 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 and the level of impact on the overall user experience. However, as these ratings are subjective, it is very possible that they may not reflect your own opinion or use case.

Regrettably, there are a significant number of new bugs for VoiceOver and braille users in iOS 13. There is also one extremely serious issue for low vision users who rely on a light on dark display. Consequently, we strongly recommend that you read through this post and any comments before updating—as this will allow you to make an informed decision on whether to install iOS 13 when it becomes available; or whether to wait for the release of iOS 13.1 on 24 September, which we believe should resolve many of these issues. If you do decide not to upgrade to iOS 13 at this time, we recommend disabling Automatic Updates in Settings> General> Software Update> Automatic Updates.

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. Consequently, it is entirely likely that you will not encounter all of what we list; and it is also probable that you will encounter bugs or regressions that we did not identify during our testing.

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 13 —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 and are actively working on resolving them). 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 13:

Serious Bugs

  • Smart Invert and Classic Invert do not behave reliably or consistently. Specifically, our testing indicates that anybody seeking to use a combination of display settings that results in light text on a dark background is likely to find that their device's display will spontaneously and randomly switch between light on dark and dark on light during normal use of their device. We believe this behavior to be so prevalent and significant that we recommend that anybody who relies on color inversion to make their iOS device accessible does not update to iOS 13 at this time.
  • When composing an email or note using a braille display keyboard, after 5 or 6 sentences, braille stops responding to input. This also applies to editing an already composed email or note.
  • On occasion, the volume of VoiceOver sound effects and other system sounds (such as notifications) will be significantly louder than that of VoiceOver speech. The presentation of this issue is inconsistent, and it is most noticeable and of particular concern when using headphones.

Moderate Bugs

  • Although this problem is not new in iOS 13, using an external keyboard to move through text fields by paragraph or to select text by paragraph has become even more inconsistent and unreliable. In most text editors, this functionality is now essentially broken completely.
  • The Status Bar can at times be difficult to locate by touch; most notably on the Home screen.
  • When typing using a braille display, text shortcuts do not work unless you write them in eight-dot mode. The workaround for this issue is to press space with dots 2-3-6 to toggle braille input to this mode, type the text shortcut, and then press space with 2-3-6 again to get back to your preferred braille code.
  • When composing a new email message or reply in the Mail app, the cursor will randomly jump around the screen when using braille input from a braille display.
  • You cannot use the VoiceOver rotor to navigate by line when composing an email in the Mail app.
  • The Misspelled Words option is missing from the VoiceOver rotor's Action menu in the native Mail app.
  • On occasion, it is not possible to expand grouped notifications in Notification Center when VoiceOver is enabled.
  • On occasion, VoiceOver speech stops working while navigating Notification Center.
  • The initial position of the VoiceOver rotor for many text fields (such as the address bar in Safari, the subject line in the mail composition screen, and the message field in the Messages app) will be “Show Context Menu” (which does nothing when double-tapped). Previously, you would expect the VoiceOver rotor to default to its character navigation option when entering these fields.
  • VoiceOver occasionally freezes for ten to fifteen seconds, usually after double-tapping on an app icon to open it.
  • When editing a video in the Photos app, after adjusting the start or end point of a video by flicking up or down to move the position of the marker on the timeline, it is not possible to select the Done button to confirm the edit when VoiceOver is enabled. Note that you can ‘drag’ the marker position, and this does make the Done button active, but this allows less control over the exact position of the marker.

Minor Bugs

  • As of iOS 13, Apple is deprecating 3D Touch in favor of a long press that will bring up what it calls a “Context Menu”. Unfortunately, there are numerous places system-wide where the VoiceOver rotor contains a “Show Context Menu” action on a UI element which does not support this feature. A prime example is the App Store, where many UI elements will report that you can double-tap to show the Context Menu, but where a double-tap does nothing.
  • When in the Status Bar, performing a 2-finger scrub or pressing space with B will not allow you to leave the Status Bar when in an app. One workaround is to press space with S or VO Modifier M again to leave the Status Bar. Alternatively, you can go to the Home screen, and behavior is as expected.
  • After setting an item to be watched, such as the progress of a download, when the status of that item changes it is not displayed in braille, but is vocalized by VoiceOver.
  • When encountering an emoji in braille, such as a smiling face, grinning face, etc., braille output sometimes shows a series of random symbols, instead of the actual emoji.
  • After pairing a Made for iPhone hearing aid, the controls for bass and treble are not labeled for VoiceOver users. For reference, the first element is bass and the second is treble.
  • The “Clear All Notifications” action available from the VoiceOver rotor on the Notifications Center does not work. For now, you need to double-tap on the ‘Clear’ button and then double-tap on the ‘Confirm Clear’ button.
  • The audible tone that confirms your device has been successfully unlocked with Face ID is not always present.
  • The spoken guidance and haptic feedback given to VoiceOver users when taking a photo in iOS 13 is also present when viewing already taken photos within the Camera app.
  • VoiceOver focus unexpectedly jumps to another location in the inbox of the Mail app. If navigating down through a list of unread emails, and deleting, moving or marking emails as read, Voiceover focus will occasionally jump to a location closer to the top of the list after taking those actions.
  • In the Mail app, VoiceOver does not always announce the number of unread emails in a mailbox accurately.
  • When viewing a message in the Mail app, VoiceOver no longer speaks the badge on the Back button which indicates the number of unread messages in the same folder.
  • When opening an existing conversation in the Messages app, the initial placement of VoiceOver focus is higher in the thread than would be expected. Typically this will be 8-12 places above the last message in the thread, and the placement appears to not relate to whether there are unread messages in the thread.
  • VoiceOver does not speak the pasted text when pasting in to the message field in the Messages app.
  • Various UI elements in Today View widgets have their VoiceOver label prepended with the extraneous text “today”.
  • There is a new Control Center widget that allows users to quickly switch between Dark Mode and Light Mode. Although what's spoken by VoiceOver for each selection status of this toggle is different, it in both cases essentially says the same thing - that Dark Mode is off.
  • When using AirPods, the volume of VoiceOver speech may fluctuate. Pressing one of the volume buttons on your device will usually restore it to its correct level.
  • When listening to an audio file in the Files app, flicking up or down on the playback scrubber control does not rewind or fast forward playback.
  • The VoiceOver label on the playback progress control when playing videos in the Photos app is incorrect; while the video is playing, VoiceOver says, "Paused."
  • When using the Alex voice, you may find that there are longer pauses following punctuation than there were in iOS 12 or earlier.
  • When using the Irish Siri female voice for VoiceOver, some words may not be spoken when navigating by word.
  • When swiping right to cycle through the elements on the Lock screen, the contents of the Status Bar are encountered.
  • When an iOS update is available through the Settings app, VoiceOver does not consistently locate and speak the size of the download or the download progress.
  • On the Map Settings screen in the Find My app, the Close button is missing a VoiceOver label.

If you encounter any additional accessibility bugs in iOS 13, 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.

Accessibility Bugs Resolved in iOS 13

Our testing suggests that the following pre-existing accessibility bugs have been resolved in iOS 13:

If you encounter any additional fixes during your own use of iOS 13, please let us know by posting a comment below.

In Closing

We have been compiling these lists of new bugs for every major iOS release since iOS 7. In our opinion, the iOS 13 beta cycle was particularly ‘rough’; and, sadly, the final release reflects this. Nevertheless, our experience during the beta cycle has been that most new bugs we filed were resolved very quickly by Apple's engineers, and their efforts are to be commended. To put our findings in this post into context, we reported in excess of 200 unique accessibility-related issues to Apple during the iOS 13.0 beta cycle.

With iOS 13.1 already publicly set for release just 5 days after 13.0 releases, it doesn't seem unreasonable to hypothesize that Apple has faced some challenges with the iOS 13 development process on a more general level. With this in mind, if you are willing to hold off upgrading until the release of iOS 13.1 on 24 September, we recommend that you do so; as it is our expectation that iOS 13.1 will provide a vastly superior experience to that of iOS 13.0 for blind and low vision users.

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Submitted by Mike Bullis on Wednesday, March 11, 2020

When I try to send a message with my Iphone11 with voiceover on, using my logitech k810, the characters don't echo.