Detailed in this post are possible accessibility-related bugs which members of the AppleVis Editorial Team have identified during their testing of iOS 9. If you have not already updated your device to iOS 9, we strongly recommend that you read through this post and any comments before doing so, as we believe that there are some new bugs in this release which might have a negative impact on the user experience for some blind and low vision users.
As always, we do need to stress at the offset that our testing of iOS 9 has been somewhat limited. We are only a small team, and in most cases have only installed and used iOS 9 on a single device. Also, some of the bugs listed have not been encountered by all members of the Team. So, please bear in mind that it is possible that problems mentioned below will not be present on all devices or in all use cases. It is also possible that, in some instances, we are simply mistaken or that there are additional issues which we did not identify in our testing. Accordingly, we would really appreciate feedback from those who have installed iOS 9--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 problems that we have encountered to date. For this release, we have grouped them based upon what we believe to be there likely level of impact to the user experience:
- When receiving a phone call, the iPhone will occasionally become unresponsive. VoiceOver does not speak, and you cannot navigate around the screen to see who is calling or choose any options. This has happened when the phone is both muted or unmuted, and often happens to one user when using bluetooth audio. When this problem presents itself, it is not possible to answer the call. However, it is not something that occurs every time you receive a call. For example, one of our Team typically receives about 20 calls each day, but may only experience this problem once or twice in a week.
- If you enable both VoiceOver and Zoom at the same time, VoiceOver gestures and the rotor may not work, and VoiceOver may not focus correctly. We believe it may be related to having a very high magnification setting on some devices. Some of the Team have not been able to reproduce this particular issue, so it may be the result of a specific combination of settings or use case.
- Braille displays will disconnect if you are in Airplane mode and have re-enabled bluetooth. The display will work normally until the screen is locked; when you unlock the screen, you will find that your Braille display does nothing and needs to be reconnected.
- When using the Smart Beetle display from HIMS, while the display is supported, key mapping is not done correctly. For example, pressing f4 takes you to the home screen, which is supposed to be the function of f2. Pressing f2 will activate the eject key, which is supposed to be the function of f4. This can be verified by pressing space with K to launch VoiceOver help and pressing the keys as described above.
- The VoiceOver Actions rotor now includes a new tool for text selection. This may take some learning, and there appear to be some inconsistencies in its behaviour and use (particularly between static text and text that you are editing and wish to select text located to the left of the VoiceOver cursor). At this point, it is unclear whether this new tool should be considered as still being a ‘work in progress’, or whether Apple would say that it works as designed.
- In Safari and Chrome (and possibly other web browsers), you may find that the behaviour of VoiceOver when trying to enter text in text fields is inconsistent/misleading in some cases. Using either the onscreen keyboard or Braille Screen input, the feedback from VoiceOver may suggest that text is not being input and that the field is empty. However, the text may in fact have been entered. One place where we have seen this is in the Search field on AppleVis, where VoiceOver appears to indicate that no text has been entered--but actually completing the search proves otherwise.
- When sending an email in the Mail app, the device becomes unresponsive for 10 to 30 seconds. This appears to only happen when you send after replying to an email, not when sending after composing a new message.
- In the News app that’s new in iOS 9, a 2-finger swipe down (to have VoiceOver ‘read all’) inside a story will sometimes cause VoiceOver to crash and restart.
- If you have notifications set to be grouped by day in the Notifications Center, there may be inconsistencies in the behavior of the ‘Clear Section’ and ‘Confirm Clear Section’ buttons when there are notifications for multiple days on this screen. These can prevent you from clearing notifications. Some of the Team have not been able to reproduce this, so it may be the result of a specific combination of settings or use case.
- VoiceOver becomes unresponsive after initiating a new recording in Voice Memos. Some of the Team have not been able to reproduce this, so it may be the result of a specific combination of settings or use case.
- If you are using a bluetooth device and VoiceOver is turned off or crashes, you may find that you need to reconnect your audio device before VoiceOver will once again use it for output. Bluetooth devices also disconnect when other audio controls are activated such as the VoiceOver Rotor ‘Audio Ducking’ and ‘Audio Destination’.
- On the new Proactive Search screen, there is a row of 4 icons at the top of the list of ‘Siri Suggestions’ which is announced by VoiceOver as a single unlabeled button which does nothing when double-tapped. These icons are selected/favorite contacts. When VoiceOver is disabled, tapping on 1 of these icons will result in various contact options being displayed (phone, message, etc.), which you can then choose from. Some of the Team have not been able to reproduce this. For them, VoiceOver correctly locates and announces the contacts and the VoiceOver rotor can be used to access the options for contacting them. So, this behaviour may be the result of a specific combination of settings or use case.
- When you attach a file to a new email, VoiceOver does not provide any feedback as to where the file is in the message as you review the text using rotor navigation. Touching the "body" field will speak the attachment name, but only after reading the entire content of the body. You can, however, locate the attached file by touch if you first touch outside of the body field and then slide your finger around the screen.
- In the Mail app, VoiceOver no longer reports how many messages are in a thread when you touch or delete it. Instead of "x messages in thread," you hear "multiple messages in thread."
- In the Mail app, the label for the search field is no longer hidden to VoiceOver. Swiping right from the Edit button now says "Search, search text field" as normal, but another swipe causes VoiceOver to say "Search" again. Double tapping either the field or the "Search" label will activate the field.
- In the News app that’s new in iOS 9, the suggested channels and topics on the ‘Explore’ tab are displayed in horizontal scrolling bars. When you flick up/down on the screen element that allows you to scroll through this, you will need to locate the scroll bar by touch to see the suggestions which have just scrolled into display. If you swipe into this bar, you will go to either the first suggestion on the first page or the last suggestion on the last page.
- When adding a new event to the Calendar app, the names in the list of calendars that you can select to add the event have some extraneous text (the calendar name followed by something like "png, clear, crisp, image").
- During a phone call, showing or hiding the keypad works, but VoiceOver doesn't recognize that until you touch the screen. If you have the keypad visible and double-tap the button to hide it, then swipe left, you swipe through the keypad. If you instead touch the screen to explore it, VoiceOver reports what it should have all along--that the keypad is gone. The same happens in reverse when you show the keypad again.
- If you use Siri voices with VoiceOver, performance is rather sluggish in some situations - noticeably more so than using the Samantha or Alex voices. In particular, the Enhanced Quality voices exhibit more sluggishness than do the Default Quality voices. The Samantha and Alex voices appear to be largely unaffected and work as previously.
- There are some inconsistencies of behavior when switching voices in VoiceOver settings > Speech which can result in VoiceOver not automatically switching to your new selection. You may need to use the language rotor to force the switch or select a different voice and then reselect your first choice.
- In iOS 9 on an iPad, the Command key on a bluetooth keyboard shows all possible keyboard shortcuts. However, this feature appears to not work with VoiceOver, as no additional information or feedback is given when the Command key is pressed.
- When in the Notification Center, you can swipe left into the Status Bar. For consistency across the OS, this should not happen.
- Using the ‘Audio Destination’ option in the VoiceOver Actions rotor can cause bluetooth headsets to be disconnected and the rotor option to become hidden. Whilst this may be the way that this is designed to work, it would be better if the headset were to remain connected and the action could be used to change audio back from the iOS device to the headset without the need to reconnect.
As with most major iOS updates, there are also a number of accessibility-related fixes for existing bugs. Here is the list of bugs that we believe to have been fixed in iOS 9.