What's New and Changed for Blind and Low Vision Users in iOS 7.1

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team
iOS 7.1 is now available for download via Over-the-Air Update and iTunes.
Since November of last year, members of the AppleVis Editorial Team have been busy testing iOS 7.1 in all stages of the beta process. Beginning with Beta 3, two of our team ran the betas on their primary devices and found it to be a very enjoyable experience that only got better as the beta cycle continued
While no software from any manufacturer is ever bug-free, we were impressed with the number of VoiceOver bug fixes in iOS 7.1 and applaud the Apple Accessibility team for a job well done.
Below is a list of the new accessibility features and accessibility improvements we are aware of in iOS 7.1. As always, it is entirely possible that we have overlooked something. So, if you notice any other changes or have a question about something we did not cover, please do post below in the comments.

New Accessibility Features in iOS 7.1:

  1. A new Accessibility option that turns on "Button Shapes". This is intended to make buttons easier to distinguish from other text on the screen (such as icon labels).
  2. The increase contrast setting found at Settings>General>Accessibility now contains three options rather than being a single Toggle. This should make it easier for low-vision users to fine-tune the settings to something that best suits their personal circumstances. The 3 options are:
    1. Reduce Transparency: when enabled, this should make some text and page elements become solid colours, thus providing a better contrast against the background.
    2. Darken Colors: when enabled, this uses slightly darker versions of the colors used in some apps (for example, the light blue used in Safari and Settings becomes a darker shade of blue)
    3. Reduce White Point: when enabled, this makes the general whiteness of iOS 7 a little duller, so should help those who suffer from glare.
  3. Enabling the Bold Text option now thickens icons as well as text on iOS labels. It also now changes the fonts used in the keyboard and the calculator.
  4. The option to Reduce Motion now also effects the native Weather app, Messages, and multitasking UI animations.
  5. There are new wallpapers which low-vision users may find make it easier for them to see text and images. These wallpapers are available in a selection of solid colors with a polka dot pattern.
  6. You can now set different speech rates for each language that you have on the language rotor. To do so, go to Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver>Languages & Dialects and double-tap the ‘Info’ button that you will find next to the relevant language from the list of those enabled on the rotor.

Accessibility Improvements in iOS 7.1:

  1. The quality of the Vocalizer compact voices for United States English, British English, Australian English, and several other languages has been improved.  While not directly related to accessibility, new Siri voices (with gender options) are available for U.K. English, Australian English and some other languages.
  2. Folder badges now work as intended.
  3. The closing folder sound now works as intended.
  4. VoiceOver now reads all of the information on the Favorites tab in the Phone app.
  5. When creating a new text or iMessage, you can now swipe to the text field after entering a contact.
  6. VoiceOver focus is now more consistent when selecting multiple messages in the Mail app.
  7. VoiceOver focus is now more consistent when using the Actions rotor in the Mail app to delete messages.
  8. The Reminders app now gives feedback to VoiceOver users that lists are draggable for reordering.
  9. The Status bar on the lock screen now has hints for both the swiping up and swiping down gestures.
  10. VoiceOver no longer repeats the locked screen announcement.
  11. While adjusting the volume using the volume buttons with the screen locked, VoiceOver no longer says "screen locked" after the adjustment is made.
  12. VoiceOver volume can now be adjusted above 35% using the rotor on all devices.
  13. You can now swipe through all options under Settings>Music when iTunes Match is enabled.
  14. When you have just installed an app update, VoiceOver will now announce ‘Recently Updated’ right after the app’s name when you put VoiceOver focus on to its icon on the Home screen.
  15. VoiceOver no longer announces every time slot when swiping through the day’s calendar in the Notifications Center. Now, it will only announce any scheduled events.
  16. The random resetting of Inverted Colors no longer appears to happen.
  17. Pressing the control key on a Bluetooth keyboard now works as intended and stops VoiceOver from speaking.
  18. The editing commands in Braille, such as space with dots 2-3-5-6 to select all; space with C to copy, etc. now function as expected.
  19. The virtual keyboard can now be toggled on and off successfully with space and dots 1-4-6 in Braille.
  20. VoiceOver now correctly reads the information for Cellular Data Usage available through Settings.
  21. When Siri asks a question that requires a response, speech now usually finishes before the microphone is activated for your answer.
  22. All buttons now appear to be correctly labeled and work as expected when using the Music app to listen to an audiobook.
  23. When using the Photo app, VoiceOver now once again gives feedback on whether there are faces in the framed shot.
  24. When in the Messages app, VoiceOver now once again provides feedback when the other person in an iMessage exchange is typing.
  25. When Siri is active, a Magic Tap (two-finger double tap) once again toggles listening on and off. This was a feature in iOS 6, but broke in iOS 7.0.x.
  26. The letters which accompany the number keys on the phone keypad and passcode entry screen are once again announced by VoiceOver after the number itself is announced.
  27. You can once again have VoiceOver read a single line in iBooks by locating it with your finger.
  28. VoiceOver focus no longer jumps so easily from text edit fields if you inadvertently touch the screen outside of the field whilst entering text.

Bugs in iOS 7.1:

  1. Navigating the App Store is still unreliable and inconsistent with VoiceOver, although some minor improvements appear to have been made - such as when swiping left from the bottom menu bar on the Featured tab.
  2. Navigating by Heading in Safari remains inconsistent, and VoiceOver focus can still jump to the wrong place as you try to move through the page.
  3. Audio playback still does not consistently return to its previous level after being automatically lowered when VoiceOver is speaking, although it does appear to less evident.
  4. It can still sometimes take a second or two for VoiceOver to announce the time when the sleep/wake button is pressed. Likewise, there is still sometimes a delay for the screen to lock when pressing the lock button.
  5. VoiceOver focus can be inconsistent when navigating Settings on an iPad or iPad Mini.
  6. VoiceOver does not always give an audible alert and/or move focus when a pop-up alert/menu is displayed on screen.
  7. If you have autolock enabled there are some instances where the device will lock when you are actually using an app (MBraille and Fleksy are known examples).
  8. On the Activity page for Shared Photo Streams in the Photos App, VoiceOver does not read the text that accompanies items. For example, this text might say “Fred posted a photo. Fred’s Shared photos.” All that VoiceOver reads is the ‘Like’ button which is visually located next to this text.
  9. When using a Bluetooth keyboard or Braille display, VoiceOver does not consistently provide feedback when you have copied text using Command+c or Space+c.
  10. When using the App Switcher to close or move between apps, VoiceOver may say “App Switcher” when you return to the Home screen or switch apps. In the case of the Home screen, VoiceOver will say “App Switcher” followed by where its focus is (such as a folder name). In the case of switching apps, VoiceOver will announce the name of the app closely followed by “App Switcher”. This behavior does not appear to happen every time.
  11. When you search for a particular string in the Calendar app (such as ‘dentist’), a list of results is displayed. The date that VoiceOver announces for each of these events bears no resemblance to the dates actually displayed on the screen. And, it is the displayed dates which are the correct ones.
  12. Entering text with a Bluetooth keyboard can be problematic. In some circumstances VoiceOver will announce non-standard characters as you type. The number, navigation and function keys appear to work as expected. Some users report that turning the Bluetooth keyboard off and on again can temporarily correct this behavior.
  13. When content contains more than 1 language, VoiceOver detection of the switch between languages is unreliable.
  14. In the Game Center app, VoiceOver does not read the names listed in either the A-Z or Recents lists on the Friends tab.
We would like to express our gratitude to Amy Mason for her help in identifying the changes in iOS 7.1 for low-vision users.

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One bug to be aware of is

One bug to be aware of is this.

When you have a bt keyboard you might notice every once in a while it might start typing what look like IPA symbols and carafe returns with out warning, as though the fn key is pressed. Restarting the bt device helps, how ever if you switch windows it might or might not start to happen again. This has been around since the instal beta release in october or november and has not as of yet been fixed. I reported this bug to apple during its beta cycle and the never fixed it. I'm going to wait until the next minor release maybe to update. I am glad the screen locked twice issue is fixed.

I also reported the bug wherein an app will randomly lock but the didn't fix that one either. Looks like I'm staying with iOS 7.0.6 until the bt issue is fixed as I do use that for class notes. and very long text/email messages and I can't keep restarting my device.

Take care to all.

autolock question

Prior to IOS 7.1 I had an issue with the screen locking while using MBraille. I think this was fixed with an update to MBraille. Does this issue reappear with 7.1, or is it just a continuation of the problem found in IOS 7.0? Thanks.

I think i'v ehad this same issue before updating.

Hi Mary. Do you mean that while you're typing, Hi I'm ok, would translate to weird symbols I've never even knew existed? I'm sorry I can't give you an example. I just thought I was doing something wrong, hope they fix that bu soon, because it makes me nuts when it goes from Hi how are you to gibberish and it doesn't always fix itself. Thanks again for letting us know. I'm updating now, if only to stop that silly screen locked twice thing, understood it, but didn't like it. :)

Dark keyboard

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Hi. I know that in beta 3 there was an accessibility option to always use the dark (black) keyboard, which was great for low vision users. But this option was removed from subsequent betas. As I don't see it above, can I assume that it unfortunately didn't make the final version? Thanks

still voiceOver bug jumping using safari

hi regarding at: 2. Navigating by Heading in Safari remains inconsistent, and VoiceOver focus can still jump to the wrong place as you try to move through the page. I think this bugs has not been consider to fix it. It has been confirmed since iOS6 it takes about 19 months,and nothing happens. specially to apple editorial team if there are apple beta tester should be report this bug come on do you use safari? or what do you use?

yep that's the bug. and it

yep that's the bug. and it will also do carafe returns now. It's fine until you switch windows, but yeah the have not fixed it, or a game center bug I reported, of which I can't remember now. something to do with friends not reading correctly.

Bug Fixing

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Marco, Unfortunately, it appears as though the heading navigation inconsistency in Safari is an ongoing issue. I suspect that the fix involved is a lot more complex than one might think. It is also worth noting that a bug reported by one of the AppleVis Editorial Team is no more or less important than a bug reported by you. So, just because we report a bug to Apple, there is no guarantee that it will be fixed any faster on the basis that it was reported by a member of the AppleVis Editorial Team.

Have you tested to see if it

Have you tested to see if it occurs in chrome? I cannot as I don't have chrome anymore om on m phone. Be sure to report it using apple's bug tracker or the accessibility email.

Take care.

Face Detection on iPhone 5S Working Again

At least on my iPhone 5S, face detection in the camera app never worked. It is working again for me in the 7.1 update and I'm glad to have this feature back.


Is there a work-around for bug 3, the audio in music issue?

No don't think there is.

No don't think there is. Also at least on the nls bard app the magic tap didn't work for me when I was testing. I did not report this to apple as the would sa report it to nls. lol!


One problem I had before updating to iOS7.1 I had a problem in safari some times the focus would jump to to the top of the page when navigating by headings and some times voiceover would make the sound like it is loading a page when the page is already loaded.


Hello, will there be any podcasts covering features in this latest update?

VoiceOver bug when closing the app switcher

I've found that after closing an app from the app switcher and returning back to the page you were on makes VoiceOver announce the words "app switcher." If I closed settings and then the app switcher, for example, VoiceOver will say the phrase mentioned above.

7.1 Software Update

Club AppleVis Member

WARNING!! This is to inform anyone who has compact voice activated, 7.1 will break it!! I updated my 5th gen. Touch and 5C at same time... BIG MISTAKE!! Both my phone and Touch sound like a fricken robot whether compact voice is on or off.. I'm praying that by leaving plugged in, it will go back to somewhat natural speaking!! This voice is like nails on chalkboard!!! Also for clarification.. I'm using U.S. voice!!

No problem with auto lock bug and Fleksy

From what I've observed, my 5s has been working properly with Fleksy. After trying to type with the app for a couple of minutes, I found that the screen doesn't automatically lock. I'm using Fleksy to write this message and everything seems to be relatively okay. I, too, am grateful for apple and the editors for what they've done.

iPhone 5s and audio distortion

Has the issue with the volume being too high on the iPhone 5s has been issued where if the volume exceeded a certain threshold, and become distorted?

iPhone 5S volume and distortion

I don't believe that the volume problem on the 5S has been resolved. When raised to 94%, the speaker still produces an odd and unpleasant effect. Though I haven't attempted to listen to various kinds of audio with this current version, VoiceOver continues to sound like it had in the past.

Hardware Issue

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

I think the iPhone 5S/5C audio distortion is a hardware issue. I noticed that the volume appears to go a little bit higher than the iPhone 5, so I suspect it's just an increase in the maximum volume on the newer models.

No podcasts planned right now

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Lisa, We don’t have any podcasts planned at the moment, as there aren’t really any significant changes or new features in iOS 7.1. It is possible, however, that we will record a podcast that will take a look at the accessibility changes we’ve listed here.

Dark Keyboard

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Dave82, I can confirm that there is no Dark Keyboard option in the final release. There are some new options for low-vision users, and it’s possible that Apple thought that these offered people more scope for finding a combination that suited their personal circumstances than the Dark Keyboard would have (although I’m sure that many would have liked to have seen that in addition to the changes which are present).

What bug is this, if it is

What bug is this, if it is the keyboard bug I mentioned can you elaborate, if not can you elaborate?


Re: keyboard bug

Yes, I reported this to Apple in the early stages of beta as well, but it seems the fix was either not found or could not be reproduced. This is surprising as the keyboard issue in question is not VOiceOver -specific. I am really disappointed as I use the keyboard quite a lot.

Audio Ducking

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Ali, You have ask if there is a workaround for the audio ducking problem. So just wanted to let you know that there is a workaround for this. Whenever, that your audio does not return to the normal level. Just simply flick to the left or right. VoiceOver should annouce what element that you are on and then it will return back to the original volume. HTH

I'm still having the messages issue

I'm still having the issue in the messages app where, when you try to go past the add contact button, it sometimes won't let you unless you physically touch the screen. I've tried messaging two different people and I've had the bug both times. It's extremely annoying when using a braille display or a bluetooth keyboard.

Keyboard in messages

I've seen this since earlier versions of iOs7, what I do is completely turn off the keyboard, then turn it on again and it works like normal. I mean, I touch near the bottom of the screen where the message text box appears with the BT keyboard off and then turn it back on again and it works normally.

Handwriting off Autocorrect

This one has been in all versions of IOS7; the seeming link between using handwriting in Voiceover and having those keyboard settings disable themselves (Check Spelling and Autocorrect). Have they finally fixed this awful bug?

More Improvements along with Jailbreakers Beware

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Here are a few more things to note that are in the NEW iOS 7.1 release. Some are not accessibility related and some are. - Manually control when Siri listens by holding down the home button while you speak and releasing it when you're done as an alternative to letting Siri automatically notice when you stop talking - New, more natural sounding male and female voices for Mandarin Chinese, UK English, Australian English, and Japanese for Siri - Bold font option now includes the keyboard, calculator, and many icon glyphs - Reduce Motion option now includes Weather, Messages, and multitasking UI animations - The 7.1 update officially disables the evasi0n iOS 7 jailbreak, patching key kernel exploits.

Yes, this is new

From what I gather, this is new in 7.1 You now know when someone in your iMessage conversation is typing back to you.

Typing Bug

I've found a pretty severe bug. I don't know if anyone else has it. Either way, when I try to type, my keyboard quickly goes through a bunch of letters, and the More Numbers button will activate itself. I'm finding it really frustrating to type, and have resorted to using Siri. I have erased my phone, and tried to type again. When that didn't work, I just restored from my backup I did after installing iOS 7.1. I have changed voiceOver settings, and have tried different English keyboards, but have had no success. Any help or advice would definitely be appreciated. Thanks.

app switcher bug

I also noticed voiceOver announces "app switcher" after the app switcher is closed. I am also taken to the home screen instead of the app switcher when I try to close apps.


Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

J.P., Are you able to turn on and off the compact voices option? If you are, this would indicate that the HQ voice is indeed now running on your devices. As far as the compact voices...yes, it sounds as though the sampling rate has been "upped" a bit. Though the voice quality is a little more natural, it is definitely more hollow. This appears to be the case across all of the compact voices that were updated. South African English does not appear to have been updated, though, so if the compact voice in U.S. English is a no-go for you then that might be an option. I know it is definitely not an ideal solution, but it's the best I can come up with.

RE: Keyboard Bug

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

MelodicFate, Have you tried resetting your keyboard dictionary? Go into Settings> General> Reset> Reset Keyboard Dictionary. This will erase any custom keyboard shortcuts you may have created, but it fixed a 7.1 keyboard issue I was experiencing during the beta process.

Location Tracking On

Hi I don't know if someone else is facing the same issue but just after updated my iOS device to 7.1 on the Starters Bar Location Tracking is always enable not mutter if the device is lock or unlocked I have closed all the apps running using the app switcher but the location tracking has not disappeared. can someone else has the same issue.

Re: Keyboard Bug

Hi, I just did that. At first, it seemed to help, but then More Numbers started activating itself again. Also, it kept moving quickly through letters, and it kept making the sound that happens when you go to the end of a page. I do appreciate the suggestion though. It is a bit better, but not all the way.


Club AppleVis Member

Thanks Mike!! Glad it's not just me. Yeah I can turn compact on/off.. After going blind, very sensitive to sounds and certain tones. I put on British. Default voice really makes me think I'll have a seizure. Also changes affect pronunciation on default. The letter Z sounds like the letter C.i

I'm pretty bug free strangely enough.

Hi all. Melodic fate, sorry if I got that wrong, wow that does sound annoying. Are you using a phone that might be a four S or something? Only because I'm on a five and things seem to be ok here. I knwo not everyone has these bugs, just asking. As for the app switcher, mine seems to work just fine. Called my friend to let her know the update was out, said it fixed the 35% volume thing on the 5S. her word for word response: "Oh thank god!" Lol. I'm sure there might be mini releases soon, we'll see.

Nope, I am on an iPhone 5. I

Nope, I am on an iPhone 5. I have the app switcher bug too. I'm glad that there are people out there who are mostly bug-free. :) I have noticed though, the app switcher thing only happens to me when I use the three-finger swipe to close apps. If I swipe up with one finger to "close item", and close it that way, I don't get that bug.


Club AppleVis Member

I changed from default U.S. to British. Friends in NYC are going to be like What's Up with British voice. But at least no headache or seizure. ☺️

re: keyboard bug

yes. reseting the dic tionary does not help. It's a very annoying bug that has been in the early betas and has not even gone away. I notice or maybe I don't remember, that it was not discussed in any of the forum posts and no one else could reproduce it.

Region tracking on and dictation with VO

Hello, When turning bluetooth on, my iPhone says region tracking on. When using dictation, after the text has been entered, changing the volume from Control Center is not possible. Playing and stopping music is my current work around.

Re" Keyboard Bug

Ok, I'm so glad that someone else knows exactly what I am talking about! I don't know why I seem to be almost the only one who has this so far, but I really wish there was a fix. It's really annoying to have to resort to using Siri for everything.

Pass code!

Club AppleVis Member

I've been using 7.1 all day. I just realized they took Passcode out of General and now it stands alone in Settings.

BT Keyboard Observations

Club AppleVis Member

Some things I noticed with my Apple Wireless Keyboard: 1. The Control key now works for stopping VO speech, but I have noticed that sometimes, when I issue a VO command that includes the Control key, the speech output stops when I release Control and I have to press it again. No biggie, but it's something I don't encounter on my Mac. 2. The commands for controlling Safari with the keyboard, such as Command-W for close tab and Command-bracket for moving back or forward, no longer work. I can use Escape to go back, but for some reason it likes to go back two pages instead of one when I press it. 3. The bug where keyboard input doesn't always work after activating a text field is still around. Indeed, I ran into it while preparing to type this comment. That is probably the one biggest annoyance I've had when using the BT keyboard. 4. I can now use the BT keyboard to enter my passcode. Before, it would let me type the code but would then do nothing after I input all four digits. Now it unlocks the iPad after I finish the fourth number. 5. While typing this I had to switch to another app and switch back. That was because the iPad suddenly started thinking I had a modifier key pressed when I didn't. I'm not sure yet if I find the new wireless keyboard support better or worse.

Re: Keyboard Bug

I'm really wondering what is causing all of these keyboard bugs. I'm not using a bluetooth keyboard, yet I still have issues. Then, there are people using BT keyboards who also have problems. It's really weird, and it definitely needs fixed. I'd prefer to not have to use Siri every time I want to input text.


Club AppleVis Member

A change to calendar which is not a bug, but annoying. While I appreciate list button instead of search button.. List only shows month, not list of year.