Apple Releases iOS 11; Bringing a Range of Enhancements & New Features
Apple has today released iOS 11, proudly claiming
<https://www.apple.com/ios/ios-11/> this latest iteration of the software to
be âa giant step for iPhone. A monumental leap for iPad.â:
iOS 11 sets a new standard for what is already the worldâs most advanced
mobile operating system. It makes iPhone better than before. It makes iPad more
capable than ever. And now it opens up both to amazing possibilities for
augmented reality in games and apps. With iOS 11, iPhone and iPad are the most
powerful, personal, and intelligent devices theyâve ever been.
The New Features That We Think You Will Like
The iPad Becomes More Powerful and Productive
It is arguably iPad owners who will be most excited by the release of iOS 11,
as it introduces a number of features and capabilities specific to the iPad.
Although not limited to the iPad, the new Files app offers to make the iPad a
viable laptop alternative for some, as it allows you to easily browse, search,
and organize all your files in one place; . including files in apps, on your
other iOS devices, in iCloud Drive, and across other services like Box and
The Dock on the iPad is now available from any screen; making it easier to open
and switch apps. It can display more of your favorite apps, and can
intelligently display apps based upon what you are currently doing. With this
and with the multitasking features new to the iPad in iOS 11, it is now easier
to access, and use apps in ways that best match and optimise your personal use
case and workflow.
Drag and Drop is also new to the iPad in iOS 11, enabling you to move just
about anything â or things â anywhere on the screen. This can be within an
app or between apps when multitasking. It does appear that Apple has worked
hard to ensure that VoiceOver users are not excluded from the power of Drag and
Drop, by making it available through the Actions menu of the VoiceOver rotor.
There is a new onscreen keyboard for the iPad, which has letters, numbers,
symbols, and punctuation marks all on the same keyboard. This is supposed to
remove the need to switch back and forth. Sighted users just flick down on a
key to quickly select what they need, so it will be interesting to see if the
experience for VoiceOver users is equally as easy and productive.
Apple has also introduced a number of new features and capabilities for those
who use an Apple Pencil with their iPad Pro.
What's New in iOS 11 Accesibility for Blind, Low Vision & Deaf-Blind Users
iOS 11 has arrived for users of the iPhone 5S and later; the iPad fifth
generation and later; and the iPod Touch 6th Generation.
Mainstream changes such as the revamped Control Center, new HomeKit options,
the new Files app, and many other enhancements have been added. Other blogs and
videos will cover these changes, but as is the case with all major iOS releases
dating back to iOS 5,
there are many changes specific to accessibility which may not be well
Without a doubt, there will be other features not written about here that
people discover as they have their play with iOS 11.
While I've been running the betas since June, I am certain I will learn of more
changes as the masses get their opportunity to play with the update. While I
consider myself a decent Tech Detective, Iâm sure there are things Iâve
missed. Please note that this article is not intended as a comprehensive guide
to iOS 11; rather, it is designed to document changes likely to be of
particular interest to users who are blind, have low vision, or who are
Before proceeding, I would like to acknowledge the hard work that went in to
documenting the visual modifications in iOS 11 done by Ryan Pugh of the NFBâs
International Braille and Technology Center. Without his input, the details
with regard to visual changes would not have been possible.
Important Information To Know Before Upgrading
This section applies equally to those who work with accessibility features and
those who do not. iOS 11 has dropped support for applications developed for
only the 32-bit platform. Before performing the upgrade, you may wish to check
your device to see which apps will not be supported that are currently
installed; for step-by-step instructions on how to do this, consult this guide.
Note that you will need to be running iOS 10.3 or later to use this feature.
Type It, Donât Speak It
In iOS 11, not only has Siri earned a spot under Accessibility Settings, but
you can now type to Apple's virtual assistant instead of speaking to it. This
makes it possible to perform queries silently. For Braille display users,
coupled with another iOS 11 feature discussed below, you will now be able to
fully utilize Siri from a Braille display without interacting with the
touchscreen. Look for a guide on how to do this shortly after iOS 11 is
released. To turn on this feature, go to Settings> General> Accessibility>
Siri, and turn âType to Siriâ on. In this menu, you will also be able to
control voice feedback. You can turn it on all the time, off all the time, or
have Siri respect whether your device is muted or not. If you enable âType to
Siri,â you will no longer be able to speak to it unless you have âHey
Siriâ enabled. Each time you bring up Siri, a keyboard will appear onscreen.
For Braille users, though you will not be put in a text field, you can simply
begin typing. Once you have completed what you wish to have Siri do, press dot
8 with space, or enter on the Bluetooth keyboard. To read responses through
text using VoiceOver, you will then need to flick to the right 3 times, but if
you leave Siriâs speech on, you will automatically get a verbal response.
Speaking of voice feedback, there is a new Siri female voice which some find
sounds more natural. The male Siri voices are the same, but they sound clearer
since they are now at a higher sampling rate.
Indoor Mapping Comes to iOS
At the time of posting, I have yet to venture into a space that has this
ability, but iOS 11 has support for indoor mapping functionality with the Maps
application. Note that this will only apply to spaces where beacons exist.
More Control Over Accessibility
I wrote above about the newly revamped Control Center. It is now on one page
instead of two, and can be customized to the usersâ preferences to some
degree. To add and remove items in your Control Center, head over to Settings>
Control Center> Customize. Here you will find a total of seventeen features
that you can insert or remove from the Control Center. Among other things, you
will find the Accessibility Shortcut; Flashlight; Guided Access; Magnifier; and
Text Size as options. This can be easily used to almost have a secondary
Accessibility Shortcut since you can simply invoke the Control Center, and
enable any of these options. This can come in handy for users who utilize
different accessibility tools within the operating system at different times.
Visually, the Control Center has been cleaned up and appears to be more
intuitive. It has been reorganized into distinct groupings of functionality.
The default contrast is significantly better. Cross screen bars have been
replaced by banded blocks where possible.
Iâll Answer That
If you have ever been a person who finds answering calls to be a challenge for
any reason, there is now the option to have calls answered automatically. Go to
Settings>General>Accessibility>Call Audio Routing>Auto Answer Calls to
configure this setting. Once turned on, you have the ability to tell your iOS
device how long you would like the OS to wait before answering a call. Before
auto answer kicks in, you can still dismiss the call through the methods
already available in previous versions of iOS. You can set the time to have the
call answered automatically anywhere from 0 up to 60 seconds after it comes in.
This feature not only works for FaceTime and standard phone calls, but also
appears to be functioning with several other third party applications that
handle calls such as Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, and Google Hangouts.
What Has Changed?
Before discussing new features, it may be important to note what has changed
for VoiceOver users. While this section will not highlight a lot of changes, a
few of what the author would view as noteworthy are listed below.
Moving Apps Becomes A Drag, Sort Of
Last autumn, Apple introduced a new way of moving apps around the various Home
Screens via the rotor. The primary change to this method is that dragging of
multiple apps is now an option. In iOS 11, instead of swiping up to âArrange
Apps,â the touchscreen VoiceOver user must double-tap and hold to invoke
âEdit Mode.â For Bluetooth keyboard and Braille display users, you can
still press up or down arrow, or space with dot 3 or 6, to move to âEdit
Once you are in âEdit Mode,â you still will need to first locate the app
you wish to drag. You have the options of delete, drag, or stop editing apps.
Note that if you are in âEdit Mode,â and you wait about thirty seconds, iOS
11 will automatically exit you from this mode. If you wish to move an app, find
it, and then select âDrag.â Then navigate to the place you wish to
âDropâ the app, and choose the appropriate option. Your options are to drop
it before, after, or to create a folder with the app VoiceOver focus is set to.
You can also drop an app within a folder.
The final option is to âAdd To Drag Session.â This option will allow you to
move multiple apps at once. When multiple apps are added, you can still
âdropâ them before; after; add the app currently in focus to your âdrag
sessionâ; add to a folder if one is in VoiceOverâs focus; or create a
folder with these apps and the app currently in focus. This comes in handy when
you wish to drop several apps into a folder, and wish to add apps at the same
time from various Home screens. Iâve only tested adding four apps to one
âdrag session,â but found it worked effectively.
Moving apps around is good practice for using the âDrag and Dropâ method on
the iPad. While it works on the iPhone and iPod Touch for the purposes written
above, itâs also possible to, for example, add a file in the Files app to a
drag session, switch to the Mail app, and attach that file to a message you are
composing by âdroppingâ the file in the Mail application.
Previews Are Back!
In iOS 10, VoiceOver users had to perform a 3 finger single tap on a message to
hear the preview of their email messages. The preview will now be read out loud
by VoiceOver without the user having to interact with their touchscreen.
Continuing to cover the Mail application, there are a few other changes. When
you are reading a message, the VoiceOver user will now find an âActionsâ
option. This enables the user to take action on the message. This has been a
feature available from the âAll Messagesâ mailbox for several releases, but
never before from the content of a message. The actions of this rotor option
are to reply, archive, flag, mark as read/unread, and to activate. This comes
in handy for those who use the threading options who wish to act on a specific
message in the thread.
If you choose to sort your messages by thread, there is another new rotor
option called âExpand/Collapse Threadâ. When expanded, mail threads show
all messages without the need to open the thread. This lets you easily read and
deal with each message individually. I prefer to use the âMessagesâ rotor
option, as I find that more effective as a Braille user. Casting my personal
preference aside, itâs good to have multiple options for the threading of
Assigning The Old New Names
I wrote above that Siri has new voices. However, if you have enjoyed using some
of the old Siri voices with VoiceOver, youâll be happy to know that these are
still around, but they now have names. The old American Siri voices are now
named Aaron and Nicky, the British voices are known as Arthur and Martha, and
the Australian voices are known as Catherine and Gordon. These TTS engines are
available for download along with the rest of the voices that were introduced
in iOS 10.
Verbosity Gets More Verbose
iOS 11 includes several new options for the configuring of Verbosity settings.
To find the features in the below subsections, go to
âI Periodically Have Questionsâ
If you have wanted to adjust the punctuation spoken with VoiceOver before, but
didnât enable this choice in your rotor, you now have the option here as
well. Navigate to the punctuation setting under the Verbosity menu and select
some, none, or all.
Updating In Real time
One of my small annoyances about earlier versions of iOS was that VoiceOver and
Braille would not always report the status of certain things if one left the
VoiceOver focus set to that element. A couple of examples include with
transportation and delivery apps. If you left VoiceOver focus on the ETA
element, it would not change automatically. This was an issue for those using
Braille displays who wished to quickly check the status of something, but
couldnât without going to the previous or next element then navigating back
to the element of interest. When turned on, Speak Detected Text will
automatically speak any text that is changed on the focused element. It can
still be turned off, so if you find it annoying, the option to disable it is
also in this submenu.
Capitalize On This However You Want
Continuing to explore the new Verbosity options, you can now specify how
VoiceOver speaks a capital letter. Your options are to speak the word
âcapâ, play a sound, change pitch, or do nothing. Another option under the
Verbosity menu is âDeleting Textâ, which offers similar options. You can
have the word âdeletedâ spoken, play a sound each time something is
deleted, change the pitch, or do nothing. The same options exist for embedded
links. This means that if you encounter a link on a web page, you can have
VoiceOver speak the word âlinkâ, play a sound, change pitch, or do nothing.
Bringing More Verbosity Options To The Table
In this case, Iâm not referring to the kitchen table, though I suppose I
could be if you are using your iOS Device at said table. This refers to
handling tables on the web. Itâs now possible to control whether you have the
headers of the column and row you are in spoken, as well as the number of the
column and row you are currently in reported with VoiceOver speech. It was an
option before, but now you can disable it if you would like. Note that if you
decide to turn this information on, it is not displayed in Braille.
Iâm Reading You Loud And Clear
Though the title of this option is âMedia Descriptionsâ, this setting
actually has to do with captions and subtitles. Itâs now possible to read
these with speech output, Braille, or to have both at the same time. If you are
using Braille, you will need to be a fast Braille reader to keep up. This will
come in handy for those who watch films where there are subtitles, or if you
need some textual support to offset a hearing loss while watching a movie. This
feature, however, will not work well for those who are totally deaf-blind since
there is no context included within the captions and subtitles. For example,
you will get everything that is being said, but you have no idea who may be
saying it. Itâs also worth noting that not all captioned videos are
supported. This feature has been tested on Netflix and with iTunes movies, and
found to work as expected with those services.
Andâ¦ Here Comes The Pitch
Itâs true that baseball season starts to heat up this time of year, but
itâs also true that this has nothing to do with the feature discussed in this
section. Under the âSpeechâ button of VoiceOver, you now have the ability
to change the pitch of speech output. Whether you wish VoiceOver to sound like
it has an Adamâs Apple the size of a medicine ball, has with lungs full of
helium, or somewhere in between, you now have that ability. Leaving the slider
at 50% will give you the pitch you are familiar with. Itâs also worth noting
that the pitch will be applied to all voices, and that these changes will also
be applied to âSpeak Screenâ and âSpeak Selectionâ functions. It would
be nice to have âPitch Changeâ as a rotor option so that it can quickly be
adjusted on the fly, and to have it be something you can adjust with each voice.
Describe It All To Me! Wellâ¦ Sort Of.
In iOS 10, Apple introduced the ability to generate alt text for the photos in
your photo library and camera roll. With iOS 11, this has expanded to a few
third party apps like Facebook. When you find an image you would like to have
described, perform a 3 finger single tap when VoiceOver focus is set to that
item. Note that for this feature to work, you will need to have the Screen
Curtain disabled. To toggle the Screen Curtain on and off, perform a 3 finger
triple tap. This also works to varying degrees with images containing text,
where iOS will sometimes recognize text and perform OCR on it. It is not,
however, a function that works across all applications. The best way to
determine whether the app you are using is supported seems to be to just try
it. If you are a Bluetooth keyboard user, you can also use this feature
directly with the keyboard command VO+F3. Note that with some keyboards, you
may also need to include the FN key in this command depending on how your
keyboard is configured. You can also set up a Braille keyboard command for
performing this function as described in the Braille section of this article.
VoiceOver On Demand
With Mac OS, you have always had the option to jump directly to the VoiceOver
Utility. iOS 11 has this covered with the same keyboard command found in Mac
OS: VO with F8. This will take you directly in to the VoiceOver menu instead of
having to navigate to it from the âSettingsâ screen. You can also customize
a keyboard command on a Braille display to perform this function, though it
isnât set up by default.
I Misspelled What?
While sighted users have always had an easy time finding misspelled words, this
hasnât been true for VoiceOver users unless you pause after each word to see
if it is misspelled. There is a new rotor option, which now appears called
âMisspelled Wordsâ. It is not always appearing with each text field as was
intended, but works well for finding those pesky spelling mistakes quickly.
Once the VoiceOver rotor is set to this option, flicking up and down to cycle
between misspelled words works well. However, if you wish to correct a word,
you will still need to do the rest of the process through the âEditâ rotor
options as it was done in previous versions of iOS.
New Gestures With New Features
Specifically, for iPad users, one of the changes is the addition of the Dock
which is no longer limited to four items. The Dock now resembles what users of
Mac OS have been experiencing for several years. The Dock has always been
accessible from anywhere within the operating system, and this is now true for
iPad users as well. To bring up the Dock, perform a 2 finger swipe up from the
bottom of the screen, or press VO with D on a Bluetooth keyboard. You will find
applications you have added manually, but also a list of your most recently
Putting the iPad in âSplit Viewâ functions much like it did in iOS 9,
though now the Dock has become the main focal point for setting up âSplit
Viewâ or âSlide overâ. Start by using a 2 finger swipe up from the bottom
of the screen to bring up the Dock. Then select an application, and in the
âActionsâ rotor, swipe up to choose âOpen Side Appâ, (Slide Over)
âPin to Leftâ, or âPin to Rightâ. Then double tap to carry out the
desired action. Like before, you can tap the left, right or middle of the
screen to switch between each app. You can also use the rotor to navigate to
âContainersâ, and then flick up and down to go between apps. Remember that
Split View is only supported on the iPad Mini II and later, and also on the
iPad Pro models.
If you are someone who has not enjoyed the Mail app when it is divided in to
columns of messages on one side and then the message you are trying to read
opens on the other, iOS 11 has given VoiceOver users the option to quickly jump
from the table of messages to the message content. On the Mac, and also now on
the iPad, this can be done with VO and the letter J. You can also perform a
2-finger swipe right if you are a touchscreen user.
Important Information Before Upgrading
If you are a Braille user, itâs worth noting that many users of Braille
displays are reporting that their cursor puts them in random places on the
screen when attempting to edit anything over a few sentences long. Further, if
you are a fast typer with the Braille keyboard, itâs also been documented
that the translator will miss letters. The longer the block of text, the more
this happens. If you plan to do a lot of typing and editing with a Braille
display, the first release of iOS 11 may not be for you. When working within
any text field using either contracted or uncontracted Braille, these bugs seem
to be present with both U.S. English and Unified English Braille. By typing
rapidly, I mean anything over around 50 words a minute.
No Longer Lost In Translation
Those major bugs aside, there are many nice things about iOS 11 for Braille
users. One of the changes is that you can natively use contracted Braille input
without having to worry about the translator not taking what you have
previously written into account. Though the translator works well, when
editing, the cursor will exhibit the behavior documented above.
Many users of Braille displays have desired for different commands to be part
of the key mapping of iOS. Braille users of Mac OS have had the ability to
customize Braille keyboard commands for quite some time. With iOS 11, you can
decide not only what function you would like to be able to carry out from your
Braille display, but also what keyboard combination you would like that command
to have. If the command you desire is already in use by another function,
thatâs okay, you can change it to something else. The commands are specific
to each Braille display. Though most Braille displays have a Perkins style
keyboard, they also have buttons that make them unique. For example, the
Braille Edge from HIMS has four rectangular buttons on either side of the
spacebar. These can be assigned specific functions, or even Bluetooth keyboard
equivalents. The same is true of the Focus displays, which have many controls
on the front of the device that can be either assigned, or re-assigned, a
specific command. The amount of options available for new commands will vary
based on the Braille displayâs specific capabilities and programmable buttons.
To assign a new command for your Braille display, go to
Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver>Braille>More Info. While you still
have the âDisconnectâ and âForget This Deviceâ options, you will also
find one called âBraille Commandsâ. Within this screen, you will find seven
options for configuring new or existing commands. You will also find the option
to âReset All Commandsâ at the bottom of this screen. There are too many
options to list, but I will describe how to add or change a command by example
One advantage to using a Bluetooth keyboard on iOS has always been the ability
to carry out a lot of tasks quickly using a robust set of keyboard commands. It
is possible to, for example, carry out many Bluetooth keyboard commands to make
using the Mail app more efficient. Command plus N creates a new message,
Command plus R will reply to an open message, Command plus Shift plus R will
reply to all, etc. When formatting text, Command plus B will bold the selected
text, Command plus I will italicize it, Command plus U will underline it, etc.
Touchscreen users must use the rotor for these options which involves a lot
more steps than the keyboard. Bearing the power of the "Command" key in mind,
letâs set up a Braille command to invoke this key using a Braille display.
1. After navigating to Settings>General>Accessibility>VoiceOver>Braille>More
Info>Braille Commands, activate the âKeyboardâ button.
2. Scroll down to the âToggle Commandâ button. Note that there is also a
âCommandâ button without the toggle, but Iâve found that trying to press
a letter with this command doesnât always work, whereas the toggle does.
3. Navigate to "Assign New Braille Keys", and activate it.
4. Press a key, or combination of keys, that you wish to be assigned this
command. Be sure to either pick something you do not ever use, or a brand new
command altogether. For example, on the VarioUltra, I used D4 and D5 pressed
together. Though this has already been assigned a command, which will force
VoiceOver to translate whatever I've typed, that command already exists with
space and dots 4-5.
5. If the command you have chosen doesn't already have something assigned to
it, you will be done with this process. If the Braille keyboard assignment does
have a command already associated with that keyboard combination, you will get
an alert telling you what the already assigned action is, and asking you if you
wish to change it.
6. Choose "OK" or "Cancel", and the appropriate option will be chosen.
You can now press that Braille keyboard combination you have assigned this
function, once to toggle the Command key on and once to toggle it off, and
perform all of the commands I listed above and many more. For example, to bold
a selected block of text, press the Command key toggle, the letter B, and then
press the Command key toggle again. You have many other options, such as the
ability to invoke Siri. This allows you to then use Siri from your Braille
display without ever having to take your hands off the keyboard.
What's The Status Of The Formatting?
Another new feature in iOS 11 is the ability to detect what formatting
attributes are in a document using the status cell. To turn this option on, go
to Settings>General>Accessibility>Braille>Status Cells", and choose to turn on
"Show Text Status". Cracking the code of what dot stands for each type of
formatting will take a bit of memorizing, but you can easily pull up a list of
which dots symbolize which text attribute by pressing the cursor routing button
over the status cell. You can exit this mode by pressing Space with B. As the
insertion point in your text changes by using the Braille cursor, so too should
the status cell if the text formatting is different. If your cursor is not
routed to somewhere on the screen, the formatting will follow wherever the
insertion point is set to.
Feel Those Emojiâs
VoiceOver users who use speech have had the ability to listen to whatever emoji
they have selected, or to whichever one they encounter. Prior to iOS 11, this
was very limited for Braille users. They often saw a series of symbols that
didn't differ from emoji to emoji. Now, Braille users can tell what emoji they
are encountering just like their speech using counterparts.
The Text Goes On And ON And On Andâ¦
Another new Braille function is âWord Wrapâ. No, this is not a feature
which will quote various Hip-hop lyrics, but is a feature which will not break
up the contents displayed by words. Instead, you may find that you have half of
a word at the end of the display, and then when you pan forward, you will find
the rest of the word. This option may come in handy for users who are on
smaller displays. You will find it under
Less Spaces Are Good
Prior to iOS 11, it was necessary to press the Spacebar in conjunction with
dots 7 or 8 to perform a delete or to activate the Enter key. With iOS 11, you
can simply press dot 7 or 8 without the Spacebar, and these functions will work
correctly. However, as old habits die hard, you can still use the Spacebar with
dot 7 or dot 8 like you could before.
The new features and enhancements in the below sections show that Apple has
done substantial work to improve the low vision experience. While the below
added functions are important, there are a lot of smaller changes to the
appearance of the operating system that will make the upgrade potentially a
good one. For example, a number of default icons have been visually cleaned up,
removing âflairâ to create a crisper and clearer presentation. Here are a
few noteworthy changes, but not an exhaustive list:
* The paintbrush ends on the App Store have been removed, and the lines
across the pencil have been cleaned up to create a crisp overlapping âAâ
with curved lines.
* The times on the clock have been boldened and clarified.
* The Maps icon has been simplified to become more visually distinct.
* The number of lines on the Notes and Reminders icons have been
* The Calculator icon has been given a slight overhaul changing it from
orange and gray boxes to a black calculator image with orange and white buttons
* The iTunes Store has a new icon changing from a music note to a crisp
Other little changes that can make a big difference include a larger navigation
bar in some apps, a QR scanner built directly into the camera that eliminates
the need for a third party app with unknown accessibility standards. Bigger,
bolder and better controls for formatting in the notes app make the experience
less of a strain.
The App Store Redesign
All around the App Store the off-white background has been removed in favor of
a flat white theme throughout improving color contrast across the board. The
install now buttons for apps are far larger and visually distinct, with a full
button around the âinstall nowâ text. Reviews and ratings are now a dark
gray instead of yellow, and much larger and more prominent, icons at the bottom
of the screen are bigger and heavier. Search suggestions are twenty percent
larger and far bolder. The search box itself has doubled in size and the grey
of the box has been lighted to improve contrast against the black text as you
type. The updates page has much larger text and icons and the buttons have a
larger rounded look and there is even a system wide setting that has been added
to disable feedback request inside of Apps to reduce visual clutter and
eliminate those frustrating pop ups. The small cleanups around the Store are
innumerable and make for a much more comfortable experience, the final big
change that should be called out, there is finally an option to disable auto
playing videos around the store and reduce the visual burden they can create.
iOS 11 Gets More Boldâ¦ Somewhat
Though iOS 11 sports more bold text, the issue is that it isnât consistently
done. For example, the passcode screen numbers are over twice as thick and
significantly clearer than in iOS 10, while icons on the Home Screen and some
native apps setup screens have only a modest increase in size and line
thickness. One could easily miss that bold is even turned on, particularly on
the web. This is a really nice feature in the areas where it has been
implemented, but the places where it is functioning are the minority rather
than the majority.
A More Dynamic iOS
iOS 11 brings with it more enhanced dynamic type. In all native menus and apps
we examined, the line wrapping successfully shifted over lines and allowed the
full body of text to be viewed. The irritating cutoffs and overflows that
existed in iOS 10 have been removed. The tap and hold function for a larger pop
out control in the middle of the screen does exactly what it says it will.
However, the improvements do not carry over to the web where text appears to be
presented exactly as it was in iOS 10. To enable this feature, head over to
Settings>General>Accessibility>Text Size, and turn on âLarger Accessibility
Bigger Is Cleaner
In the Zoom window, the cleanness at high magnification levels is considerably
improved. The Zoom window is not as impressive at enhancing images, but even at
a 15x greater magnification level, it is still able to render a cleaner and
smoother image than in iOS 10.
Sometimes, Being Negative Is Smart
Invert Colors has been made âsmarterâ in some places throughout the
operating system. This feature is intended to not invert things like media,
images, and some apps that have darker color styles to make them more clear. To
enable âSmart Invertâ, head over to Settings>General>Accessibility>Display
Accommodations>Invert Colors and enable âSmart Invertâ. Itâs possible to
use the Invert Colors functions from prior to iOS 11 by enabling âClassic
Invert Colorsâ. Using smart inversion with the camera makes it easier to
differentiate between objects of very similar colors, and apply tints to each
to make them visually distinct. Smart Inversion determines whether to apply
color inversion to a single object, or multiple objects, seemingly based on
what is in frame. In some cases, this feature will invert one object, and not
another directly beside it, to create sufficient contrast to differentiate the
With Smart Inversion active, there are still a few issues with app buttons that
begin dark against a dark background, and light against a light background.
Against a mostly black background, the background is not inverted, and neither
is the Stocks icon. The edges of that image remain a little unclear. Native
pictures and videos seem to not be inverted, but the same cannot be said for
media on the web and third party applications. In Appleâs defense, this may
require an update, or additional coding work by the app developers.
The biggest low vision issue we have been able to identify with the Smart
Inversion is that pink and blue will turn green and orange. While providing
improved color contrast, it is not sufficient to make it fully visually
distinct on smaller items. This makes it markedly worse for those who are color
blind. There are some holdover issues with inversion inside the Weather app.
This is especially true where the inversion now creates an orange/brown
background while the images of the sun remain a bright yellow. This makes them
less distinct with inversed colors than without.
There are some inconsistencies in the way in which app logos are inverted.
Examples include the list of apps in the Control Center, the Siri app
suggestions were only sometimes inverted, the YouTube app was blue in one
instance and then the normal red and white the next time, etc.
I Like More Colorful Speech, But Can You Give Me The Highlights?
Speak Selection has been around for several versions, but seems to get
enhancements with each operating system. iOS 11 is no exception. You can now
highlight colors with Speak Selection. This comes in two flavors: words and
sentences. You can either use these functions independently or together. This
can be used to track focus which is especially useful for complex web pages
without intuitive reading orders. However, the line or colored band does not
move in real time if you scroll the page until the next sentence is started.
This could potentially create some visual confusion.
The selection of colors leaves something to be desired with only blue, yellow,
green, pink, and purple available. The highlight bands are also inverted when
Smart Inversion is active. Before inversion, a visually distinct sentence
highlight of purple and green will be inverted into dark green and orange
brown. This may result in having to repeatedly alter settings to use this
function if you regularly use Smart Inversion. This is because the bad contrast
will appear in only areas where the smart inversion actually inverts.
An Upgraded Magnifier
Though a slight delay still remains when going from darkness to bright light,
this appears to be less than what is found in iOS 10. The Magnifier is now
better able to handle glare, and adjust to rapidly changing light. Smaller
objects, text, and stacked items seem to be receiving cleaner and faster focus.
The upgrade is especially noticeable when using the magnifier to examine text
either in print or on a computer screen.
This Phone Was Made For You And My Hearing Aids
Over the years, Apple has been working with hearing aid manufacturers to
develop Made For iPhone (MFI) hearing aids. iOS 10.2 saw some upgrades to the
newer models, in that the technology behind AirPods and the w1 chip was
implemented. It is my understanding, though I do not have a set of MFI hearing
aids to test myself, that the stability issues found in iOS 10 have been
addressed with the newer models using the w1 chip. Again, I do not have access
to a set of MFI hearing aids, so it is impossible for me to tell you what else
has been changed. It is my hope that someone who owns a pair of MFI hearing
aids will take the time to inform us all of what has changed.
Can You Give Me More Background?
For those who are hard of hearing with low vision, or those who have low vision
that wish to access subtitles, iOS 11 brings additional options for captioning.
It is now possible to increase the size of captions, and to add an outline to
make them more visually distinct. The outline functions presents the text in a
far more consistent and clear manner than the bold function. This makes
captions far more clear on the screen especially against a backdrop of a very
bright, or very dark video. To play around with this new functionality
yourself, navigate to Settings>General>Accessibility>Subtitles & Captions>Style.
Apple continues to make changes and enhancements to its mobile operating system
for everyone. Their work toward inclusive design continues to keep them ahead
of many other platforms in terms of built-in accessibility options. Certainly,
the enhancements in iOS 11 prove this trend continues. Just like previous iOS
releases, whether you should upgrade or not depends on whether the bugs present
in the new release will impact you on a greater level than you can
tolerateâand whether you feel the new features are worth the upgrade. If
possible, it may be best to try out the new version of iOS on another device
before installing it on your own. To check out a list of bugs related to
VoiceOver and b/braille, check the this AppleVis post
. To download the update over the air, go to Settings> General> Software
Update, and follow the prompts onscreen. Alternatively, you can update your
device through iTunes.
iOS 11 introduces a new "Smart Invert" option which ignores photos, videos and
some other screen and page elements when inverting the colours used by your
This option can be enabled under Settings > General > Accessibility > Display
Accommodations > Invert Colors. The old invert option is also available here,
but is now called "Classic Invert".)
During the beta cycle, Apple was very responsive to suggestions of further
items that should be "ignored" when using Smart Invert. So, we would strongly
encourage you to reach out to Apple's Accessibility Team if you have additional
suggestions of things to be ignored; or other ways in which Smart Invert could
There are, however, a few areas in which Smart Invert should be further
improved for low vision users.
A Redesigned and More Powerful Control Center
The Control Center has seen a major redesign and is no longer spread across
In addition to the standard toggles for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, airplane mode,
Cellular Data, media controls, brightness, volume, rotation lock, do not
disturb and Screen Mirroring there are 17 additional controls that you can add
to Control Center. The latter can be
managed under Settings>Control Centre, where you can configure which controls
will be available and set their order.
The optional controls that can be added to the Control Center currently
includes: Accessibility Shortcuts, Guided Access, Magnifier, Screen Recording,
Text Size, Camera, Notes, Timer and Voice Memos.
In nearly every case, everything in Control Center is more than a simple
toggle; and using 3D Touch or a long-press on an icon will reveal more settings
Easy Screen Recording
iOS has gained a new screen recording tool that enables you to capture a video
of what you are doing on your device, along with the option to also
simultaneously record audio using your device's microphone.
To use this new feature, you will first need to add "Screen Recording" to the
Control Center under Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls.
Having done this, you will find a "Screen Recording" button in the Control
Centre. Simply double-tap on this to start or stop recording. You can use
either 3D Touch or a long press on this control to locate an additional option
which allows you to either enable or disable the capture of microphone audio.
Once you stop recording, the video is saved to the Camera Roll on your device.
Open the Photos app to find it. You can then view, edit and share the recording
as you would any video you recorded using the camera app.
Type instead of talk to Siri
If you frequently find Siri mishearing you; use Siri in locations where you
don't want to be speaking out lout; or simply don't enjoy the experience of
talking with Siri, you now have the option to type your commands or questions.
To enable the feature, go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Siri and
toggle on Type to Siri . Now, when you long-press the Home button, Siri will
display the familiar "What can I help you with?" question, but with a search
bar and keyboard below.
If you want to have either the option to type or talk to Siri, you will need to
also enable the "Hey, Siri" command under Settings > Siri & Search.
Give Your Thumb Less Distance to Stretch when Typing
Do you use VoiceOver's touch typing or direct touch mode when using the
onscreen keyboard, and typically type with just the thumb of your hand that's
holding the device? Then the new one-handed typing option might be for you.
Simply perform a 1 finger double-tap and hold on the emoji key on the keyboard.
From the resulting menu, select either left or right handed, and the keys will
be moved closer to that side of the screen - leaving your thumb with less
distance to stretch.
A few More Notable Changes in iOS 11
* The Notifications Center is now referred to by Apple as the "Cover
Sheet", and visually looks the same as the Lock Screen. The changes aren't just
in name or appearance, though, as only the most recent notifications will
initially be listed here. To view older notifications, you will need to locate
and activate the "earlier Today" section. Our early thoughts are that there are
still some glitches in regard to reliability and consistency, and the Cover
Sheet doesn't immediately feel like an improvement on the iOS 10 Notifications
* The App Store has a new design that highlights editorial content and
recommendations; introduces separate sections for "Games" and "Apps"; and
redesigns the layout and content of app listings.
* Siri has improved and more natural sounding voices.
* Siri now supports translation in some languages - for example, ask
Siri in English how to say something in Chinese, Spanish, French, German, or
Italian, and Siri will translate the phrase.
* Siri has got smarter and can now anticipate what you may want and
make suggestions before you even ask.
* iOS now supports augmented reality, allowing developers to create
apps which enable you to view virtual content on top of real-world scenes
* The iCloud Keychain manager now remembers login credentials for apps
as well as websites.
* There are new and improved tools for managing and freeing-up storage
on your device. If you go to Settings>General>iPhone/iPad Storage, you will
find an overview of storage usage on your device; app specific information; and
some recommendations for freeing-up space. The latter includes the ability to
"offload" an app whilst retaining the app's documents and data for if the app
is reinstalled in the future.
* There are some minor tweaks to the Messages app; including a new
iMessage app drawer, a new Apple Pay app, and a couple of new screen effects.
MB Apple confirmed on 18 September that person-to-person payments via Apple Pay
will not be supported until later this Fall.
* You can now create a profile in Apple Music, enabling you to share
playlists with others and for them to see which albums and stations you listen
to the most.
* Apple Maps now includes indoor maps for hundreds of major airports
and shopping centers around the world.
* If you use Apple AirPods, you can now assign a double-tap option for
each individual AirPod. So, you might have the left AirPod set to activate
Siri, the right one to pause/play audio.
* You now have more control over how often an app can access your
location information. The first time you launch an app that always tracks your
location, you will be prompted to change its permissions. Additionally, you may
on occasions find a dialog is being displayed directly below the Status Bar;
alerting you to the fact that an app is currently tracking you in the
background, and prompting you to update its permissions.
* If you need to provide somebody with access to your wi-fi network,
you can approve the request directly on your iOS 11 device without having to
remember or hand over the password.
* You can now scan documents into the Notes app. This doesn't currently
support OCR, but does use some clever technology for automatic recognition and
cropping of documents.
* When setting up a new iOS device, simply place it next to your old
device and many of your personal settings, preferences, and iCloud Keychain
passwords are quickly and securely imported.
* Once devices supporting it become available, the new AirPlay 2
protocol will offer multi-room support for audio playback and control.
For a more complete list of whatâs new in iOS 11, MacRumors
<http://www.macrumors.com/roundup/ios-11/> offers a good overview.
And What About Accessibility?
For more information about accessibility-related changes in iOS 11, read our
other posts elsewhere on the site:
Whatâs new and changed in iOS 11 Accessibility for blind, low vision and
A list of new accessibility-related bugs that we believe to have been
introduced in iOS 11
A list of longstanding accessibility-related bugs that we believe to have been
fixed in iOS 11
In addition, Thomas Domville has recorded a short series of podcasts in which
he discusses and demonstrates many of the changes and new features in iOS 11:
Exploring Some of What's New and Changed in iOS 11; Part 1
Exploring Some of What's New and Changed in iOS 11; Part 2
Exploring Some of What's New and Changed in iOS 11; Part 3
Exploring Some of What's New and Changed in iOS 11; Part 4
How to Update to iOS 11
iOS 11 is compatible with 64-bit devices only, meaning the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c,
and iPad 4 do not support the software update.
Apple lists all supported devices on its iOS 11 preview page
iOS 11 is available via Over-the-Air Update (Settings > General > Software
Update) or via iTunes on a Mac or PC.
Before updating, we strongly recommend making a full and complete backup of
your device (either in iTunes or iCloud, depending on personal preference).
This will ensure that, in the unlikely event that something goes wrong during
the update process, you will have a current backup of your phone on hand in
case a device restore becomes necessary. Also, if using OTA update, we
recommend plugging your device into a power source for the duration of the
download/installation process - so as to prevent the unlikely event of your
battery going dead during the update.
More information on how to update the software on your iOS device is available
on this Apple Support page <https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT204204> .
iOS 11; is it Worth Upgrading?
The day has finally arrived. iOS 11 is here. But should you install it now, or
would it be better to wait for the next update? To help you decide, I've tested
some of the main new features and changes in this release.
A Note to Braille Users
One of the main new accessibility features in iOS 11 is easier editing in
braille. As I do not own a braille display, I have not been able to test this.
If you are a braille user, please read this post on accessibility bugs
before upgrading as there is a serious braille-related bug in this release.
Hey Siri, What's New With You?
Apple's addition of the type to Siri feature is a very positive step forward
for accessibility. Now people with speech impediments, or deaf people who don't
normally communicate by speaking, finally have a way of interacting with Siri.
But even if this doesn't apply to you, type to Siri is a useful feature. It's
another example of how making technology accessible benefits everyone, not just
people with the disability it's trying to address.
I've often wanted to type to Siri. Sometimes, Siri doesn't quite catch all the
details of that quick message or reminder. Typing to Siri would be a good way
of making sure all the details of your request are accurate, while still being
quicker than launching the right app and tapping through menus. Sometimes it's
easier to talk to Siri, and sometimes I'd prefer to type. I want to have the
best of both worlds; I want to be able to choose, on each occasion, whether to
speak or to type, without going into the settings to change it. And if you want
that too, there's a way to set it up on newer devices. Enable type to Siri by
going to settings > general > accessibility > Siri > and turning on type to
Siri. Also turn on Hey Siri by going to settings > Siri and search > listen for
Hey Siri. Then when you want to type, press and hold the home button, and when
you want to talk, say hey Siri.
Siri now has the ability to translate from English into other languages. I
wanted to test this, but I'm in the UK and, in Siri's words, "I can't translate
from British English yet. Sorry about that." After I changed Siri's language to
English US, translation worked as expected. More evidence that the Americans
and the British are divided by a common language.
Apple also promised improved Siri voices, and the female US English voice does
sound noticeably more natural. Like the other Siri voices, it can be used with
What's in that Picture?
AppleVis users will be eagerly anticipating VoiceOver's added ability to
describe pictures with a 3-finger tap on the image. This is another important
step in the right direction, and it could be a great feature one day, but it
doesn't work well enough to be useful yet. In my testing, I tried it with
photos, screenshots and various images from web pages, but it didn't tell me
anything other than whether the images I tried were sharp or blurry. See Serina
for a more detailed review of this feature.
Dragging Around the Home Screen
I regularly have the urge to rearrange my home screen. Sometimes it's because
I've just downloaded a new app, I can't find a good place for it in my existing
folder structure, and so I end up rearranging everything else to find a
sensible place for it. Sometimes it's because I've become dissatisfied with the
categories I've been using. So I was glad of the new way of moving apps,
introduced in iOS 10, because it made it even easier for me to confuse myself
with a new home screen layout every couple of months.
In iOS 11, that's all changed again. Now, the "arrange apps" rotor action has
gone. You will now need to double-tap and hold to go into edit mode. Once
there, there will be a rotor action to start dragging the app or folder you are
on. If you select that, you can then move to the place on the screen where you
want to put the app you are dragging, and select from a very similar menu of
options as in iOS 10, although slightly reworded: you can drop the item you are
dragging before or after the one you are focusing on, or put it in to a folder.
The one addition is the option to add another item to the drag session, which
allows you to move multiple apps at once.
The new Files app allows you to see all of your files from cloud services:
iCloud, Dropbox, and others. Currently, you can use it to manage files within
iCloud, but for other services such as Dropbox, you can only view your files.
It doesn't have the ability to move files between services, which is
unfortunate as that would've been the main advantage of having multiple storage
services in one place. The file management capabilities it does offer are easy
to use; you simply use rotor actions to delete, move or copy files.
Finally, an Easier Way to Check Spelling!
VoiceOver users, myself included, have been complaining for years that checking
spelling is difficult on iOS. This release goes a long way towards resolving
that issue, with the addition of a "misspelled words" setting to the rotor,
which appears when editing text. To get a list of suggested corrections, after
you've found the word you want to change, turn the rotor to edit, choose
select, then choose replace, and you can then flick left or right through the
list of suggestions. I've found that the list of suggested replacements works
more reliably than in previous iOS versions.
When I started testing iOS 11, I found it underwhelming. As I spent more time
with it, I grew to like it. The improvements to Siri, and the rotor option for
spelling, are welcome additions. There are smaller changes that I like, such as
added verbosity settings that allow you to change whether table headers and row
and column numbers are spoken, and the fact that message previews are once
again automatically read in Mail. Some of the new features don't work quite as
well as I'd like them to, but if you're not a braille user, and you don't rely
on any 32-bit apps, I see no reason to avoid this upgrade.
Picture This, or Maybe Not: a Review of the New Image Description Feature in
When I first heard at the WWDC Conference In June that Voice Over was going to
include a new image description feature I was excited to say the least. I
thought to myself - finally I will be able to know what all of those funny
memes say on Facebook! Yes, I know - super productive application of the
feature right? Well, when I finally got my hands on iOS 11, I was very
Below follows a summary of the new feature as well as my experience putting it
through its paces over the past week on my iPhone 6.
Using the Image Description Feature
Apple has made it very simple to access image descriptions without having to
import the image to another application. When you encounter an image that you
would like the description of, you simply tap once with 3 fingers and you
receive a general description of what is in the picture along with the text if
any is detected. The only improvement that I would like to see to this gesture
is an ability to do it one handed as it can be a bit awkward to use the 3
finger single tap motion.
Image Descriptions in the Photos App
The first place I test drove this feature was in my Photos app. Previous to iOS
11, Voice Over attempted to guess what was in the picture as you browsed
through the photo library. Oftentimes you would hear if the image was sharp or
blurry, if there were faces in the image and descriptions of possible objects
in the image such as cars or animals. In iOS 11, it appears that this feature
has completely been replaced with the image description feature/gesture. As I
scrolled through my library the only descriptions I heard were if the image was
sharp or blurry with no mention of people or objects in the picture.
When focused on a picture and using the 3 finger single tap method I only
received minimally more feedback about the picture including information about
again the sharpness/brightness of the picture and the page the picture could be
found on. Many of the pictures did contain text, however Voice Over more often
than not did not detect that there was any text in the picture.
Image Descriptions in the Facebook App
The next place I tested this feature was on Facebook. There are so many
pictures, many of which contain text, that are shared on this platform daily
and I was really intrigued by the idea that I could finally have access to all
of the funny and sometimes thought provoking images that my friends and family
share. I promptly scrolled through my News Feed of course not finding any
images immediately (because this is always how it goes when you want to find
photos). I finally found a photo that a friend shared. I was so excited, the
Facebook alternative text even said that the image may contain text. "Yes!" I
thought, I can finally be part of the conversation. I double tapped on the
status update that contained the photo, scrolled to the image, invoked the 3
finger single tap and...all I got was that the image was sharp. I was so
disappointed especially after all of the hype that this feature received.
Thinking that this surely must just be a fluke, I continued to scroll through
my News Feed to find another picture. Time and time again when I encountered
pictures on Facebook I went into the status, found the picture and almost every
time I was given even less description of the photo with Voice Over than the
alternative text that Facebook already provides.
And What About Gifs and Images in the Messages App?
The final place that I tested the image description feature was within the
Messages app under the Images i-message app. Last year when Apple launched all
of the i-message apps including the ability to search for and send gifs and
images I was very disappointed that no alternative text or descriptions were
built into the native app. When Apple announced the new image description
feature I thought that surely this feature would work amazingly in their own
native app. Once again, I was disappointed. When scrolling through the list of
potential images and invoking the 3 finger single tap to access descriptions I
was again provided with minimal useful information about the image. I was not
even provided with if there were people or animals in the picture and there
definitely was not any text extracted and spoken from any of the images.
As you can see, I had very high hopes for this new image description feature.
As many of you know, I absolutely love Apple, however they definitely missed
the mark on this accessibility feature. The descriptions provided are of no
assistance to a blind or visually impaired user and the claim that text will be
described is simply unreliable. I understand that there are many different
types of typography and layouts that may impact how Voice Over would be able to
read and describe the image, however this is so unreliable that the feature in
my opinion is completely useless at this point in time.
I will definitely keep an eye out for future updates to hopefully see
improvements to this feature, however, for now, if you were hoping to upgrade
to iOS 11 for this feature I would recommend waiting until some additional
accessibility bugs and improvements can be addressed as there are not many
significant updates and improvements to iOS 11 this year.
Apple Releases watchOS 4; Bringing a Range of Enhancements
& New Features to the Apple Watch
Apple has today released tvOS 11 for the fourth-generation Apple TV. It is
perhaps unsurprising that the platform which received the least attention
during Apple's WWDC keynote
earlier this year, is also the one which sees the fewest new features and
significant changes in today's round of OS releases. However, the good news is
that there are some notable enhancements for blind and low vision users.
The New Features That We Think You Will Like
Home Screen Sync
You can now sync your apps and Home Screen across any Apple TV connected to the
same iCloud account and running tvOS 11.
Other Changes in tvOS 11
* Apple AirPods can now auto-pair with an Apple TV.
* You can now set your Apple TV to automatically switch between light
and dark user interfaces depending on local sunrise and sunset times.
* Apple's TV app will be rolling out to 7 new countries
* tvOS adds support for Apple's new AirPlay 2 protocol.
* tvOS 11 adds support for background app refresh.
* Right-to-left language support.
* Although not technically an tvOS 11 feature, an Amazon Prime Video
app is set to launch on the Apple TV some time this Fall.
And What About Accessibility?
tvOS 11 brings a number of substansive new features and enhancements for blind
and low vision users:
* Support for Braille Displays: Connected Braille displays deliver text
of whatâs on screen (button labels, movie titles, etc.) that you are
currently hovering over. As you move focus, VoiceOver speaks and Braille
displays print the text. In addition, Braille display buttons map to VoiceOver
commands and support basic navigation around the Apple TV UI. However,
contracted braille input is not an option.
* Support for VoiceOver keyboard commands: Bluetooth connected
keyboards will allow you to issue VoiceOver commands for more efficient
* Switch Control Menu for Media Playback: Switch Control users now have
access to a playback control panel to pause, play, fast forward, rewind, and
skip while media is playing.
* Additional closed captioning style: Video captions now include the
option of a new larger, outlined style for subtitles and captions. *VoiceOver
users can now choose from Samantha, Alex, Victoria, and Fred as speech options.
We do not know if new voice options will be available for languages other than
We have only been able to carry out extremely limited testing of tvOS 11 prior
to todayâs release, so have not yet been able to explore these new features
or fully check for any further changes which will effect blind or low vision
What we have found, however, is that tvOS appears to be moving closer to iOS in
regard to navigation.
For instance, on tvOS 10, the default VoiceOver rotor setting for navigating
the screen is "Navigation". This option allows you to move your finger on the
touch surface of the Apple TV's remote control in all four directions to move
In tvOS 11, the VoiceOver rotor has some significant changes. " Navigation" and
âExploreâ are now gone. In their place, we have two new options, and one
that has been revamped. "Landmarks" and "Vertical Navigation" are the 2 new
options, and âdirect Touchâ has under gone some major behavioral
modification. The âDirect Touchâ rotor option allows you to utilize TVOS 11
in much the same way the ânavigationâ rotor option functioned under TVOS 9
and 10. In âdirect Touchâ mode, you still have some behavior to get used
to. With TVOS 11, the harder you swipe, the further you will be taken in that
direction. For example, if you know something you wish to use is further down
in a list, you can swipe harder and further in any direction to move by a
larger amount of items. A light swipe will take you from one item to the next.
This permits you to move in all four directions as before on your Home screen
and through lists.
How to Update to tvOS 11
To install tvOS 11 on a fourth-generation Apple TV, go to the Settings channel,
then look for the System section near the bottom. From here, look for Software
Updates under Maintenance, then select Update Software and Download and Install.
More information on how to update the software on your Apple TV is available on
this Apple Support page <https://support.apple.com/en-gb/HT202716> .
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