November 2015 Issue  Volume 16  Number 11

Product Reviews and Guides

An Overview of iOS 9

On September 16, 2015, Apple released iOS 9, a new operating system for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. This new system provides VoiceOver accessibility improvements along with other general improvements. It is not possible to describe all the changes in one article. Spend time reviewing apps and checking out settings. An iPhone 6 was used for this evaluation.

VoiceOver Accessibility Improvements in iOS 9

Apple has made some useful enhancements to VoiceOver including offering more voices and a faster speaking rate.

New VoiceOver Voices

Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/VoiceOver/Speech

For English US, in addition to the Alex and Samantha voices, Apple has added Siri Male and Siri Female. All four voices come as either compact or enhanced. Enhanced voices take up more space but generally have better sound quality. Below the English US voices are options for other dialects.

VoiceOver Speaking Rate

Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/VoiceOver

The speech rate for the VoiceOver voices can now be made even faster. On the VoiceOver screen, find the Speech Rate picker and flick up and down to explore the new speaking rates.

VoiceOver Practice

Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/VoiceOver/VoiceOver Practice

There are now two new options in the VoiceOver Practice section: Braille Screen Input and Handwriting. In order to use either of these options, the input method must already be in the rotor. You can practice gestures that accompany these forms in the VoiceOver practice sections.

Changing Bluetooth Modifier Key

Go to Settings/General/Accessibility/VoiceOver/Keyboard/Modifier Keys

By default, the VoiceOver modifier key is set to Control-Option. There is now a second choice, Caps Lock.

Selecting Text

Selecting text has become easier with iOS 9. There is more control regarding how much text is selected. Before beginning the process, Text Selection must be in the rotor.

Locate the text to be selected and go to Text Selection in the rotor. Flick up or down to choose whether to select by character, word, line, page or select all. Next, swipe right and VoiceOver will speak the text as it is selected. Swipe left to deselect text. VoiceOver will also announce when text is deselected.

Once all desired text is selected, use the rotor and go to Edit. Swipe down to the Copy option, and double tap. The selected text is now copied to the clipboard. Tap the screen with three fingers to hear what has been selected. Go to Edit in the rotor and choose what you want to do with the text.

Apple Music

It is now easier to follow or unfollow artists. Activate the "My Account" button and then the button labelled "Following." Flick up or down on an artist's name. There will be an option to unfollow the artist. Find new artists to follow by activating the "Find New Artists and Curators" button above the list of artists you are currently following.

A new list will be displayed. When you find an artist you want to follow, flick up or down. There will be an option to follow. Double tap on it. Unfollow the artist by flicking up to Following and double tapping.

iOS Changes

There have been many changes in iOS 9. Take some time to explore apps and the Settings options.

Apple News

This new app from Apple cannot be deleted. Get started with it by first choosing news sources. There is a long list of sources including the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and ESPN, along with a search box. Double tap on a choice to view recent stories. There is an "Add to Favorites" button to add the news source to your Favorites list within the app. The app also has several additional tabs: For You, Explore, Search, and Save. The For You tab is where content is stored. There is a list of news items based on your source selection. Double tap on an item to read the entire story. The Explore tab offers suggestions based on your previous selections. The Search tab brings up a search box for finding content. The Save tab lets you store content that you want to keep.

Spotlight Search

There are now two ways to access Spotlight Search: a three-finger flick to the right or three-finger swipe down in the middle of the page. My iPhone 6 works fine with the three-finger flick to the right. If three-finger flick down is used, my search box is already selected for text input and only apps are shown. If you encounter this issue, use the three-finger swipe to the right. The search box is at the top of the page. "Dictate" and "Cancel" buttons are to the right of the search box. Search results are broken into categories such as Top Hits, Suggested Web Sites, and Contacts. Headings will depend on the search query.

Swipe right to the heading labeled Siri Suggestions. Within this heading are four sections: Frequent Contacts (which formerly appeared in the app switcher), Recently Used Apps, Nearby, and News. Rotor headings will bring you to Siri Suggestions and Nearby. Flicking brings you through each category. On a contact's name, flick up or down for options such as text or call. Double tap on an app to open it. Nearby gives several options including restaurants and shopping. The News section gives a brief description of news stories. Double tap to read a story.

Find My iPhone

Apple automatically added this app to the iOS 9 download. It can be extremely useful in finding your device, especially if it is lost or stolen. A very good podcast on how to set up the app comes from AppleVis: Find your iPhone.


There is now a search box in Settings. You can move quickly to the desired option rather than flicking through the settings list. For example, typing "VoiceOver" in the search box gets you into the VoiceOver section. Prior to iOS 9, you had to go to Settings, swipe down to General, swipe down to Accessibility, and then go to VoiceOver. Search results are directly below the edit box. Results will appear immediately as you type letters.


Battery information is now located above Privacy in Settings. The first option is Low Power Mode. When this feature is activated, some features (such as background app refresh and automatically retrieving e-mail) are stopped until the battery is charged. When the iOS device battery level goes down to 20 percent, an option to enter low power mode is displayed on the screen along with the option to close the notification.

The next section of Battery settings shows how much power was used by individual apps in the past 24 hours. The information about stand by and usage is now at the bottom of the screen.

Apple Pay

You can now access your Apple Pay credit cards on the locked screen. In Settings, select the Wallet & Apple Pay option. Flick down to the Double Click Home Button option and select if it isn't already selected. When the screen is locked, double click the Home button, and your Apple Pay credit cards will appear.

The App Switcher

Open apps that used to be to the right of the Home button are now to the left of it. Nothing is located to the right of the Home button.

iCloud Drive

While upgrading to iOS 9, VoiceOver will ask whether you want iCloud Drive on the home screen. Depending on how many apps are on your home screen, it may end up on a different screen. If you don't put iCloud Drive on the home screen during the iOS 9 set up process, you can easily add it later. Go to Settings/iCloud/iCloud Drive. Make sure iCloud Drive is on. Select it and activate the "Show on Home Screen" button.


Siri is now faster. Siri can now give directions without going into the Maps app. Siri can now give reminders for tasks such as to e-mail someone or call someone. After you activate Siri, double tap on the Help button to get a list of commands.

There is an option in the Siri settings menu to train Siri to recognize your voice when you use the "Hey Siri" command. Within Siri's settings, activate the button labeled "Allow Hey Siri." Next select the "Set Up Now" button. VoiceOver will prompt you to speak into the microphone.

The Notification Center

Within the Notification Center there are options to clear an entire section or flick up or down on an item to hear available options. Options will depend on the specific notification. The button to clear a section is above the list of items in the section.


Transit directions are now available in Apple Maps though as of this review, not all cities are available. The app worked well in New York City. There are three buttons at the bottom of the screen: Drive, Walk, and Transit. Be sure the Transit button is selected. Transit directions include bus and/or train numbers. If there is more than one way to get to a location, activate the More Routes button at the bottom of the screen. Siri can also give directions.


Safari's "Share" button is now located at the bottom of the screen. There are new options that can be reached via the Share button including Save PDF to iBooks, Add to Home Screen, and Request Desktop Site.


This app has new upgrades in iOS 9. The first time Notes is launched, there will be a brief description about the new app and an option to upgrade. There is now an option to move a note to a folder. Flick up or down on a note until you hear "Move" and select it. A new screen will appear with options to create a new folder or move the note to an existing folder.

Below the edit box for writing a note is an option to show a toolbar. Options in the toolbar include Sketch, Checklist, and Photos.

Apple Music

There is now an option to play Apple Music at lower quality when you are on your cellular network. This reduces data use and it may take less time for a song to load. Go to Settings/Music and deactivate the button for high quality.


You can now send content from iCloud Drive as e-mail attachments. Double tap and hold in the body of the message. VoiceOver will say, "Show more Items." Select it if you want to attach photos. Swipe left to begin the selection process. To attach an item from iCloud Drive, select the "Show More Items" option again. This time, when you flick left, the first option will be "Add Attachment." Select this option. iCloud Drive will open. Find the item to be attached and select it. Activate the Done button in the upper right corner. Insure that your attachment was added by flicking through the body of the message until you hear that the attachment was added.

It is now also possible to save e-mail attachments to iCloud Drive. Double tap and hold on the attachment. There will be a list of options including Save Attachment.

Ad Blockers

In iOS 9 it's now possible to install an ad blocker to your iOS device. One accessible ad blocker is "Purify." It costs only 99 cents in the App Store. An AppleVis podcast on the app is Purify podcast.


iOS 9 has a number of good system and accessibility updates. There isn't a downside to upgrading.

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