After much speculation and anticipation, Apple released iOS 7 on September 18, 2013. This new operating system is compatible with iPhone 4 and later, iPod touch 5, and iPad 2 and later.

This new operating system has many new features and some VoiceOver enhancements. Because it's impossible to discuss all of the many updates in just one article, there will be a list of additional resources at this article's conclusion.

The first change users will encounter is on the locked home screen. After pressing the "Home" button, iOS 7 does not play any sound, but VoiceOver announces the time. If you have a passcode, the keypad to enter it is at the top of the screen. If you don't have a passcode, there are two ways to unlock the phone: either tap above the "Home" button, and if necessary flick to the left until you reach the "Unlock" button, or flick three fingers to the right.

The Control Center

The Control Center is a new feature which puts frequently used items on the Locked Screen, the Home Screen, or on top of any open application. The Control Center is opened by first touching an item on the status bar (at the top of the screen), and then flicking up with three fingers.

The first few items in the Control Center are also found in the Settings menu and include Airplane Mode, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. Below these controls are controls for media. It is no longer necessary to go into the Music app to use the controls. There are buttons for "Previous Track," "Play," and "Next Track." There is also a volume control. In addition, information about whatever media you are listening to is also provided including title, elapsed time, and total time. Underneath these controls are icons for several apps including Clock, AirDrop, and Calculator. The Control Center can be dismissed by pressing the "Home" button or doing a two-finger scrub.

In the Settings menu there is an option for the Control Center. You can choose whether you want the Control Center to appear in the Locked Screen and/or allow access within apps. By default, both items are on. It is not possible to add or remove items from the Control Center.

The Notification Center

Apple has changed how the Notification Center is displayed. It is still activated by tapping an item on the status bar and then flicking down with three fingers. At the top of the screen are three tabs labeled Today, All, and Missed. By default, Day is selected. The All tab will display every event that hasn't been deleted from the Notifications Center. The Missed tab will display all missed notifications from the past 24 hours.

When the Notification Center is opened on the Today view, and there are multiple events on your calendar, VoiceOver just reads the first event. Instead, an hourly view of the Calendar is presented, making it necessary to go through hour by hour. There is no list view. At the end-of-the-day section is a heading for tomorrow's events. VoiceOver will again say how many events are scheduled and what time the first one starts. Selecting the All tab will present a listing similar to the Notification Center in iOS 6. Press the "Home" button or do a two-finger scrub to close the Notification Center.

As in previous versions, you can adjust which apps appear in the Notification Center and how each app performs an alert. Do Not Disturb has its own listing in Settings and is no longer in the Notification Center menu. There are also options to include Amber Alerts and Emergency Alerts in your Notification Center.


There are some new features in VoiceOver. In iOS 7, the Accessibility menu item has been moved further up the screen in the General menu. In other words, to reach the Accessibility menu, go to Settings, then General, then Accessibility. Vision is the first heading and VoiceOver is the first option. Once in the VoiceOver settings, flick down to the rotor and double tap with one finger. There are two new additions to the VoiceOver rotor.


Containers is a new feature on the iPhone, but it has been previously available on the iPad. This is a useful feature in e-mail since it lets the reader quickly move from the heading to the message, and to the buttons for choosing an action for the email. Containers are useful in other applications because they move you easily from section to section.


Another new option in the rotor is Handwriting. It allows the user to write print letters on the screen using one finger. By default, Lower Case Letters is selected, but by flicking up with three fingers, the user can cycle through the other options: Upper Case, Numbers, and Punctuation. To add a space, swipe right with two fingers. Swipe left with two fingers to delete a letter. Swipe right with three fingers to add a line. If VoiceOver says an incorrect letter, flicking up or down with two fingers will present additional letter options. Double tap on the correct letter with one finger. The other option is to do a two-finger flick to the left to erase the incorrect letter. It does take some practice to use this feature, but it's fun to do.

Handwriting can be used for entering text in edit boxes, opening apps, performing single letter navigation in Safari,and entering a passcode on the Locked Screen. To open apps with the rotor set to Handwriting, start writing the name of the app. With each letter, VoiceOver will say how many apps have that letter. Keep writing letters until VoiceOver says the name of an app and then open it with a one finger double tap. When in Safari, writing the letter "H" and then flicking up or down with two fingers will move you by Headings. This works for every navigation unit in your rotor. Once you find what you want, take the rotor out of Handwriting mode and continue reading. Otherwise, as you move your fingers, VoiceOver will say that your movements are not recognized.

Copy and Paste

Another new feature lets the VoiceOver user copy the last thing VoiceOver said to the clipboard and then paste it somewhere else. This task is accomplished by tapping three fingers four times to copy the text and then repeating the gesture to paste it in a new location.

VoiceOver Help

It is no longer necessary to go into the VoiceOver settings to practice gestures. Do a four-finger double tap to bring up the Help screen. Be careful not to accidentally use three fingers as that will turn speech off. If this happens, do another three-finger double tap to turn the speech back on. Triple clicking the Home button will not work in this instance. When you're finished practicing VoiceOver gestures, perform another four-finger double tap and that will close the Help screen.

Premium Voices

You can now download more than one Premium Voice. By default, the US English voice is already installed. In the VoiceOver menu go to Languages and Dialects. If you're using more than one language, make sure to enable languages in the rotor.


Apple has made some major improvements to Siri. You now have a choice between a male or female voice. These are significantly better than Siri's previous female voice. Siri no longer repeats every instruction you say, and it is no longer necessary to hold down the Home button or tap the "Listen" button each time you give instructions during the same conversation. Hold down the "Home" button to bring up Siri, and continue your conversation.

Siri now has access to Wikipedia and will offer to read articles to you when it finds an answer to your query. For example, I asked Siri, "Who was Gary Carter?" Siri indicated that it found a Wikipedia article and asked if I wanted to have it read aloud to me.

Siri can now open some settings and perform actions within these settings. For example, Siri can open the Accessibility settings. VoiceOver can now be turned on and off using Siri. Siri will now read your e-mail. When dictating text with Siri, it's no longer necessary to find the "Dictate" button. Once an edit box is active, a two-finger double tap will start the dictation process, and performing this action again will stop dictation.

Apps and App Switcher

By default, your apps will now update automatically. The app switcher has undergone some changes. It is still activated by clicking the "Home" button twice. Apps will be displayed in a continuous row. Flick left or right to locate apps. When VoiceOver speaks an app name, it will also indicate if the app is running in the background by saying , "Running." Close an app by flicking up with three fingers. Double tapping with one finger will open it. Flicking up with one finger will present the option to close it and you'll need to double tap. Flicking down with one finger will present the option to activate it, and if this option is selected, you will then have to double tap. When finished using the App Switcher, press the "Home" button.


Folder structure in iOS 7 has undergone a change. Only nine apps can now go on one page in a folder. Each folder can now have up to 14 separate pages, which makes each folder able to accommodate 126 apps. To change the folder's page, you can either use the Picker or flick left or right with three fingers.

Find My iPhone

Apple has incorporated a new anti-theft mechanism into iOS 7. In order for it to work, you must have an active iCloud account. Information on iCloud can be found in the Settings menu. If your device is stolen, the thief will not be able to wipe or reset it. In order to perform these actions, the Apple ID and password must be entered.


If you get an e-mail you don't want to read, flicking up with one finger will present the option to send the email directly to the Trash. Flicking down with one finger will present the option to activate the item. Double tapping with one finger will initiate the desired option. Flicking down again with one finger will cause VoiceOver to say, "More." Double tapping on this option will bring up a list of choices including Move Message and Forward. Flick up and down with one finger to review the list, and double tap on your selection. There is also an option to cancel the action.

iTunes Radio

iTunes radio is available on devices running iOS 7. It is also available for Macs and PCs running iTunes 11.1. iTunes radio is similar to apps such as Pandora or Slacker. It may not yet be available in all countries.

When the Music app is opened, there are now five tabs on the bottom of the screen. The first is Radio. Activating the tab will bring up two options, Learn More and Start Listening. When the "Start Listening" button is activated, the new screen has a list of pre-programmed stations spanning many genres. Double tapping on any of the stations will start the music playing.

While a song is playing, doing a one finger flick to the right will present several options including a button to buy the songs and an info button that presents more options. There's a button to like or dislike the song and a button to go to the next track. The song's artist and title are also on the page. There is a back button in the upper left corner.

Creating Your Own Stations

On iTunes radio it's easy to create your own stations. Activate the "New Station" button which is located near the bottom left of the Home screen. When the next page loads, there is an edit box to enter the name of an artist, genre, or song. When the search results are displayed, double tap on the one you want, and the music will start playing.

Another way to add a new station is to activate the "New Station" button and then choose from the genres presented. Once a genre is chosen, a more detailed list of song types within the genre will be presented. Double tap on the one you want. Brief song clips will start to play. If you like what you hear, activate the button to add the genre as a new station. To stop the song clips, press the "Audio Preview" button. All stations you add will be under the My Stations heading on the main screen.

In the upper left corner of the Home screen is a "History" button. This will bring up a list of the past few tracks that were played and an option to buy them.

Editing in iTunes Radio

Above the My Stations heading is an "Edit" button. Activating this button will bring up your station list. When you select a station, several options will be presented including adding an artist, song, or genre to the original station. This will help iTunes narrow down the music you want. Additional options include "Delete Station" and "Play More Like This."


iOS 7 has brought many enhancements to Apple devices. The positives far outweigh the negatives. For those familiar with using VoiceOver on Apple products, there is a learning curve, but it's not too steep. VoiceOver works extremely well, and the new VoiceOver features prove Apple's commitment to accessibility.


David Woodbridge's comprehensive podcast on iOS 7

How to Be Blind: tutorials and discussions on the new iOS7

AppleVis: podcasts about the new iOS7, blogs, and user forums

Fedora Outlier: "The Old Hat Guide to iPhone Accessibility, iOS7 Edition" ($4.99 if ordered by October 15th, 2013)

National Braille Press

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Janet Ingber
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