iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 were first announced in June 2019 at Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference. Apple promised many improvements and new features. When the new systems launched in September, it was clear that they definitely delivered. The new operating system for iPhone and iPod touch represents a considerable improvement over its predecessors. iPadOS 13 is the first operating system specifically designed for the iPad. It has the same features as iOS 13 plus new features geared toward the iPad.
In this article, I will discuss the many included VoiceOver changes that allow for customization and ease of access. I will talk about changes to apps including Mail and Safari. Check out Dave Nason’s AppleVis podcast to learn about the new iPad features..
iOS 13 no longer supports the iPhone 6 or older. Only the iPod touch 7th Generation can use iOS 13. iPads older than the iPad Air 2 cannot use iPadOS 13.
Apple released two updates soon after launch. They have been working quickly to fix bugs and insure the operating system functions correctly.
For this article, I used an iPhone X. After downloading iOS 13, I quickly realized that my iPhone’s speed had increased. Touch ID responded faster as well.
Before you update, make sure your device has been backed up.
Apple has made significant improvements to VoiceOver. There is more customization and there are new categories such as Activities and Customizing VoiceOver Gestures. After reading this article, take time to go through the Accessibility options.
Accessibility options are now in the main settings menu. You no longer have to go to Settings > General > Accessibility. Accessibility is just below Display & Brightness and just above Wallpaper.
Customizing Haptic Feedback
With iOS 13, I quickly discovered that I got haptic feedback and sounds every time I performed a gesture. Sounds were louder than I usually have them. I was delighted to find that sounds and haptics are easily controlled.
To control Sounds & Haptics, go to Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Audio. The first option is Sounds & Haptics. Select this button to bring up a list of options that can be navigated by headings. The first option under Haptics is a toggle to turn haptics on or off. By default, it is on. Double tap on the button to turn it off globally. Use the next option is to set haptic intensity.
The next heading is Interaction. Here is where you control whether sounds and haptics are on or off for many features including Item Activated, Scroll Page, and Previous Rotor. The list is quite extensive. There is a button next to each item. Selecting it tells you whether sounds and/or haptics are active for that particular item. If both sounds and haptics are available, select the feature you want to modify. Then activate the Preview button to discover the effect of your change. Select the item’s button to make the change.
When you land on an app, VoiceOver will now say, “Use 3D touch to show home screen actions.” Another way to accomplish this task is by flicking up or down until you hear, “Show Context Menu,” and select that option. A list of actions will appear. Select one or close the menu with the Dismiss button in the upper left corner.
Customizing VoiceOver Gestures
With the new operating systems, you now have the ability to change many VoiceOver gestures. Go to Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Commands > Gestures. At the top of the screen is a list of types of gestures: Touch Gestures, Keyboard Short Cuts, Handwriting, and Braille Screen Input. The button on the left is All Commands. This will display a list of all available commands. The Reset VoiceOver Commands is on the far right.
Headings can be used to navigate different categories of gestures. Select the gesture you want to use. A list of options will appear. Select the new action you want the new gesture to perform. If you want to modify other commands such as handwriting or Braille Screen Input, select the appropriate button.
As you navigate in iOS 13, you might hear VoiceOver say “vertical scroll bar.” This can appear in apps such as Safari and Mail. The scroll bar control is found on the right side of the screen and at the bottom of the current page. Flick up or down with one finger to move the bar. VoiceOver will say the current page number and/or where you are percentage-wise within a document. Using this feature is the same as scrolling through your Contacts list.
You can perform actions on your device with just your voice. Some possible actions are: open an app, swipe right, and turn up volume. This feature is not in the VoiceOver menu. To activate it, go to Settings > Accessibility > Voice Control. Voice Control is off by default. To activate it, you need to use WiFi to download software. That way, Voice Command will work regardless of whether or not you are online.
Within the Voice Control menu, there are several options. The first is Customize Commands. Here is where you can add a command, dictate a command, search for a command, or choose a pre-determined command. Under Vocabulary, you can teach Voice Control to recognize words.
Further down the Voice Control menu is a check box for showing hints. This button is on by default. It is a useful feature for some people, especially when first using Voice Control. After a day or so, I turned Show Hints off. With it on, VoiceOver will automatically speak suggestions for using Voice Control. I found that my iPhone was talking too much. Another option is to toggle Voice Control off when you are not using it.
VoiceOver will now tell you if your photo is centered or not in the frame.
This new feature from Apple lets you customize how VoiceOver behaves in a particular situation. For example, I could create a different VoiceOver profile that is only used when I activate the Messages app.
Get started by going to Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Activities. Swipe right to the Add Activity button and select it. When the next screen loads, there will be an edit box for the name of your activity. By default it says, “Activity 1.” The next control is Speech. Here is where you will set VoiceOver parameters including voice and speaking rate. Next is the Verbosity section where you can decide how much VoiceOver should speak in the activity. There are many options. Finally, go to the Automatic Switching heading. Below are options for which apps or operations will be affected by your change. I changed my messages app to use the Allison enhanced voice with a speaking rate of 60. Under Verbosity, I have it speak the names of emojis.
There are new customization options on how VoiceOver will speak punctuation. Go to Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Verbosity > Punctuation. Select the “Add Punctuation Group” button. There are options to ignore, replace, or remove each symbol. If Ignore is selected, VoiceOver will speak the punctuation as it normally would. Replace lets you choose an alternate name for the punctuation symbol. If Remove is selected, VoiceOver will treat the symbol as if it is invisible.
I am not a braille display user and have gathered the following information from Scott Davert’s excellent and very comprehensive AppleVis post regarding iOS 13. The Liblouis series of tables have been added to braille. Braille users now can use over 70 languages. Go to Settings > Accessibility > VoiceOver > Braille > Braille Tables. Select the Add Braille Table button. Select the language you want. The Liblouis series of tables are under the System heading. Davert indicated that he found some translation difficulties with these tables. He prefers the System braille codes.
Davert also says that users can now know where they are in a list. In addition, there is a new feature called Key Debounce. This controls the length of time from when a letter is entered until the device recognizes it as a command.
There are many new mainstream features including a new on-screen keyboard and a redesigned app store. Mail has gotten a makeover and two apps have become one.
If you open an email, the buttons for Replying and Moving are no longer at the bottom of the screen. They have been replaced by a Delete button and a More Actions button. Selecting the More Actions button brings up a long list of actions including Reply, Reply All, Forward, Trash, Move To, and Mute. With email open, flick up or down to bring up options including Reply and Trash.
If you have not opened the message, flicking up or down will present many options including Delete, Activate, Show Context Menu, and More. The context menu has Preview, Reply, Reply All, Move Message, and several other options. The Dismiss Context Menu button is in the upper left corner. Selecting the More option displays most of the same items as the Context Menu. The Cancel button is the last item. The Mute option can be used to mute a thread. It is easy to block an email sender. Open the email and double tap on the sender’s name. A list of options will be displayed. Flick right until you get to Block and select it.
The Edit button is still in the upper right corner. If it is selected, double tap on the unopened emails you want to either mark, move, or trash. Those buttons will be at the bottom of the screen.
There are many composing and formatting options available. Go to the body of the message and double tap. Swipe right until you hear, “Expand Tool bar.” Flick right to the Text Format button. There are many options available including Text Size and Fonts.
QuickPath is a new “slide to type” keyboard introduced in iOS 13. It is on by default. To use QuickPath, slide your finger on the keyboard, stop when you get to the letter you want, and without raising your finger, move to the next key. You do not need to be 100% accurate; VoiceOver will start speaking possible words. Lift your finger when you hear the one you want and the word will be inserted. There is definitely a learning curve with this keyboard. If you don’t like QuickPath, turn it off by going to Settings > General > Keyboard. Go to Swipe to Type and turn it off.
Low Data Mode
If you have limited data usage available, this option could help you. It helps apps reduce data use. Go to Settings > Cellular > Cellular Data Options. The feature is off by default.
The App Store has a new look. On the bottom are five tabs: Today, Games, Apps, Arcade, and Search. The Updates tab is no longer there. With the Today tab selected, go to the top left of the screen and flick right until you hear, “My Account.” In the My Account section, there are many options including a list of purchased apps, an option to redeem a gift card, and personalized recommendations. Below the Updated Recently heading is a list of all the recently updated apps. Under the app’s name will be a button to open it. Flicking up or down on the app brings up a context menu, an activate option, and an option to delete the app.
There is now a quick way to access WiFi and Bluetooth settings via the Control Center. When on either of these options, flick up or down with one finger. There are two available options: Activate and Open Controls. If you select Open Controls, a new screen will load showing various options including WiFi and Bluetooth. A 3D-Touch or Long Press on either Bluetooth or WiFi will open a screen with information about which networks or objects are available. For example, if I perform a 3D Touch on Bluetooth, I will find a list of all my Bluetooth devices that are in range. I can connect or disconnect devices. At the bottom of the screen are the actual Bluetooth settings. WiFi works the same way. It will show all available networks and WiFi settings at the bottom of the WiFi screen. This new Control Center addition makes it easier to change settings. You can still access WiFi and Bluetooth through the Settings menu.
A major improvement for increasing battery life is now available and on by default. It is called Optimize Battery Charging. This feature charges to 80 percent initially rather than to 100 percent. The app learns your daily routine and charges to 100 percent by the time that you usually use the phone. For example, I usually put my phone on the charger at about 11:30 PM and I take my phone off the charger at about 7:30 AM. At 5:30 A.M., my phone was exactly 80 percent charged. At 7:30 A.M., it was 100 percent charged.
You can disable Optimize Battery Charging if you wish. The control for this feature is at Settings > Battery > Battery Health.
If you go to Settings > Battery and then to the Battery Level heading, you will find a chart displaying your battery usage. If you flick up or down when in the chart, VoiceOver now has more options including Describe Chart and Summarize Numerical Data.
The Files app now lets you Zip and Unzip files. Unzip a file by double tapping on it. Zip a file by flicking up or down to Context Menu. Once in the menu, select Compress.
Prior to iOS 13, there were apps called Find My Friends and Find My iPhone. These have merged into one app called Find My. When it is opened, there are three tabs on the bottom: People, Devices, and Me. People takes the place of the Find My Friends app. The Devices tab takes the place of the Find My iPhone app. It will show all of your devices. Since I am now on Family Sharing, it also displayed my husband’s and daughter’s devices. The Me tab displays your location and whether or not to share it. There is a button to allow friend requests. There is also a Help a Friend button where you can go into iCloud.com on your phone and help a friend search for a device.
Safari allows for more customization than in the past and now has the ability to indicate where to save downloads. Go to Settings > Safari and flick right to Downloads. VoiceOver will say where downloads are stored. By default, downloads are saved to iCloud Drive. The advantage is that downloads will be on all your devices. iCloud Drive now has a Downloads folder. If you want to change the save location, activate the button next to Downloads. Activating this button will also show information for how long you want to keep a download.
Under the Settings for Websites heading, there are global options for settings including Page Zoom, Request Desktop Site, and Reader. Select the button next to the item and then make your choice. By default, the desktop site is selected in iPadOS13. You can change this.
Websites in Safari have a Format Options button at the top left of the page. Activating this button brings up a list of options for customizing the website. Options include Show Reader View, Hide Toolbar, and Website Settings. Selecting this option gives even more ways to customize the website including Permission to Use Camera, Microphone, and Location.
When you install a new app and you want it to use your location, you will initially have only two options: Once and When Using the App. If you want the app to use your location always, you will have to enable that feature manually. Go to Settings > Privacy > Location Services. Double tap on it and a list of your apps will appear. Select the app you want to change and choose a different option. Flick right to hear all options. I have found that many apps do not include the Always option. Some apps have automatically notified me asking if I want to change their access to Always.
In apps that support sharing, such as Photos, you will find a list of frequently contacted people above the standard list of options such as AirDrop, Message, and Mail.
This feature first appeared last year in macOS Mojave. Dark Mode both darkens the screen so that important items are visually clearer and it saves battery power. When I first installed iOS 13.1, VoiceOver prompted me to choose whether to enable Dark Mode. You can access Dark Mode settings by going to Settings > Display & Brightness. The first option is Appearance. There are two radio buttons, one labeled Light and one labeled Dark. Activating the Dark button will load Dark Mode. If the Dark Mode button is selected, an Automatic button will appear. If activated, it will automatically turn on Dark Mode. Next is an Options button where you can control the times when Dark Mode is enabled and disabled.
Silence Unknown Callers
If you have had it with robocalls or only want to receive calls from people in your Contacts list, this feature may be helpful. Anyone not in your Contacts list will be sent directly to voicemail and your phone will not ring. This feature is off by default. Activate it by going to Settings > Phone and swiping right to Silence Unknown Callers. Along with sending the call to voicemail, the caller’s information will appear in your Recents list.
Apple has added many useful accessibility features in iOS 13. You can change VoiceOver gestures, give verbal commands to your device, regulate sounds and haptics, and much more. There have been some changes in mainstream apps and they continue to be very accessible. This major improvement in accessibility is to be commended.
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.
- iOS 12: An Overview from an Accessibility Perspective by Janet Ingber
- Book Review: iOS Access for All (iOS 12 edition) by Shelly Brisbin by Jamie Pauls
More by this author:
- The 2019 WWDC Conference Keynote
- Verizon Fios Offers Improved TV Accessibility for People with Visual Impairments