Tip: Does the FaceTime control bar sometimes get in your way? There’s an accessible way to dismiss it.

One of the new features introduced in iOS15 is this call control bar which provides FaceTime audio controls across the top of the iOS screen during a FaceTime audio call.

Screen shot of Steve's very messy iOS home screen with the FaceTime control bar across the top. Visible controls, from left to right, are leave call, open messages, Audio route, Mute, camera, share content.
Screen shot of FaceTime control bar

I actually really like this new control bar because it gives me the option to mute/unmute from wherever I am and for me, this is much faster than having to switch back to the FaceTime app each and every time. That said, there are times when this control bar gets in the way. For example, sometimes I’ll be in an application and I know there’s a “back” button, but I can’t get to it with VoiceOver because it’s obscured by the FaceTime audio control bar. I mentioned my frustration about this to a sighted friend and she told me that visually, it’s possible to swipe this control bar away. At first, I thought we might have an accessibility issue of some sort as I could not find a way to do this when using VoiceOver. Eventually, I remembered the two-finger scrub gesture and like magic, away it went.

For anyone unfamiliar with it, the two-finger scrub gesture is a VoiceOver command that can be used in a few different ways depending on context. IF a keyboard is visible, the two-finger scrub gesture will dismiss it. If an application has a “back” button, the two-finger scrub gesture will perform that action. The easiest way to think about the purpose of this gesture is that it can help you get out of something by dismissing a control, navigating back, closing a pop-up or menu — in many ways, similar to what might happen when pressing the escape key when using a desktop application. To perform this gesture, place two fingers on the screen and move them quickly in a scrubbing motion such as right, left, right.

Putting it all together

If you ever have a reason to temporarily dismiss the FaceTime Audio call control bar and need to do so using VoiceOver, here’s how to do it.

  1. Touch the FaceTime Audio control bar with one finger, this will set VoiceOver’s focus to the correct place. This is important because otherwise, VoiceOver’s focus will remain on your home screen or on whatever aplicationp screen you have open and the scrub gesture will not dismiss the control bar.
  2. Perform the two-finger scrub gesture. If successful, the control bar will go away. IF not, double check that you have correctly set VoiceOver focus to the control bar as just described. If the two-finger scrub gesture isn’t performed correctly, it is possible that focus may inatvertantly move away from the FaceTime Audio control bar.

A few more things to note. First, I don’t know of a way to permanently dismiss the FaceTime Audio control bar and so you will have to repeat these steps whenever you need to dismiss it. Second, if you dismissed the control bar and then want to have it back, you can make it reappear by double tapping the call indicator located on the iOS status bar.

I really like the new FaceTime Audio control bar and find it super useful to have call controls available regardless of which app I’m in or which screen I’m on. For those times though where it might come in handy to move that bar out of the way, I’m glad there’s an accessible way to do so.


Quick tip: how to get rid of the iOS bubble sound when typing or using Braille Screen Input

I’ve been using Braille Screen Input on iOS for years, as it helps me to type more efficiently. One thing that has bothered me though, whether typing with Braille Screen Input or the on-screen keyboard, is this bubble sound that VoiceOver occasionally makes. While that sound does have a purpose and an important one at that, I find it distracting and have always lamented that I didn’t have a way to disable it. Little did I know that there actually is a way to disable it.

I received many replies on Twitter, some from people experiencing the same frustration as me, and others, offering a solution I likely never would have found on my own.

As it turns out, there are actually a lot of sound customizations that can be made in VoiceOver, many of which are off by default and so I never even knew they existed. Not only that, but it’s possible to preview each of the VoiceOver sounds which is a great way to learn what they actually mean. I recorded a brief video showcasing these settings in the hopes it might be useful to others.

Demo of the VoiceOver sounds dialog

Disabling the VoiceOver auto fill sound has made a world of difference for me. Now I can use Braille Screen Input without being distracted every couple of words. In fact, I’ve written this very entry solely using Braille Screen Input.

I would like to thank Rachel, Matthew, and Kara, for getting back to me so quickly with what proved to be the perfect solution. Twitter can be an awesome place for conversation and I’m glad these awesome people are a part of it.


Thank you, Threema, for caring about accessibility @ThreemaApp

Too often, we are quick to criticize developers for not doing enough to make their apps accessible.  Today, I’d like to extend my thanks to one who has consistently embraced accessibility.


Threema is a messaging application that offers end-to-end encryption.  In English, this basically means that your chats via Threema can only be read by their intended recipient.  As Threema puts it on their web site, they offer “seriously secure messaging.”  What makes Threema stand out to me personally though is their dedication to accessibility.  Not only do they constantly seem to improve the experience for VoiceOver users, but they are very transparent about it going so far as to call it out in their release notes.  And why shouldn’t they?  Making stuff accessible does require hard work and having done it, this is something they totally should be bragging up.  So thank you, Threema, for being awesome.


You can find more information about Threema on its web site or on Twitter.



Looking for accessibility resources on the Apple Watch? David Woodbridge has you covered

Like many, I had so many questions about the Apple Watch: what would its accessibility be like? Could we actually use all the watch’s features? And most important to me anyway, what’d it sound like? David Woodbridge has been tirelessly blogging about his experience with the Apple Watch in addition to having created a fantastic series of podcasts detailing just about every watch feature using VoiceOver. In addition, David has done a fantastic job showcasing various applications that he has found accessible, or problematic. Fortunately for the world, David has consolidated all of this into a blog making it easy to find these invaluable resources in one place. If you’re thinking of purchasing the Apple Watch, or if you’re just curious about it, David’s blog is a must-read.


Demo of Direct Touch Typing on iOS8

In this audio demo, I discuss the new Direct Touch Typing input method introduced in iOS8 and show how it works with VoiceOver.


Audio Demo of adding a card to Apple Pay using the iPhone camera

Apple’s new Apple Pay feature allows the iPhone camera to be used to add a new credit card. In this brief audio demo, I walk through this surprisingly accessible process using VoiceOver.


The new Twitter app and VoiceOver, It’s a Bit Confusing..

I don’t use the official Twitter app as I find it extremely confusing and unintuitive, however, I generally try to give it a quick look after every update as I know it may be the first Twitter app people are likely to encounter. The latest version comes with a number of changes, not all good in terms of accessibility. To be fair, I’m still exploring the new app, but I thought I’d jot down my observations thus far in the hopes they help others get started.

The new welcome screen.

When you launch the new Twitter app, you are now presented with this very strange welcome overlay. I say that it’s strange because if you use VoiceOver, you’ll still be able to read one or two tweets behind this overlay (this likely matches what’s visually happening on the screen). What you won’t be able to do is activate any of the application tabs along the bottom of the app, nor will you be able to scroll through the tweets. All is not lost, however, as it’s possible to dismiss this overlay; here’s how I managed to get it working:

  1. Touch until you find the what’s new text.
  2. Double tap then swipe either right or left.
  3. Find the new block of “what’s new” text.
  4. Again double tap and swipe.
  5. Eventually, after doing this about five times, a button will appear. The button says “start Twitter,.”
    Double tap this button.
  6. Get a drink, eat some cake, or celebrate in whatever manner you choose; you made it!

Note: I am told that a three finger swipe left while focused on the “what’s new” text will advance to the next block, however, this didn’t work for me. Might be worth a try though as that’d certainly be easier than the process just described.

Life after the welcome screen.

Twitter is just as unintuitive as it’s been for a while, however, here’s what I’ve discovered with the new design. First, there is now a row of tabs across the bottom of the application: “Timelines,” “Notifications,” “Messages,” and “Me.” At the top of the application is a button that says “people” then a title which changes depending on which tab you’re in (the title text does not match the name of the tab of course) “search” and “new tweet.” Just a quick note: I still don’t really understand what the “people” button does, but fortunately, if you’re as confused by it as me, there’s a back button that will actually, well, take you back. Below this top row is your timeline/messages/”me” info, again depending on which tab you’re in.


The “notifications” tab seems to show Twitter Mentions and I suspect it probably shows something else as otherwise, why not just call it the “mentions” tab? I should note that this tab also has a “people” button as described above and just as described above, I still don’t really understand it.


The “messages” tab shows you any direct messages you’ve received. Double tapping on any message will show expand the thread showing any on-going discussion you might be having with that particular Twitter user. on the definitely very cool side, there’s an edit box within the conversation view making it super easy to reply.


The “Me” tab shows your own profile and activity. One thing worth noting is that if you want to change any of the application’s settings, the settings option is found within this tab.

Hey! Stop pushing me!

I don’t know if this is a product of the upgrade or if I’ve just not used Twitter for a while, however, the client decided that I should start receiving push notifications for every mention and direct message received. It took me forever to figure out how to shut this off, but approximately 45 obnoxious push notifications later, I eventually did. If you find yourself in this situation, here’s how to fix it:

  1. Go to the “me” tab.
  2. Double tap settings.
  3. Double tap your @username, yes, this is actionable even though VoiceOver doesn’t identify it as such.
  4. Double tap notifications.
  5. Uncheck the boxes for whatever notifications you don’t want pushed, i.e. mentions, direct messages, etc… Note, some options appear to have two check boxes. IF you’re unable to uncheck one of them, try the other.

It ain’t all bad.

I realize I’m being pretty hard on the new Twitter here, however, there are some neat aspects I want to call out. First, if you double tap and hold on a tweet in timelines, you get a context menu, “Mail Tweet, Copy Link to Tweet, Report Tweet, and Cancel.” If you triple tap a tweet in timelines, you get a similar context menu containing, “Reply, Retweet, Favorite, and Cancel.” The VoiceOver hint advises that you can “triple tap for quick tweet actions,” which is a very nice touch. I really do like this triple tap menu as it provides fast access to the features I use most.

Final thoughts.

There’s still a lot about the new Twitter Client I have yet to figure out. On the plus side, there does seem to be some additional accessibility support in the form of the triple tap context menus and VoiceOver help tags. If you decide to try it, however, just be prepared to deal with the initial welcome process and an interface that to me, seems less than intuitive. Are you using the upgraded client and if so, what are your thoughts? Please comment below.


Accepting physical credit card payments, the accessible PayPal solution

For many small businesses, the inaccessibility of payment solutions have often posed barriers to accepting physical credit card payments. More recently, services such as Squared and PayPal have entered the arena with solutions that provide small businesses and individuals the ability to accept physical credit cards using a small device connected to an OS or Android device. Although ultra portable and ultra convenient, these solutions traditionally pose accessibility challenges as well, because the card reader devices connect via the headphone jack and this disables speech output which may be needed for accessibility.

Although I wasn’t able to make a great deal of headway with the Squared solution, I did have success with PayPal’s. In the following audio demonstration, I’ll show how PayPal’s solution works with VoiceOver and will describe how to overcome it’s accessibility challenges.