As many of you will know from personal experience, there is a longstanding issue with VoiceOver on Mac where Safari will frequently become unresponsive with VoiceOver repeatedly announcing the message “Safari not responding.” When this issue occurs, the user’s Mac may become unusable for up to several minutes at a time. Sometimes it can be resolved by switching away from Safari. Sometimes restarting VoiceOver can resolve the issue. However, far too often, the user is unable to switch away from Safari or turn VoiceOver off, instead having to simply wait for their Mac to become responsive again.
This “Safari not responding” behaviour when using VoiceOver dramatically impacts productivity and overall usability of Macs for blind and low vision users. Furthermore, it appears that the issue extends beyond just Safari – many other common applications that utilise Apple’s WebKit browser engine can also be affected by the “not responding” problem.
I’m not highlighting this to make Apple look bad – for once – or to fill some quota. The fact of the matter is that in the blind and vision-impaired community, the Mac and iPhone are immensely popular for their accessibility features other platforms just cannot match. If you’ve ever seen a blind person use an iPhone, you know just how different their way of using it is from sighted people.
As such, having a major bug like this is a huge deal. It impacts people who really have nowhere else to go, technology-wise, since switching to other platforms really isn’t a viable option in most cases. This issue must be fixed, and can’t be left by the wayside because it only impacts a relatively small number of people. Blind and vision-impaired folks have placed their trust in Apple because they’ve got nowhere else to go, and Apple needs to step up and take this seriously.