WebAIM - Web Accessibility In Mind

E-mail List Archives

Accessibility of non-form text within forms.


From: Oliver Boermans
Date: Jul 8, 2009 7:00PM

Hi all,
I’m in the process of developing a tool for creating HTML forms. My
question regards the accessibility of "non form" text in forms. That
is – text within elements inside a fieldset in a form that are not
within a legend, label or form element.

This recent example posted by Kevin to this list will suffice:

2009/6/12 Kevin White < <EMAIL REMOVED> >:
> Not sure if there has been discussion regarding date entry but you
> might want to consider something like:
> <fieldset>
> <legend>Library Instruction Session Information</legend>
> <p>Please select a time for your library instruction session</p>
> <fieldset>
> <legend>First choice of session time</legend>
> <label for="first-date">Date (DD-MM-YYYY)</label>
> <input id="first-date" name="first-date" type="text" />
> <label for="first-time">Time (HH:MM)</label>
> <input id="first-time" name="first-time" type="text" />
> </fieldset>
> etc...
> </fieldset>

How is the paragraph in the above example is treated by screen readers?

If this text was longer and critical to the correct filling of the
form, is it less likely to be overlooked if it appeared before the

Kevin’s specific example suggests a degree of redundancy employed,
where it would not be critical if I skipped reading this sentence
before I filled out the following form. I’m more concerned by the
possible scenario where this text would be essential advice regarding
the form (or portion of it). Ensuring all the important facts appear
either within legends or specific form labels is problematic when
legal aspects result in paragraphs rather than phrases. Additionally
Firefox’s inflexible legend element
(https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=269908) prevents
adequate control over the layout of longer passages.

At this point my options for placing this secondary text are:

1. Within the legend but with a limit on the number of characters that
may be entered.
2. Within a p or div immediately following the legend with a warning
to the form creator that it may be overlooked by some users. (This
provides the advantage of potentially allowing structured markup such
as multiple paragraphs).
3. Within BOTH the legend and a block element within the fieldset;
Hiding the legend (visually) and laying out it’s duplicate as desired.

Another approach would be to go with option 1. with the added ability
to include links in the text so longer explanations could appear
elsewhere. Not ideal for usability but perhaps better than the
alternative if the text is long winded?

Thank you for your thoughts.
Oliver Boermans