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Re: Word forms and Screen Readers


From: Moore,Michael (DARS)
Date: May 21, 2015 3:14PM

Word forms are rather strange beasts. In order for the form fields to be fillable and tabable you must lock the document and restrict editing to filling in form fields. This has the side effect of making the remaining text on the form inaccessible to screen reading software. The prompts for the form fields is communicated through the status bar and f1 help text in the properties of the field itself. The caveat is that this only works with legacy form fields. Active X controls remain entirely inaccessible.

The challenge becomes how to provide access to the intervening text, important stuff like instructions and section headings. Unfortunately there is elegant solution to this. Our hack is to provide this information through very small text fields where the help text is prefaced with the word "info" This is not pretty since you are limited to 128 characters for status bar help and 256 characters in F1 and sometimes we need to string several of these together. The alternative is to place the form fields in a locked section of the form and the intervening text in unlocked editable sections that can be read with a screen reader. Here this issue is that if you tab into an unlocked section and continue tabbing you will be placing blank tabs into the form before the text that you want to read. One solution is to add instructions to the last field before the unlocked section warning the user that they need to switch to line by line navigation techniques to read the form.

Now to answer your original question. JAWS is not really going into forms mode. You are probably in a locked form and only the fields are readable by JAWS or NVDA. You can navigate by tab or by using the arrow keys. In the locked sections of the form, which may be the whole document, the up and down arrows will take you to the previous or the next field. If nothing has be placed in the help text properties for the field you will probably just hear "edit, edit, edit." Sometimes there is a bit of glitch and if you hit JAWSkey + b JAWS will read help text it would not read before. Tabbing away and back may also resolve the problem. A final strategy might be to unlock the document if it is not password protected, or if you have the password and then read through the document normally. You will probably have difficulty placing focus inside of the field though.

Mike Moore
Accessibility Coordinator,
Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services
(512) 424-4159 (Office)
(512) 574-0091 (Cell)

-----Original Message-----
From: WebAIM-Forum [mailto: <EMAIL REMOVED> ] On Behalf Of Krack, Joseph@DOR
Sent: Thursday, May 21, 2015 3:49 PM
Subject: [WebAIM] Word forms and Screen Readers

When my screenreader (JAWS and NVDA) encounter a Word form, they automatically switch into Forms mode. Is there a way to switch out of Forms mode in a Word form with a screenreader as there is with a PDF form?


Joe Krack