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Re: Forms: Explicit associations and Empty controls?


From: Paul Bohman
Date: May 23, 2005 2:23PM

Thomas Jedenfelt wrote:

> Today's Web browsers, do they have support for:
> 1) Explicit associations between labels and form controls?
> 2) Handle empty controls correctly?
> If so, I would no longer have to use the interim techniques
>[1] described in the checkpoints 10.2 and 10.4 of the WCAG 1.0
>(Web Content Accessibility Guidelines, 05-May-1999).

In terms of Web accessibility, Web browser support for explicit
associations between labels and form controls is less important than
screen reader support, which does exist. In this sense, the "interim"
solution of placing text labels adjacent to the form control is no
longer necessary, *BUT* it is still advisable.

When users do not use the tab key to go from form element to form
element, they will hear the content of the page read to them in a
linearized order. If the text label is not adjacent to the form control,
users may not realize which form control the text label applies to, or
vice versa.

To put it differently, the explicit association of the label with the
form control works very well when the user *tabs through* the form, even
when the label and form element are in completely different parts of the
page; but such a separation is still a problem if the user just *listens
to the page straight through* without interacting with the form (i.e.
tabbing between form elements).

So it's still a good idea to place the label adjacent to the form control.

Paul Bohman
Director of Products and Services
WebAIM (Web Accessibility in Mind)
Utah State University