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More fun with forms and JAWS


From: Moore, Michael
Date: Aug 23, 2006 3:30PM

Good afternoon accessible world,

I am currently writing a set of procedures for creating accessible
forms. One of the issues that I am grappling with is the best method
for dealing with intervening text and questions related to a group of

The solution that I have used, and recommended for a couple of years, is
to place the question in the legend for a fieldset. Example follows:

<bit o code>
<legend>What do you want done with your paycheck?</legend>
<input type="radio" name="pay" id="p1" value="bank" />&nbsp;
<label for="p1">Please deposit it in my bank.</label><br />
<input type="radio" name="pay" id="p2" value="charity" />&nbsp;
<label for="p2">Please donate it to charity.</label><br />
<input type="radio" name="pay" id="p3" value="keep" />&nbsp;
<label for="p3">Please keep it, I have plenty of
money.</label><br />
</bit o code>

Issue One:
When testing the section of code above I came across the following
issue. If verbosity settings are set to advanced with JAWS 6.1 the
legend text is not read when in forms mode.

Radio buttons and check boxes will function when not in forms mode,
however how would a user who cannot see the screen know to exit forms
mode? The situation seems to be that JAWS users are forced to enter and
exit forms mode throughout most forms to find all of the instructions
and prompts. This is very inefficient.

Issue Two:
It is not always possible to place the full text for instructions within
a legend due to the fact that we are limited in how we can style the
legend. Text wrapping cannot be effectively implemented to my knowledge.
At times I have used the <br /> element as a compromise but this is not
an optimal solution for aesthetic and reflow purposes.

Issue Three:
If I place the question within the title attribute and do not explicitly
associate the legend with input. I can reliably make JAWS read the
title attribute but this creates problems for other users, particularly
those using screen magnifiers because of the behavior of tool tips.

My proposed procedure is to do the following:
1. When the question or instruction is short, place it in the legend,
(this assumes that JAWS users with verbosity set to advanced will also
have the skills to deal with entering and exiting forms mode to find the
2. If the answer text is short consider placing the answers within a
<select> although this is probably not optimal for the replacement
checkboxes because of usability issues related to multiple select.


<another bit o code>
<label for="o1">
The conference presented meaningful information in a format that I found
to be both useful and accessible.
<select id="o1">
<option value="1">Totally Agree</option>
<option value="2">Somewhat Agree</option>
<option value="3">Neutral</option>
<option value="4">Somewhat Disagree</option>
<option value="5">Totally Disagree</option>
</another bit o code>

3. When forms need to be divided by headings, or sections require more
extensive instructions, break the form into multiple forms.

These three strategies seem to cover most situations, but I would like
to hear your opinions, and suggestions for possible alternative

Finally, is the behavior of JAWS 6.1 typical of other screen readers.
Does anyone have experience with Window Eyes, HAL, JAWS 7.1 etc.

Mike Moore
Accessibility Specialist
Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services (DARS)
(512) 424-4159