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arguments for retention of LEGEND and FIELDSET

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <oedipus@hicom.net>
Date: Sat, 4 Aug 2007 21:58:14 -0400
To: public-html@w3.org
Message-Id: <20070805015629.M20067@hicom.net>

in the Web Forms 2.0 section 7.11 it is not only written:

quote
7.11. Labels

Form controls all have a labels DOM attribute that lists all the 
label elements that refer to the control (either through the for 
attribute or via containership),in document order. 

Similarly, HTMLLabelElements have a control DOM attribute that 
points to the associated element node, if any. 

A label must be listed in the labels list of the control to which 
its control attribute points, and no other. 
unquote

then, in a cavalier aside, it is noted:

quote
Assistive technologies may use the labels attribute to determine 
what label to read out when a control is focused. An assistive 
technology could also wish to determine if the element is in a 
fieldset group. To do so, it should walk up the element's 
parentNode chain to find the fieldset ancestors. 
unquote

this is insufficient and an enormous step backwards...

why?  because an assistive technology, such as a screen reader, 
functions quite like a blind person, not knowing what it is 
which it has come into contact with, UNLESS that item has an 
explicit LABEL, belongs to an explicit FIELDSET, whose title 
is encased in LEGEND.

reasoning:

1. an assistive technology cannot be relied upon to correctly 
   infer a FIELDSET; FORM controls MUST be explicitly 
   contained in a FIELDSET;


2. a FIELDSET contains a related grouping of form controls, 
   each one of which needs to be individually labeled.  the 
   LEGEND allows a non-visual visitor's assistive technology 
   to contextualize the FORM controls bound to the LEGEND, 
   by virtue of their inclusion in the FIELDSET,  there is 
   no way for an assistive technology to associate the 
   nearest header with a form control grouping, unless that 
   header also serves as the LEGEND for the FIELDSET of FORM
   controls that allow one to "Reply to this Comment".(that, 
   and headers are important for structure and navigation, 
   and it is fitting to use a LEGEND to encase a header.

3. what is needed is an explicit, not implicit, FIELDSET, 
   and where there is a FIELDSET, there must be a LEGEND.


4. when used in a TABLE-ized FORM, an explicit LEGEND allows 
   assistive technologies to associate the LEGEND with the 
   FIELDSET, although anyone who uses TABLE to control 
   presentation is misusing an element that deserves 
   deprecation in HTML5, as a TABLE has meaning only insofar 
   as one can perceive the visual relationships between data 
   and its labels and categorizations.  therefore, it is 
   merely a presentational model, better handled - and more 
   appropriately relegated - to CSS.


5. an element should NOT be deprecated due to incompenent 
   unimaginative authoring practices (relying on a browser's 
   default styling for LEGEND and FIELDSET) and/or incomplete 
   implementation on the user agent's part; (this was given to 
   me as a reason why Web Forms 2.0 would be dropping LEGEND 
   and FIELDSET because of default browser styling; this 
   constitutes a failure of imagination and implementation on 
   an author's part, and CAN be handled QUITE easily using 
   the CSS box model)


gregory.
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             Gregory J. Rosmaita, oedipus@hicom.net
  Camera Obscura: http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/index.html
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Received on Sunday, 5 August 2007 01:58:19 GMT

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