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Re: Extensive forms & tables accessibility question

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2001 13:53:58 -0400
Message-Id: <200104201751.NAA11239602@smtp2.mail.iamworld.net>
To: "Slaydon, Eugenia" <ESlaydon@beacontec.com> (by way of Wendy A Chisholm <wendy@w3.org>), w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Cc: jongund@staff.uiuc.edu, ij@w3.org, dde@w3.org

Would you be willing to offer a sample table-structured form as a baseline for
comparing remedies?  We could nominate examples but it would be better to be
working with an example you gave us.

Until we have your example, I will talk in terms of the example that
springs to
my mind.  This is a "designation of beneficiary" clause for life insurance. 
Here the person completing the form is to associate shares in the proceeds of
the insurance to as many individuals as they wish.  For each individual, they
must provide, in addition to a designated share in the proceeds,
in the form of several identifying characteristics of the individual being
a beneficiary.  There is no way for the writer of the form to provide in the
text of the form individual unique labels for all the possible entries in the
form.  The list length is unbounded; the unique identification of the
beneficary is what the person filling out the form provides, not the form

With the current definition of HTML there is no way to make LABEL work for a
two-dimensional array of questions where the unique explanation for each entry
field is provided by combining row and column heads.  Neither the row head nor
the column head is associated with a unique form control, and we don't have
language to say "the unique, understandable explanation of this form
control is
[some pattern of references]."

The following are experimental concepts.  I don't have the resources to see
they play in screen readers so I am offering the sketches so I hope the group
can do more than I can do.

Fix concept #1: TITLE on TD elements containing text entry form controls:

Reiterate (possibly briefly) the identification of the question to be answered
from the applicable headers in a TITLE element on the table cell containing
form control.

This version may be the most compatible with screen readers but we need to
sure it doesn't interfere with reviewing what you have put in the form field. 
It satisfies the spirit if not the letter of the "explicitly associate"

Fix concept #2: De-tabularize the form.

In this case, the beneficiary information is formatted as a tree, not a
There is a separate set of entry fields for each beneficiary, with tailored
labels for each entry field.  Following the third beneficiary-information
there is an option that invokes a script and gets you a form with more spaces
for beneficiaries.

Aside:  I am concerned that X-Forms may be like the 'headers' attribute in
it captures the required information well but isn't recognized by the screen
reader.  This is some missionary work to be done with the assistive technology


At 10:01 AM 2001-04-20 -0400, Slaydon, Eugenia wrote:
>I'm trying to make my pages that are very heavy in forms accessible and
>by screen readers. I've used label where I can but I have text fields that
>are associated
>with multiple labels. For example I have a question in the first column and
>they have to
>enter a answer in the next 4 columns. The 4 columns have a header row of
>Currently, I have assigned id and headers to the td's. But since the label
>is missing the
>page will fail on a compliance check. Any suggestions on how to handle
>complex forms
>that are inside of tables so that it meets section 508 compliance?
Received on Friday, 20 April 2001 13:51:26 UTC

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