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RE: Extensive forms & tables accessibility question

From: Jim Thatcher <thatch@attglobal.net>
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2001 21:06:20 -0500
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Cc: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>, "Slaydon, Eugenia" <ESlaydon@beacontec.com>
Message-id: <NDBBKJDAKKEJDCICIODLGEIDDAAA.thatch@attglobal.net>
I would like to throw a monkey wrench into this discussion of accessible
forms. We are down to trying to label form elements with the headers
attribute for complex tables. I think  the tables are not complex. So screen
readers are probably able to pick up the row and column headers as well as
the content developers!

But the problem to my mind is what does a screen reader user know to look
for when the come to something, in this case, an edit field.

The best solution is to place the prompt in the edit field, for example,
"number of borrowers not in repayment status" for 3 b in

Web content developers are generally not willing to do this for several
reasons, which I'm not going into here. But there is a simple equivalent.
Place that prompt as the title attribute of the input element. Currently
Window-Eyes reads the title attribute of input elements by default. I have
been told the HPR will read the title attribute on command and I encourage
them to read it automatically. I have talked to the JFW developers and they
agree that supporting the title attribute for input elements makes a lot of

The label element has the fundamental flaw that it is prescribing one piece
of text as the label for one input element, whereas, in the example under
discussion, two text areas label one input element. If the content provider
used the title attribute on each input element (they know which is which) it
reduces the complexity of implementation for them; it simplifies the work
for the assistive technology.

I advocate the using title attribute on input elements instead of using the
label element.

Accessibility Consulting

-----Original Message-----
From: w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org [mailto:w3c-wai-gl-request@w3.org]On
Behalf Of Al Gilman
Sent: Saturday, April 21, 2001 11:25 PM
To: Slaydon, Eugenia
Cc: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Subject: RE: Extensive forms & tables accessibility question

At 02:37 PM 2001-04-20 -0400, Slaydon, Eugenia wrote:
>Okay - let's use this for point of reference.
>(Gregory - I sent you a different link earlier, refer to this one instead)


Have a look at the attached <crossing fingers about attachment>.

Here I have used ALT on the INPUT as opposed to TITLE on the TD.

I hope some people can comment on the screen reader access to this

That is the principal accessibility change.  Do note the summary.  Otherwise
the edits are motivated by HTML validity and my taste more than outright


>I'm using headers currently. Do screen readers not handle these? That was
>the whole reason I put them in. I find that being unable to associate LABEL
>with more than one INPUT is frustrating. I'm interested in the concept of
>TITLE in a TD. Does a screen reader handle this well. If so, would a
>combination of SCOPE and TITLE work? Only issue with this is that if you
>BOBBY against the page it will fail to validate due to lack of LABEL tags.
>I'm willing to make changes as quickly as possible to the above listed page
>and have everyone use it as a testing environment to determine a usable
>solution. Thank you for your assistance.
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Al Gilman
>Sent: Friday, April 20, 2001 1:54 PM
>To: Slaydon, Eugenia; w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
>Cc: jongund@staff.uiuc.edu; ij@w3.org; dde@w3.org
>Subject: Re: Extensive forms & tables accessibility question
>Would you be willing to offer a sample table-structured form as a baseline
>comparing remedies?  We could nominate examples but it would be better to
>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
>the insurance to as many individuals as they wish.  For each individual,
>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
>text of the form individual unique labels for all the possible entries in
>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
>two-dimensional array of questions where the unique explanation for each
>field is provided by combining row and column heads.  Neither the row head
>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
>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
>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
>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
>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
>reader.  This is some missionary work to be done with the assistive
>At 10:01 AM 2001-04-20 -0400, Slaydon, Eugenia wrote:
> >Hi,
> >
> >I'm trying to make my pages that are very heavy in forms accessible and
> >understandable
> >by screen readers. I've used label where I can but I have text fields
> >are associated
> >with multiple labels. For example I have a question in the first column
> >they have to
> >enter a answer in the next 4 columns. The 4 columns have a header row of
> >titles.
> >Currently, I have assigned id and headers to the td's. But since the
> >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?
> >
> >Thanks,
> >Eugenia
> > 
Received on Sunday, 22 April 2001 22:07:12 UTC

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