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RE: [#1311] Should we permit multiple labels for one form control?

From: Yvette P. Hoitink <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>
Date: Wed, 22 Dec 2004 16:27:02 +0100
To: "'WAI GL \(E-mail\)'" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <E1Ch8OK-0002Pk-GI@frink.w3.org>

Hi Michael and the rest of the list,

Michael Cooper wrote:
> In a discussion with Jim Thatcher and Andrew Kirkpatrick the 
> issue of multiple labels (explicit labels using LABEL "for") 
> for one form control came up. It is possible to provide more 
> than one LABEL element for a control by using the same id 
> value in the "for" attribute more than once. The HTML 4.01 
> specification [1] says "More than one LABEL may be associated 
> with the same control by creating multiple references via the 
> for attribute." However, XForms 1.0 [2] appears to only 
> intend a single label per form control.
> My initial response was that it is unspecified which label 
> should be read. Andrew in a quick test said "JAWS and 
> WindowsEyes treat the label differently, JAWS reads the first 
> and WindowsEyes reads the latter." Jim says _both_ should be 
> read. As a starting proposal I suggest we should permit 
> multiple form labels, but I think this requires further discussion.
> [1] http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/interact/forms.html#edef-LABEL
> [2] 

In my own experience, I have found multiple labels quite useful from both a
usability and accessibility point of view.

I will give you a real-world example:
I created a maintenance form, where the administrator had to choose what
image the use: the current one or the new one. I presented the images
side-by-side, with radio buttons underneath each image. Radio button 1 had a
text beside it: "use current version", radio button 2 read: "use new
version". Image 1 had an alt describing the current version of the image,
image 2 had an alt describing the new version of the image. I used two
labels for each radiobutton: both the text next to the radio button and the
associated image were labels for the same radiobutton. Both labels combined
tell you what the radiobutton means. Using two labels has the additional
benefit that people with limited motor functions can either click the text
or click anywhere on the entire image to select their preference. That could
not have been achieved with only 1 label. 

For people with vision problems, I think using the title-attribute could in
many cases replace the need for an extra label. But there are more
accessibility benefits from using labels than just for people with visual
problems: it helps people with limited motor functions as well. Especially
for the latter group, having multiple labels can be a big help because it
gives them a larger click-target. That cannot be achieved by using a
title-attribute. It can also help people with cognitive disabilities because
it allows you to use both a text and an image as operable elements. It is
not always possible to put them both in the same label-element. 

So I would advocate that we allow multiple labels in HTML and would like it
if it were part of UAAG that all labels are read by AT. 

Happy holidays everyone!

Yvette Hoitink
Heritas, Enschede, the Netherlands
E-mail: y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl
WWW: http://www.heritas.nl
Received on Wednesday, 22 December 2004 15:27:08 UTC

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