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Re: What is Recommended Practice for "Option Lists"?

From: Kelly Ford <kford@teleport.com>
Date: Fri, 05 Mar 1999 09:51:14 -0800
Message-Id: <>
To: Patrick Burke <burke@ucla.edu>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

I don't know what the best practice is for this combo box feature that is
on the page you mentioned but I have a bit of a solution for dealing with
the interface as it is.

If you press alt-down arrow, as opposed to just a standard down arrow, when
on the list, the list will open in a fashion that allows you to then cursor
through all entries in the list and press enter on the one you want.  The
Los Angeles Times at


uses these sorts of combo boxes for selecting topical directories at the
top of most of their pages.

I don't know what others think, but personally I prefer navigational links
and such presented in lists like this.  It makes dealing with a lot of the
page clutter a lot less frustrating and you only have to be exposed to it
when you want to use it.

Of course the trick is figuring out whether the combo box is one that
requires the alt-down arrow or not.  My strategy is simply to press that
key sequence on all such lists.

As I said this doesn't address the best practice and maybe there's a better


At 09:18 AM 3/5/99 -0800, Patrick Burke wrote:
>Hello everyone,
>The problem I will describe can be found at www.census.gov . There is a
>note on
>the site describing recent upcoming changes, so it sounds like it might be a
>good time for accessibility suggestions.
>Is there an agreed fix or method for coding what I will call Option Lists?
>Apparently they are meant to pop up (or pull down?) a list of selectable
>when an item is clicked. When I encounter these (mostly using MSIE4.01 + Jaws
>For Windows), the result is almost always the same: I get the first item in
>list, but arrowing down or mouse-clicking or hitting Enter all simply open
>first link, and I can never get to the rest of the list. (Netscape yields
>similar results, and it doesn't seem to matter if Java is enabled or not.
>displays the choices in the list but fails to bring up the URLs.)
>In looking at the code, this list of items appears to be a <select> ...
>...> construction using Javascript. Either this type of code does not
>produce a
>drop-down list as I expected, or there is some kind of problem in the
>of the code by MSIE and/or its interpretation by JFW. 
>There was a similar feature on the Adobe main page, but it is now gone. There
>is another similar construct (though it seems to be strictly Javascript
>now) on
>the Microsoft home page. There was another example on the MS Search page,
>they have now changed to a much more accessible series of radio buttons.  So
>full marks to MS for this change. Would this also be the best solution for
>Census site?
>Here is the code from www.census.gov (minus links 2-55, which all have the
>structure). I don't know how it might be affected by scripts run elsewhere on
>the page. Removing line 2 from this code yields a navigable list box of
>entries, but then I can't access the CGI script (using the "Choose Profile"
>                <form ACTION="/cgi-bin/geo/location" METHOD="POST">
>                <SELECT NAME="Location"
>                <option value="http://www.census.gov/datamap/www/">Select a
>                <option
>                <option
>                <INPUT TYPE="submit" NAME="submit" BORDER=0 VALUE="Get State
Received on Friday, 5 March 1999 12:51:30 UTC

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