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RE: Drop-down navigation boxes (fwd)

From: Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
Date: Wed, 16 Feb 2000 14:58:28 -0500
Message-Id: <>
To: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Cc: WAI Interest Group Emailing List <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
aloha, charles!

on the WAI-IG list, you observed:
Interestingly, one of the options Lynx provides is to render drop-down 
boxes as checkbuttons instead - there must be a reason why this seemed 

this ability to convert select option form controls into radio buttons was 
added to Lynx specifically to accommodate blind users...  here is a 
(hopefully) brief historical overview which explains the problems that 
popup menu support, as originally implemented in Lynx, caused, and why the 
radio button transformation option was added to Lynx:

when running Lynx with the SHOW_CURSOR setting active, older versions of 
Lynx placed the cursor at the extreme right of the popup menu it generated 
when the user navigated to a SELECT OPTION form control... thus, the use of 
popup menus in conjunction with a screen-reader often made listening to the 
form extremely difficult -- not to mention downright annoying -- for, with 
the cursor placed at the end of the select option text, the only way to 
expose the content of the option was to use your screen-reader's "say-line" 
command, which, of course, led to bleed-through of text from the underlying 
page content... as a compensatory measure, the Lynx Developmental 
Consortium built the toggle mechanism into Lynx, so that the user could 
decide whether to have Lynx render the options contained in the select menu 
either as a popup box or to render each option as a radio button... and for 
(what was then state-of-the-art) accessibility's sake, each radio button 
was placed on a separate line...

so, why precisely was the ability to convert select option menus into a 
series of radio buttons added to Lynx? mainly because those actually doing 
the programming argued that it would take considerably more programming 
time and effort to move the cursor from the extreme right of the popup menu 
box (i.e. after the last character in the option), to the extreme left of 
the popup menu box (which is to say, on the first character of the first 
option in the select option menu -- a placement which would allow screen 
readers to speak the selected option ONLY when the user navigated the 
option list with the arrow keys)

anyway, to nip a burgeoning epic in the bud, thankfully, wayne buttles -- 
the man behind bobcat and lynx32 -- was willing to take the time to effect 
the change in bobcat and lynx32, which eventually led the 
Lynx-Developmental consortium to do the same...

it should also be noted that, when the MULTIPLE attribute is defined for 
the SELECT element, Lynx has always converted popup menus into checkboxes...

He that lives on Hope, dies farting
      -- Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard's Almanack, 1763
Gregory J. Rosmaita <unagi69@concentric.net>
    WebMaster and Minister of Propaganda, VICUG NYC
Received on Wednesday, 16 February 2000 14:49:13 UTC

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