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is LABEL broken, and if so, how? (was Re: Label-for inadequate)

From: gregory j. rosmaita <oedipus@hicom.net>
Date: Mon, 4 Jun 2001 15:44:04 -0400
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
PJ: We simply need to be able to have the LABEL element label more than one

GJR: why?  it makes more sense to have multiple labels point at a single
field than it does to have a single label pointing at multiple fields...  a
LABEL is a LABEL -- it identifies a unique object...  which is why the
HTML4/XHTML1 spec states that more than one LABEL may be defined for a
single form control, but why only one form control can be associated with a
LABEL or a set of labels which share identical "for" values...  each form
control is unique, even if it does belong to a super-class of control-types
or informational-types -- a LABEL, therefore, should be a unique identifier,
bound to a specific form control; it should not be used to identify a class
of form controls

i think that what you and thatch are seeking is a meta-label, such as that
already provided--admittedly, in a very constrained manner--by LEGEND...
therefore, i would submit that it is the FIELDSET and LEGEND constructs that
need to be either "fixed" or extended, not LABEL...

that being said, i would submit that what _is_ broken with LABEL is that one
can currently define different OnFocus events for a LABEL and the form
control to which it is bound, despite the fact that there is an intrinsic
"onfocus" event defined for LABEL: pass focus when received on to the form
control associated with it...  obviously, if an author defines a distinct
"onfocus" events for a form control and 2 individual labels that are bound
to it via the for/id relationship, the entire equivalency model -- any LABEL
with for="x" is equivalent to any form control with id="x" -- breaks down...

onfocus events should either be limited to form controls, or should be
constrained by the for/id referential relationship -- if a form element with
the id="x" has an onfocus event associated with it, any LABEL in which the
"for" value also equals "x" can only contain an onfocus event which is
identical to that defined for the form element with the id="x"

PJ: But the real problem I have with the TITLE attribute solution is that it
prevents the developer from providing a "tool tip" type additional
information, such as "see field x from the taxpayers W2", which is what the
TITLE attribute is spec'd for.

GJR: i have to disagree with you on both counts -- first, the fact that the
"title" attribute is most often (although not universally) exposed in the
GUI world as a "ToolTip" is an implementation detail, and either a case of
convergent evolution or monkey-see-monkey-do -- nothing in HTML4/XHTML1
specifies that this is "the way" to expose the contents of the "title"
attribute, it is merely cited as one of the ways in which such information
"might" be exposed:

Values of the title attribute may be rendered by user agents in a variety of
ways. For instance, visual browsers frequently display the title as a "tool
tip" (a short message that appears when the pointing device pauses over an
object). Audio user agents may speak the title information in a similar
source: http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/struct/global.html#h-7.4.3

second, since the "title" attribute isn't necessarily meant to be exposed as
a "ToolTip", using the "title" attribute to provide "additional information"
does constitute an abuse of the spec, as the "title" attribute is defined as
follows: "This attribute offers advisory information about the element for
which it is set." -- note the use of the term "advisory" and not
"additional" -- a "title" is intended to be a human-processable
explanation/description of an individual element, not a means of telling a
user where to look or what to do in order to obtain such an

using "title" to convey "additional information" is akin to using "alt" on a
graphically defined hyperlink to "tell" users to "Click Here" via a ToolTip
or to using "alt" as pseudo-placeholder text on a graphical element, such as
"Please wait for the graphics to load" or "This picture is worth the
wait!" -- something which isn't all that uncommon on today's web...

CARTESIAN, adj.  Relating to Descartes, a famous philosopher, author of
the celebrated dictum, Cogito ergo sum--whereby he was pleased to suppose
he demonstrated the reality of human existence.  The dictum might be
improved, however, thus: Cogito cogito ergo cogito sum--"I think that I
think, therefore I think that I am;" as close an approach to certainty as
any philosopher has yet made. -- Ambrose Bierce, _The Devil's Dictionary_
Gregory J. Rosmaita, oedipus@hicom.net
                 Camera Obscura: http://www.hicom.net/~oedipus/index.html
Received on Monday, 4 June 2001 15:43:05 UTC

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