Thanks for providing this David,

I am thinking that the explained 'behavior' description should includes the information about  where in the reading-order/tab-order the user will be returned to at the end of that form component interaction.

Theoretically it should return you back to the logical place you just left before the change of context occurred. If it returns you back to the top/beginning of the page - then that should also be identified, as this is often what happens - and I am unsure just how annoying this is to AT users.......but I know compliance testers find it annoying........and I feel it is disorienting.

I am also concerned about the text input that causes changes of context, - being clearly identified as being included as one of the covered form/context  behaviors - though G13 seems to allude to that in the second example - maybe we need a clearer identification.

In my world this issue is coming up often.



-----Original Message-----
From: David MacDonald
Sent: Aug 17, 2011 6:51 PM
To: 'WCAG'
Cc: 'Loretta Guarino Reid' , 'Gregg Vanderheiden' , 'Michael Cooper'
Subject: WCAG 2 on expanding form controls

In preparation for our discussion of expanding forms, I’ve (we’ve) heard from several blind screen reader users. Their comments are below... there may be a few more comments from another user that I’ve contacted. The consensus currently seems to be the following.


It’s ok to provide a control on a form (such as a dropdown, or checkbox etc) that makes the form expand to add extra content, (or contract to remove content) provided the following four factors are true:


1.  The focus stays on the control when the change happens

2.  The page does not reload

3.  The changes to the form occurs after the control (in the code order) that causes the changes

4.  If the changes to the form include plain text that would not be in the tab order then there should be instructions provided on the control describing the behaviour. This would be provided via the Title element of the control, or WAI ARIA, or another manner which would be obvious to a screen reader user who is tabbing through the controls.


We may want to require a description of the behaviour also.



David MacDonald





A blind man in his 30’s, expert JAWS user says:


“I agree with the blind contributor who says that it is fine so long as the content being generated appears after the control. The experience could be further enhanced by putting live-aria on the new content. Adding a title tooltip on the control may be useful in some situations but unnecessary in others. This behaviour on pages doesn't bother me and can make for a better user experience when it actually works well with AT.”


A blind man in his 50’s full time employed in IT, uses all popular screen readers, prefers WindowEyes says:


“This will present a challenge to text to speech software developers. I do see their value though.

It is going to be difficult to have expanded content without refreshing the page. Some sites seem to do this, but I don't know how they achieve it. The web access for Microsoft Exchange does OK and for the most part leaves your text to speech software where it needs to be. Others will put your review cursor to the top. System Access is better at this, because they don't have a forms mode on/off per say. Window-Eyes struggles with it and JFW is better at it, because they are following the System Access idea....I don't know how you would describe such behaviour so that it is intuitive to everyone. I just deal with it the way it is for now. In my mind it is one of those situations where one just has to learn how certain pages function. Although I can see this being a challenge for a busy site where you need to select a product, a model, serial number within a range, then a specific firmware version. But if you are a person using such a site to get a driver or something of that nature, wouldn't you have the experience and knowledge to deal with such pages?”


A woman in her 40’s, intermediate JAWS, System Access user says:


Hi David, I tend to agree with what the other blind person said. I remember being at a page like that once and I didn't realize what was happening at first so I thought there was a  problem with the page and didn't realize. If the page puts you right where you were, so you can read down and find the extra content, it is better. Once I know a site and if it is done properly, I could jump through by headings to see the extra content, that is okay but not as good. Because, if you don't know the site and how it works, it takes longer to find the content you want. I do hate it when the page reloads and I have to find my place again especially if it is a large site with a lot of content.

Sailesh, on our list says:


“I agree with: Some said as long as the extra content appears after the control that generated it, it s ok.  with a rider: The page does not refresh / reload causing loss of focus or the focus is re-positioned to where it should be. Usually if appearance of new form controls is dependent on choice from  checkbox / radio/ SELECT and the tab flow is managed logically, it poses no problem.

Another scenario is a set of links like a tree menu and when one is expanded a set of child links is presented below it. Here 4.1.2 will also apply: one needs to know it is a menu-link and whether it is expanded /collapsed. Also oned needs to be able to identify the child links as a group... their start and finish. Yet in other cases, it is necessary to notify the user of the behavior. Usually if content (like chart or a data table or other stuff that does not get focus is present below the UI element and this content changes based on the choice made via the UI element, the user should be notified about the behavior. For instance, if data displayed relates to a province or state selected from a drop down and there is no Go button after the drop down. This may be done with page refresh or without.”


Jason says:

“Based on a quick check, these both seem to be cases in which 4.1.2 is not met. Certainly, it is exactly this kind of problem that 4.1.2 was intended to address, as I recall.”


David responds:

There may have been the intention in 4.1.2 to require notifications of changes to page content. However, it is not clear to me in reading the understanding doc for 4.1.2 that there is an obligation under WCAG to announce a change to the page to assistive technology, but only to make the change programmatically available.  We may need to add language to the 4.1.2 understanding to articulate this.




David MacDonald



* katie *

Katie Haritos-Shea 
Section 508 Technical Policy Analyst


People may forget exactly what it was that you said or did, 
but they will never forget how you made them feel.......