Re: Recommendation for Disabled Items

While I agree with the concept of providing access to disabled items, I 
find it more difficult to meet the needs of all users. 

Currently browsers do not set focus to disabled form controls when 
navigating via the tab key.  The only way an assistive technology user can 
discover them is by reviewing the page in "browse" mode rather than 
interactive mode.   The fact that disabled controls are removed from the 
tab order makes navigation for keyboard users more efficient since there 
is no need to stop on a control where interaction is not allowed. 

It gets a bit more complicated when the user is interacting with menu 
items and toolbar buttons.   The AT user may want to know that a certain 
feature is sometimes available so it would be nice is there was a "browse" 
mode for these types of interactive components.  Then the screen reader 
user could review all parts of the component and understand all of the 
options. Currently, a screen reader user must be in "interactive" mode to 
work with scripted ARIA components.  The question is does the screen 
reader user want to have to navigate to and hear all of the options when 
working interactively with a toolbar or menu?  Hearing, "bold - disabled, 
italic - disabled, underline-disabled", when the user wants to navigate to 
the bulleted list button to create a list can be very tedious. And, we are 
adding keystrokes for the keyboard user  who can see which buttons are 
disabled.  The same argument can be made for menu items.   I think this is 
the issue the DHTML style guide was trying to address with the statement, 
"Allowing navigation to the disabled content could be implemented as a 
user preference in the AT".

I also do not think that it is the author's responsibility to provide the 
actual numbers of disabled items.  This number may change dynamically and, 
in my opinion, is not efficient use of JavaScript coding to calculate 
this.  I'd be interested in the opinions of AT users.   I also think the 
browser could calculate this and provide it to the AT if necessary.

my two cents,

Becky Gibson
Web Accessibility Architect
IBM Emerging Internet Technologies
5 Technology Park Drive
Westford, MA 01886
Voice: 978 399-6101; t/l 333-6101
blog: WebA11y

Received on Thursday, 15 May 2008 12:28:19 UTC