Form Basics

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Form Basics

Form Basics

  • Section 508 requires that "when electronic forms are designed to be completed online, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues."

Forms consist of a number of possible input or interaction elements including the following.

  • Push buttons, input elements with type="button", type="submit", type="cancel" or type="reset".
  • Image buttons, input elements with type="image"
  • Generalized buttons, button elements
  • Text entry fields, input type="text" or type="password" (or no type) and textarea
  • Radio buttons, input elements with type="radio"
  • Check boxes, input elements with type="checkbox"
  • Select menus, select elements

Several of these are collected in a form element along with other content, including images and text. Usually form elements contain at least one submit button (button or input type="submit").

The accessibility issue for forms is whether or not users with disabilities, especially those who are blind or visually impaired, can determine the purpose of a specific form control and interact with it. A screen reader user will be aware that a text entry field has focus, or a text area or check box, but may not know what information to type there or what is being agreed to with the check. Screen readers try to guess which text corresponds to the on-screen prompt for a given control. Often they guess correctly, but sometimes they are wrong. That is the problem. Being correct most of the time is not good enough for filling out forms on the web.

The Section 508 standards include the following provision that applies to forms. Unlike other standards that prescribe specific actions, this rule states that forms must be accessible and leaves it to web authors to implement that accessibility.

When electronic forms are designed to be completed online, the form shall allow people using assistive technology to access the information, field elements, and functionality required for completion and submission of the form, including all directions and cues.

We'll go through each of the interaction elements that can appear in a form and discuss how to make them accessible and compliant with §1194.22 (n). For one of these input elements, push buttons, the accessibility issue is resolved by default. For the rest, you will have to provide some help for disabled customers.

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