508 compliance for online forms

28 Mar 2005 - 2:26am
9 years ago
4 replies
2139 reads
nuritps
2010

We develop a web application which is used by government users, as such it
is 508 compliant...

According to 508 checkpoint 10.4, text boxes should be filled with text,
advising the user how to fill the text box
For example a search text box will present "Enter Search Terms" (see
http://www.us.gov/)

My hesitation is about combo box (drop down lists). Until now I've always
presented a default value in the combo box and it still seems to be the
right way. Is it a problem for reading-aid tools? I don't know.
Anyway if I present a form with a list of fields, all with help-text, should
the combo also present text instead of the default value?
I can say yes if it is a state selection, but it is more difficult when
there are only a few option and one is much more frequent...

Any thoughts?

Thanks,
Nurit Peres

Innovative Compliance Inc.
http://www.innovativecompliance.com

Comments

28 Mar 2005 - 12:41pm
Tanya Rabourn
2004

> According to 508 checkpoint 10.4, text boxes should be filled with text,
> advising the user how to fill the text box

Do you mean the W3C's WCAG checkpoint 10.4? "Until user
agents handle empty controls correctly, include default,
place-holding characters in edit boxes and text areas"?

"Place holding characters" are necessary for empty form
elements such as a text box. Such place holding characters
needn't be instructional text, the W3C just offers that as a
suggestion. You aren't required to provide instructional
text *inside the form operator* instead you can associate
such text using the label tag etc. A place holding character
can just be a space. Apparently some older user agents would
skip over form controls without an initial value, so, that
checkpoint is just trying to prevent that.

Of course you don't even have to worry about this for form
controls that have a default value. By definition, they are
not empty controls.

-Tanya

28 Mar 2005 - 12:53pm
Johan Sjostrand
2005

I agree with Tanya.
What I tend to do to is to use a default value within textfields if
there is a certain format the user should follow. This hint is in light
gray in order to not clutter the form too much. When the user clicks
inside of the text field, the default value goes away, and as soon as
they start typing, the color have changed to black.

This has proven to be effective in some of our recent projects and we
will continue to use it as long as (let's make up a number) 95%+ of the
target audience has javascript turned on.

/J

Tanya Rabourn wrote:

>[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]
>
>
>
>>According to 508 checkpoint 10.4, text boxes should be filled with text,
>>advising the user how to fill the text box
>>
>>
>
>Do you mean the W3C's WCAG checkpoint 10.4? "Until user
>agents handle empty controls correctly, include default,
>place-holding characters in edit boxes and text areas"?
>
>"Place holding characters" are necessary for empty form
>elements such as a text box. Such place holding characters
>needn't be instructional text, the W3C just offers that as a
>suggestion. You aren't required to provide instructional
>text *inside the form operator* instead you can associate
>such text using the label tag etc. A place holding character
>can just be a space. Apparently some older user agents would
>skip over form controls without an initial value, so, that
>checkpoint is just trying to prevent that.
>
>Of course you don't even have to worry about this for form
>controls that have a default value. By definition, they are
>not empty controls.
>
>-Tanya
>
>
>
>
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28 Mar 2005 - 1:18pm
Gerard Torenvliet
2004

Nurit:

You can find guidance about how to comply with this checkpoint here:

http://bobby.watchfire.com/bobby/html/en/gls/g109.html

Note that what you have cited is a WCAG checkpoint, not a provision of
Section 508. If you want to be compliant with Section 508 for forms,
you need to use the label attribute for all fields. See:

http://bobby.watchfire.com/bobby/html/en/gls/g55.html

and

http://www.access-board.gov/sec508/guide/1194.22.htm#(n)

In your case, a drop-down box should have some default value selected
in order to comply with WCAG checkpoint 10.4. That default text should
be one of the available options, and not some generic text like
"state".

If you want to comply with the WCAG, the very common web practice of
using a blank default value for a drop-down (to ensure that people
actually fill something in) is verboten. In most cases, the marketing
need for valid data from people filling out forms seems to trump
adherence to a questionable accessibility guideline.

Regards,
-Gerard

P.S. From an accessibility point of view, any solution that *relies
on* Javascript is probably a bad solution. That's the opinion of the
guidelines, anyhow:

http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/#gl-new-technologies

--
Gerard Torenvliet
g.torenvliet at gmail.com

28 Mar 2005 - 2:26pm
Johan Sjostrand
2005

I agree with those guidelines when it comes to using js for content
delivery. But if it is for usability enhancement for a great deal of the
majority of users, I think they deserve better. The solutions should
still work, even if it's not as good. General stats you might find
online would probably say that 5-10% of users have JS turned off. When I
worked on autodesk.com however, only 0.02% had it turned off according
to the stats.

/J

>P.S. From an accessibility point of view, any solution that *relies
>on* Javascript is probably a bad solution. That's the opinion of the
>guidelines, anyhow:
>
>http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/#gl-new-technologies
>
>
>

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