Accessibility and HTML Forms

Joe Clark spoke at the Toronto Usability Professionals Association meeting on Tuesday, February 11, 2003. He discussed his new book Building Accessible Websites. Joe mentioned " When people have a passing knowledge of accessibility they think it is about designing for blind or vision impaired users, but they forget that the users with the most difficulty are probably users with mobility disorders". This hit home pretty hard, I thought I had a good understanding of the issues involved with accessibility and universal design, but clearly I don’t. It did make me decide that I should update my pages to make sure that they validate according to W3 Standards.

What are accessible forms?

Joe asked a question about how to design accessible forms. The easiest way to do accessible form layout would be to avoid using tables and to use the label tag. For example:

<label for="firstname">First Name</label><br /> <input type="text" name="firstname" id="firstname" /> <label for="lastname">Last Name</label><br /> <input type="text" name="lastname" id="lastname" />

I wonder if this would work for more complex forms. I also wonder if this actually improves the access for users with disabilities.

I have changed my opinion of the work Joe does, and of accessibility. Joe Clark is a great user advocate. He advocates changes for groups that are an under-represented segment of our population and that can benefit greatly from the technology we are building. I think I need to spend more time learning about accessibility and universal design.

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