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Indicating required fields

From: Web Accessibility Principles

Video: Indicating required fields

>> Most forms contain some fields that must be filled out in order for the form to be submitted. It's important to notify your users of which fields are required before they fill out the fields so that they can do so correctly. And of course you need to make sure this essential information is provided to people with disabilities as well, so make sure that you avoid using colors to indicated fields that are required versus fields that are not.

Indicating required fields

>> Most forms contain some fields that must be filled out in order for the form to be submitted. It's important to notify your users of which fields are required before they fill out the fields so that they can do so correctly. And of course you need to make sure this essential information is provided to people with disabilities as well, so make sure that you avoid using colors to indicated fields that are required versus fields that are not.

Remember that not everyone is able to distinguish color. People can also change the settings in their browsers to change the colors you have set. And of course screen reader users will not be able to see the color. This means you should also avoid other visual formatting such as bold. This probably has a greater chance of being understood by sighted users but it's still not accessible to visually impaired and blind users. They need to have something in the HTML that can be conveyed to them. Another important consideration when indicating required fields is that you want to notify your users of the requirement before they get to the field.

Remember that a screen reader will be reading things in order and also, people using screen magnifiers are only seeing a very small portion of the screen at a time. If you place the indication of the required field after the field itself, users of these devices will probably already have skipped past the field and may never see the required filed indication. An asterisk is frequently used to denote required fields in a form. This has become so frequently used that it's basically a web convention now and is rather well understood even by screen reader users, so it's okay to use an asterisk, but make sure that you still notify all users about what the symbol means.

Something to keep in mind, though, when using an asterisk is that it's a very small character and may be hard for visually impaired users to see. If you can design your form so that the actual word required could be listed with every field, that's the most accessible option. If you're following along with the exercise files open the page departments.html in Dreamweaver. It's located in the 08_07 folder of the chapter eight exercise files. Let's mark some of the fields in this form as required.

We'll use an asterisk to do so. So first, we'll put a message explaining this in the paragraph that precedes the form. Place your cursor at the end of the paragraph text and type required fields are indicated by an then type *. Let's markup this entire sentence with strong text because it's important information that we want to emphasize. Open the properties inspector if it's not already open and click on the B button.

We can see in the tag selector that this applied strong text to our text. Now scroll down the page, place your cursor at the end of the name label text and type in an asterisk. Highlight over this asterisk as well and click on the view tag in the properties inspector. It's important that the asterisks be placed inside of the label element. This is because many screen readers have a special way of moving through forms known as forms reading mode. In this mode, the user can quickly jump from field to field filling out the information.

When in this mode, the only text that is read to the user are the text of the legend and label elements. If you place text outside of the labels or legends in your form, there's a chance that a screen reader user will never heard it. So keep the indication of which fields are required inside the label. W can see in the tag selector that the strong tag is inside of the label tag, which is listed to its left to show that it's the parent element. What if we wanted to provide even more explicit text about which fields are required to screen reader users who may not understand what the asterisk means? We can again use the off left positioning method to create text that will be read by screen readers but will not be seen by sighed users.

Click on the code button in the document tool bar to go into code view. Place your cursor after the asterisk that we just typed then type an opening span tab, a space, and in the menu of attributes that appears, double click on class. The class attribute is added and now we have a new menu showing the available classes. Double click on the off left class then move your cursor outside of the closing quotation marks and type the closing bracket for the opening tag of the span.

Now we can type the text required. Now type the closing span tag. When you type the first bracket and slash, Dreamweaver finishes the rest of the closing tag for you. Click on the design button in the document tool bar. You'll see that Dreamweaver is showing the text required on the screen. But remember that Dreamweaver is not an actual browser, it doesn't always show things exactly as they will appear in a real browser, so let's click on the globe icon in the document toolbar to bring up the preview in browser window and choose preview in Firefox.

We're asked to save the page, so click yes. We can see that in the browser only the asterisk is displayed. The rest of the text that says required is not on the screen. So this is an instance where the display in Dreamweaver is not completely accurate. Nevertheless our technique has worked. Although the asterisk is colored red, we're not indicating that the form is required by color alone, we're indicating it with a symbol that we've explained. The color is just an example of progressive enhancement.

There's still something there in the HTML, in this case a symbol, marked up with a strong element and also containing the text required for screen readers. The important thing to remember is that required fields need to be indicated through something in the HTML, not through visual formatting alone.

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This video is part of

Image for Web Accessibility Principles
Web Accessibility Principles

68 video lessons · 25706 viewers

Zoe Gillenwater
Author

 
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  1. 2m 0s
    1. Welcome
      1m 3s
    2. Using the exercise files
      57s
  2. 33m 15s
    1. What does accessibility mean?
      5m 51s
    2. How does accessibility help your users?
      3m 30s
    3. Experiencing a website via a screen reader
      5m 46s
    4. How does accessibility help you and your clients?
      3m 9s
    5. Overview of Section 508 standards
      5m 51s
    6. Overview of WCAG standards
      6m 4s
    7. Understanding consistency and semantic markup
      3m 4s
  3. 54m 31s
    1. Understanding screen readers and accessibility tools
      6m 12s
    2. Getting accessible browsers
      5m 41s
    3. Customizing Firefox for accessibility testing
      5m 53s
    4. Using custom accessibility toolbars
      5m 28s
    5. Using Fangs and the Color Contrast Analyzer
      5m 30s
    6. Accessibility tools to bookmark
      5m 53s
    7. Using automated accessibility checking tools
      4m 57s
    8. Setting up the JAWS screen reader on Windows
      6m 42s
    9. Using the VoiceOver screen reader on Mac OS X
      5m 52s
    10. Setting Dreamweaver accessibility preferences
      2m 23s
  4. 26m 12s
    1. Avoiding tables for layout
      3m 30s
    2. Using CSS for layout
      2m 40s
    3. Creating a fixed-width layout
      5m 51s
    4. Creating an elastic layout
      3m 51s
    5. Creating a liquid layout
      3m 4s
    6. Customizing a liquid layout
      7m 16s
  5. 1h 6m
    1. Specifying the language
      3m 43s
    2. Setting page titles
      2m 16s
    3. Setting headings and paragraphs
      9m 55s
    4. Styling headings
      9m 56s
    5. Hiding section headings from sighted users
      6m 41s
    6. Styling text for readability
      6m 41s
    7. Ensuring proper color contrast
      6m 36s
    8. Creating text emphasis
      4m 29s
    9. Indicating quotations
      4m 29s
    10. Creating basic lists
      4m 16s
    11. Styling lists
      7m 15s
  6. 1h 15m
    1. Using lists for navigation
      6m 45s
    2. Creating a horizontal navigation bar
      13m 25s
    3. Creating a vertical navigation bar
      11m 44s
    4. Adding skip navigation links
      12m 0s
    5. Hiding skip navigation links
      6m 17s
    6. Proper link text and title attributes
      6m 11s
    7. Opening new windows
      4m 28s
    8. Accessibility limitations of fly-out menus
      6m 30s
    9. Creating an accessible fly-out menu
      8m 38s
  7. 27m 55s
    1. Proper ALT text for navigation images
      4m 57s
    2. Proper ALT text for decorative images
      5m 19s
    3. Adding ALT text to an existing site
      6m 9s
    4. Adding ALT text to image maps
      5m 58s
    5. Describing complex graphics
      5m 32s
  8. 34m 1s
    1. Using tables for data
      3m 0s
    2. Creating header cells
      4m 5s
    3. Adding table captions and summaries
      9m 9s
    4. Styling tables
      5m 19s
    5. Applying header cells to complex tables
      6m 52s
    6. Adding id and headers attributes
      5m 36s
  9. 42m 7s
    1. Understanding form accessibility issues
      3m 7s
    2. Labeling form fields
      6m 9s
    3. Adding fieldsets and legends
      4m 42s
    4. Moving forms out of tables
      3m 44s
    5. Cleaning up a form's appearance
      4m 53s
    6. Aligning labels and fields using CSS
      9m 39s
    7. Indicating required fields
      6m 15s
    8. Dealing with CAPTCHA
      3m 38s
  10. 7m 29s
    1. The Text-Only technique
      3m 21s
    2. The Access Keys technique
      2m 35s
    3. The Tab Index technique
      1m 33s
  11. 18s
    1. Goodbye
      18s

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