How to Write Accessible Forms

How to Write Accessible Forms

This tutorial can be viewed one part at a time or all in one page.

Let's Get Started

Note that everything you see in this tutorial is something I've seen "in the wild". I'm not making any of this up.

Extraneous Text

In the textarea there is some text "Enter comments here." There's also some in the Full Name field. That's called 'placeholder text', as is the text in the placeholder attribute. The problem with the placeholder attribute is that the text only appears when the user hasn't entered any data. So, if they forget what they're supposed to be entering, then they have to delete everything to see the instructions, then retype it in. Also, the default style of a lot of browsers makes it a light grey, giving much too low of a contrast ratio.

<form method="POST" action="#" name="theForm" id="theForm">
<div>Fields marked with <span class="red">*</span> are required.</div>
<label for="username">Username: <span class="red">*</span> <span class="invisibleStuff">(Required)</span></label>
<input type="text" name="uname" id="username" required>
<label for="firstname">Full Name: <span class="red">*</span> <span class="invisibleStuff">(Required)</span></label>
<input type="text" name="fname" id="firstname" title="Full names must consist only of letters, a dash, and no more than 3 spaces." required>
<label for="password1">Password: <span class="red">*</span> <span class="invisibleStuff">(Required)</span></label>
<input type="password" name="password" id="password1" required>
<div tabindex="0">Passwords should be at least 8 characters, contain numbers, upper and lower case letters and a special character. This way it will be hard for you to remember, but easy for a computer to guess.</div>
<label for="password2">Re-type Password: <span class="red">*</span> <span class="invisibleStuff">(Required)</span></label>
<input type="password" name="repassword" id="password2" required>
<legend>What's your gender:</legend>
<input type="radio" name="gender" value="female">
<input type="radio" name="gender" value="male">
<label for="province">Where do you live?:</label>
<select id="province" name="prov">
<option value="false">Select Province</option>
<option value="ab">Alberta:</option>
<option value="bc">British Columbia</option>
<option value="mn">Manitoba</option>
<option value="nfld">Newfoundland</option>
<option value="nb">New Brunswick</option>
<option value="nwt">Northwest Territories</option>
<option value="ns">Nova Scotia</option>
<option value="nv">Nunavit</option>
<option value="on">Ontario</option>
<option value="pei">Prince Edward Island</option>
<option value="qc">Quebec</option>
<option value="sk">Saskatchewan</option>
<option value="yk">Yukon</option>
<label for="comments">Comments:</label>
<textarea id="comments" name="comments" title="Enter comments here."></textarea>
<input type="checkbox" name="agree" required> I have read the <a href="accessibleForms/tandc.php">Terms and Conditions</a> and I agree to comply with them. <span class="red">*</span> <span class="invisibleStuff">(Required)</span></label>
<input type="submit" onclick="return validateBetterThenSubmit();" value="Submit">

See this example in action.