Accessibility Guide: Forms
Forms can be created in a number of ways which allow various levels of accessibilty, and control over formatting and printing. The main formats in which forms are produced are html or web based forms, Pdf and Word.
Fillable format allows users to use the tab key to move between the areas which require editing. Without this, screen reader users may not be aware of where they should insert text. Because users can tab between fields to be edited, it makes data entry quicker, and cleaner than writing a form manually by hand. It can also improve the accuracy of the information being collected by reducing the number of errors in translating an individual's handwriting.
Types of forms
HTML or Web
Html or web based forms allow users to complete information on line and either print or submit the information via a website. This requires the webmaster to have forms processing built into the site on the back end to process the form information, such as add it to a database or send it via e-mail. A major drawback of html forms is that it is challenging to control how a web based form will print out to be completed by hand. Web based forms can offer good accessibility if structured properly, and can be created in any text editor.
Pdf stands for portable document format. Pdf forms can be either fillable or not fillable. Fillable versions of pdfs can offer a level of accessibility if properly structured, while not fillable versions are largely for printing and completing by hand. Because of this, they're inaccessible as forms to users who are not able to see the form to complete it. Pdf forms require specialized software to create, and, by State web policy, should be acompanied by an alternative format (or the format needs to be available).
Word forms are the most common type of form seen in State government. They have the benefit of being easily created and read using the standard version of Microsoft Office. They frequently use tables to lay out the information on the page. When protected, they prevent users from editing areas outside of the fillable areas. Frequently, these forms do not take advantage of the ability to make the forms fillable and accessible. That is, the ability to add fields in which the user can enter data and tab to the next field. Adding fillable fields and making them accessible is easily done by someone with intermediate Word skills..
- Instructions on Creating Fillable and Accessible Word 2003 Forms (Word format, 366kb)
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