Forms can be created in a number of ways which allow various levels of accessibility, 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. 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 good level of accessibility if properly structured.
There are occasions where people might post a form which is not fillable, used largely for printing and completing by hand. This is not acceptable. If a user is not able to see an unfillable form, or utilize fillable form components, then it will be inaccessible to them.
PDF forms require specialized software to create.
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 ™. These forms often 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.