[thelist] accessible way to indicate that a form field is required

Matt Warden mwarden at gmail.com
Thu Nov 16 12:33:28 CST 2006

On 11/16/06, Sarah Adams <mr.sanders at geekjock.ca> wrote:
> I've read that using a different label colour or making a label bold to
> indicate that a form field is required leads to poor accessibility,
> because the different colour might not be obvious to someone who is
> colour blind and wouldn't be at all apparent to someone using a
> screenreader, and that making the label bold would also not be apparent
> using a screenreader.

If you mean bold in the purely visual presentational sense, then yes.
If you mean <strong> or <em>, which in my opinion is more appropriate,
then screen reader will deal with this fine.

> The suggestion then is usually to add an asterisk inside the label to
> indicate that the field is required. But I think that would also be a
> bad choice for a screenreader. What do other people think? Is the
> asterisk a good idea, or would adding <strong> or <em> tags inside the
> label work just as well? I would think this would force the screenreader
> to emphasize the label, without having to actually read out the word
> "asterisk". Thoughts?

You would have to ask a screen reader user, but I think the asterisk
paradigm is used enough that a screen reader user would not be
confused. There are also specific things you could do to give a more
verbose explanation of required fields (e.g., "This field is
required") to screen readers which would not be immediately visible to
visual users, like using a graphic with alt text, or including it in
the description of the field. I suspect that emphasizing and/or using
an asterisk are both fine.

Matt Warden
Cleveland, OH, USA

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