Chapter List

One important skill to master when using the Internet is the ability to fill out forms. An organisation may ask you to fill in a form for several reasons. Such reasons may include the searching of a website, the creating of an online account, the signing into a service or the completing of an online purchase.

Forms can be short and simple, such as a search box on a website, or longer and more advanced, like the completion of a government census form.

You should complete unfamiliar forms by moving through the form line-by-line with the Dolphin Cursor. This is to ensure you do not skip over vital information, for example, you may find choosing "Yes" to one question may require you to skip forward to another section of the form. Such instructions may be marked up as incidental text and thus not output by the screen reader when you are using the TAB key to skip through the form.

You should only use the TAB key or Quick Navigation Keys to navigate a form if you are familiar with its content.

Form elements

In general, there are five types of elements used to make up a form.

These are:

  • A button - usually shown as a small rectangular clickable box. Buttons enable you to confirm completion of part or all of the form such as a Submit button.
  • A checkbox - usually shown as a square box that is ticked (checked) when activated. Checkboxes enable you to choose multiple options from a limited set of  options such as choosing from a range of holiday brochures.
  • An edit box - usually shown as a rectangular box. Edit boxes enable you to type an answer to a question such as your search term, your name, your telephone number or your email address. 
  • A list box – usually appears as a rectangular box with a dropdown status. List boxes, which also includes combo boxes, enable you to choose one or more options from a limited set of choices, for example, your title. List boxes often provide a similar function to radio buttons but are preferred because they use less space on the screen.
  • A radio button - usually shown as a circle that is solid when activated. Radio buttons enable you to choose one exclusive option from a limited set of choices, for example, your marital status. All available options are visible on the screen.

You will find all these form elements are accessible if the web author has followed the accessibility guidelines outlined by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). And you will find interacting with these form elements using the Dolphin Cursor a straightforward process.

Buttons, checkboxes and radio buttons

Interacting with these types of elements requires you to move the Dolphin Cursor onto the element and then to press the SPACEBAR. Pressing the SPACEBAR will activate the element if it is a button and select the element if it is a checkbox or radio button.

Tip: If the SPACEBAR does not interact with the form element as expected, then switch to using the INSERT key. The INSERT key simulates a Left Mouse Click on the form element using an alternative mechanism that addresses some accessibility issues.

Edit boxes

Interacting with edit boxes requires you to move the Dolphin Cursor to the edit box and then to press the ENTER key. When you press the ENTER key you enter Forms Mode. Forms Mode is a special screen reader mode that disables the Dolphin Cursor Quick Navigation Keys so that you are free to type into the edit box.

To leave Forms Mode, press ESCAPE. When you exit Forms Mode, the Dolphin Cursor will automatically turn on again.

List (combo) boxes

Interacting with a list box can differ depending on how the web author has implemented the list. The following steps should work for most circumstances:

  1. Position the Dolphin Cursor on the list box and press ENTER to switch into Forms Mode.
  2. Press ALT + DOWN ARROW to expand the dropdown list and then use the Arrow Keys to choose an item from the list.
  3. Press ALT + UP ARROW to collapse the list.
  4. Press ESCAPE to leave Forms Mode and turn the Dolphin Cursor on again.

Filling in a familiar form

As previously mentioned, you may find the use of the TAB key or Quick Navigation Keys a more productive way to fill in a form if you are familiar with the form's layout and the fields you must complete, for example, if your job requires you to regularly record support calls or complete a daily worksheet.

As you navigate through the form using the TAB key or Quick Navigation Keys, you will be automatically switched in and out of Forms Mode as you encounter the relevant types of elements. This should help make the filling in of the form a much more productive experience.

And here is a reminder of some of the Quick Navigation Keys you may find helpful:

  • F for form.
  • B for buttons.
  • C for combo or list boxes.
  • E for edit boxes.
  • R for radio buttons.
  • X for checkboxes.

And remember, you can use SHIFT + the Quick Navigation Key to navigate back through your page's content.

Tip: If you want to prevent the Dolphin Cursor automatically switching into Forms Mode when navigating, press LEFT CONTROL + SPACEBAR to open the SuperNova or Dolphin ScreenReader Control Panel and deselect the "Automatic Forms Mode" check box in the "Speech Advanced Options" dialog box (ALT, S, A, F). You may want to disable Automatic Forms Mode if you need to move quickly through a form containing multiple edit boxes and the form does not require you to interact with each edit box.