Design an accessible form template

With Microsoft InfoPath Designer, you can create electronic forms that can be used to easily and conveniently collect data. And, you can make those forms accessible to everyone and include people with disabilities.

 Tip    In many countries, accessibility is not just good business. It is also a compliance requirement.

To help make sure that people can access the information that you provide, create Microsoft InfoPath form templates that are as accessible as possible.

In this article


Getting started with accessible form design

If information is accessible, more people can use it. That’s just good business. In addition, compliance with accessibility standards is fast becoming a requirement all over the world.

There are several key guidelines for accessible design.

  • Provide useful descriptions and instructions for your controls and user interface elements.
  • Arrange form controls in the order in which you intend for people to complete them.
  • Use a combination of background and foreground colors that provide good contrast for easy reading.
  • Avoid changing the default keyboard focus. This is especially important if your form is used on a Web Part page with other Web Parts.
  • Make sure that an explicit user action is required to trigger a view switch.

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Accessibility for simple forms

Use the following guidelines to design accessible form.

Make your layout accessible

  • Use meaningful headings    for each section in your form. This creates a strong outline, which improves clarity for everyone. People with learning disabilities benefit from correct formatting, and from chunked information. People who use screen readers can move quickly through headings and choose only the headings that they want to hear detail.
  • Add a new sections    and new headings when you add more information to a form.
  • Avoid nesting layout tables   . Instead, add or remove rows and columns and split or merge cells, as required. The fewer nested layout tables, the easier it is for screen reader users to read through the form. The InfoPath 2010 Designer starts with a page layout for the outer grid, and several section layouts to design groups of controls.
  • Use alternative text (alt text)    to describe any images (icons, pictures, or graphics) that you use in your form. Provide alt text for images which are informative, such as a company logo, but don't add alt text for pictures that are decorative, such as a table border.

Screen readers read the alt text aloud so that the user can understand what the image shows. Alt text also appears when someone moves the pointer over a picture. In addition, search engines read alt-text. So, you can use keywords in the alt text description to improve search results.

To insert an alt text description, follow these steps

  1. Right-click the picture and then click Format Picture.
  2. Click the Text tab.
  3. In the Alternative text box, type the text that you want.

To test your changes, on the Main tab, in the Form group, click Preview.

Make your controls accessible

When a control includes a ScreenTip, the ScreenTip helps people understand how to use the control. In addition, the text of the Screen Tip is then available to people using accessible technologies, such as screen readers.

To add a ScreenTip for a control, follow these steps:

  1. Right-click the control for which you want to add a ScreenTip, and then click Control Properties.
  2. On the Advanced tab, type the text that you want in the ScreenTip box.

To test your changes, on the Main tab, in the UNKNOWN group, click Preview.

Customize text associated with control actions

Certain controls let you customize the text that is associated with control specific actions. For example, a repeating table control lets you customize the assistance text that explains to people how to add new table rows. When available, you should try to include this text in the form and customize it to make it descriptive. People who use screen readers usually move through the form by tabbing, or by reading the content in the order on the page. If you design a form where the tab navigation differs greatly from the order in which content is laid out on the page, it can be confusing.

To add text for control-specific actions, follow these steps.

  1. Right-click the control and then click Properties.
  2. Select the Show insert button and hint text check box, and then type a customized description.

Group relevant controls visually and logically

To group relevant controls together visually, and logically, you might find it useful to insert the controls in a section. Then, adding a ScreenTip to the container section enables a screen reader to provide context for the group of controls, in addition to the control-specific ScreenTip.

Use a logical and intuitive tab order

Tab focus should follow a logical order — usually, focus should move to the control that is next to, or following, the current one. The tab focus shouldn't jump to another section of the screen, which might change the context on the form. Avoid using tab indices to create the flow of keyboard focus. People who use screen readers read the page in the order that it is rendered, which can bypass tab order based on indices.

People who use screen readers move through a form by tabbing or by reading the content in the order that is laid out on the page. If you design a form where the tab navigation differs greatly from the order in which content is laid out on the page, it can be confusing.

To avoid causing confusion for people who use screen readers, we recommend that you change the form layout when you want to change the default tab order of the controls.

For example, if you use a single table layout (3 rows X 2 columns).

A D
B E
C F

Then you'll have left-to-right navigation and your tab order is A, D, B, E, C, F.

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Accessibility for dynamic forms

InfoPath Designer enables you to design rich, interactive forms. These rich forms can be combined with accessibility features to make sure that a wide audience of users can successfully view and complete forms that you design.

Data validation

By adding data validation to controls in a form template, you can make sure that the data that you collect is accurate and consistent. InfoPath provides visual warnings when users enter invalid data, and also lets them move around through all the validation errors by using the keyboard shortcut Ctrl+Shift+O. In addition, details about a specific error are available by using the keyboard shortcut, Ctrl+Shift+I.

As a form designer, you can add value by providing clear, usable data validation messages. For example, you might add a validation rule to enforce that the end time of a meeting is after the start time. In this case, an explicit validation message might be, Enter an end time that is after the start time. This detailed message provides someone with clear information on how to correct the entry versus a vague message, such as Enter correct end-time.

Conditional Formatting

Conditional formatting can provide visual indications to people filling out forms. For example, change the background color of the End Time text box to red to indicate that value is not valid. but, people using high contrast screen settings and screen readers do not benefit from such a design.

In addition to using conditional formatting, always provide an alternative in text. You can use an InfoPath data validation message or use a custom warning that is displayed in a calculated value control.

Dynamic content

InfoPath lets you show or hide sections or calculate field values, depending on user input.

It is recommended to make your forms as predictable as possible. Make sure that all content changes are made to successive sections in the form so that the person completing the form doesn't have to re-visit filled-out sections or controls.

Multiple Views

Another useful InfoPath feature is the ability to split the form into different pages or views. Views can be switched explicitly by someone in the InfoPath ribbon or through rules assigned to various controls on the form. When you add a button to switch views, provide a meaningful button label, such as Go to Next Step, that indicates that the form view is about to change.

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Additional resources

The Microsoft Accessibility website at Microsoft Accessibility provides information about assistance technology for improving the lives of people with disabilities. The information on this site benefits people with disabilities and their friends and family members, people in outreach organizations, educators, and advocates.

A free, monthly electronic newsletter is available to help you stay current with accessibility topics about Microsoft products. To subscribe, visit Free Subscription to the Accessibility Update Newsletter.

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Applies to:
InfoPath 2013