JAWS announces that an inline edit area is a button

Colin Clark colin.clark at utoronto.ca
Tue May 12 17:08:51 UTC 2009

Hey all,

On 12-May-09, at 11:36 AM, Michael S Elledge wrote:

> This is an excellent discussion. It sounds like designating the  
> Inline Edit as a textbox role could make the most sense.

I don't think this is a such a clear-cut issue. At heart, the problem  
is that ARIA doesn't provide a suitable role for the kind of  
interaction provided by Inline Edit. Here are the characteristics it  

1. It's activatable. You click it--or hit Enter or Spacebar on it--and  
it will do something.
2. It's alternately viewable and editable. In some cases, it  
represents a form field in which you can edit text.

Neither the button nor the read-only textfield roles encompass both of  
these behaviours. With a button role, there's no indication of what  
happens when you actually activate the button. With a text field role,  
there's no indication that you have to do something to make it editable.

Ultimately, this is a limitation of the role-based approach used by  
MSAA, ARIA, and assistive technologies. In the long run, I'd like to  
see the assistive technology APIs use a "characteristic-based" style,  
in which you can mark up a user interface with the various interaction  
styles it uses. But this is way off in the future. In the meantime,  
perhaps the button role is the best compromise, along with some  
instructional text (aria-labelledby, maybe?) to explain the  
interaction to the user.


Colin Clark
Technical Lead, Fluid Project
Adaptive Technology Resource Centre, University of Toronto

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