[whatwg] Context help in Web Forms

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Wed Oct 22 00:42:48 PDT 2008

On Sun, 12 Jun 2005, Charles McCathieNevile wrote:
> > >
> > > One of the difficulties is that many content providers don't want to 
> > > "clutter their page with help links"
> > 
> > Actually, given the way many sites actually do have help links, or "?" 
> > icons, or the like, I don't see content providers being reluctant to 
> > do this, as you say.
> You are right that many sites *do* have help links present in the page. 
> Some even try to have them on a per question basis. There is in fact an 
> accessibility cost in this for some users (the huge difficulty with 
> getting accessibility right is that it is a very heterogenous, and at 
> times *apparently* conflicting set of user requirements). There are 
> others who don't. The implementation of the contexthelp attribute was 
> driven by the US Treasury, whose audience must measure in millions or 
> tens of millions (I don't know how many US taxpayers read information 
> online around April each year, when they have to file their returns, but 
> I would guess it is a very large number indeed). They were unwilling to 
> add all the visible links. There are many others who believe that all 
> those extra links are clutter.
> I think you and I agree that in fact having them explicit and clearly 
> discoverable is valuable. That doesn't change the fact that there are 
> many designers who do look for a way to hide the help, while making it 
> accessible to screen reader users, or similar. They tend to use CSS 
> tricks at the moment, some of which defeat their goals quite neatly, 
> others of which complicate sites endlessly, and some of which seem to 
> work.

I don't understand how inline text is inaccessible. Could you elaborate? 
An example would be useful.

> > Great! Thanks. I think your idea of making rel="help" be relative to the
> > nearest parent <label> is a good one. We could also say it is relative to
> > the nearest parent <label>, <body>, <section>, <form>, <fieldset>, or
> > other such grouping element. I'll look at this in more detail when
> > defining the rel="" values.
> Cool. The idea is that the thing is really reliably discoverable - 
> otherwise authors will come up with something that makes sense but 
> breaks the implicit model that the spec is built on. I am actually not 
> sure that we mean the same thing when we say "nearest" but I will talk 
> to you off the list about that to clarify that in my mind :-)


rel=help is now defined to apply to the link element's parent and its 

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
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