JAWS ARIA Role Support

A Work in progress: Last updated 7 October 2017.

Editors: Steve Faulkner, Léonie Watson, Dennis Deacon and Scott O'Hara

Github Repo: FreedomScientific/VFO-standards-support

Found a bug? Please report it.

Read the JAWS ARIA Support Notes and Key Concepts

Support legend

JAWS testing - In progress

JAWS ARIA role Support (Firefox on Windows 10)
Role Description Test case Interaction Supported Notes
alert A type of live region with important, and usually time-sensitive, information. See related alertDialog and status.

alert test

alert example

  yes
This role does not appear in either the virtual buffer or Forms Mode, but its contents are spoken by JAWS when an alert is made visible.
alertdialog A type of dialog that contains an alert message, where initial focus goes to an element within the dialog. See related alert and dialog.

alertdialog test

alertdialog example

  yes  
application A structure containing one or more focusable elements requiring user input, such as keyboard or gesture events, that do not follow a standard interaction pattern supported by a widget role. - (changed) application test   yes  
article A section of a page that consists of a composition that forms an independent part of a document, page, or site. article test
  • Move to Next Region SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) R (JAWS 15+)
  • Move to Previous Region SHIFT+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) SHIFT+R (JAWS 15+)
  • Select a Region INSERT+CTRL+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) INSERT+CTRL+R (JAWS 15+)
yes  
banner A region that contains mostly site-oriented content, rather than page-specific content.

banner test

banner example

  • Move to Next Region SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) R (JAWS 15+)
  • Move to Previous Region SHIFT+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) SHIFT+R (JAWS 15+)
  • Select a Region INSERT+CTRL+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) INSERT+CTRL+R (JAWS 15+)
yes  
button An input that allows for user-triggered actions when clicked or pressed. See related link.

button test

button examples

  • List Buttons CTRL+INSERT+B
  • Next Button B
  • Previous button B
yes  
checkbox A checkable input that has three possible values: true, false, or mixed.

checkbox test

checkbox example

  • List Check Boxes CTRL+INSERT+X
  • Move To Next Check Box X
  • Move to Prior Check Box SHIFT+X
yes  
cell A cell in a tabular container.

cell test

test-cases.tink.uk/aria-tables

  • Jump to Table Cell (from within a table) CTRL+WINDOWS Key+J
  • Return to Previous Cell CTRL+SHIFT+WINDOWS Key+J
  • Read current cell CTRL+ALT+NUM PAD 5
  • Move to and Read Next Cell CTRL+ALT+RIGHT ARROW
  • Move to and Read Prior Cell CTRL+ALT+LEFT ARROW
  • Move to and Read Cell Above CTRL+ALT+UP ARROW
  • Move to and Read Cell Below CTRL+ALT+DOWN ARROW
yes  
columnheader A cell containing header information for a column.

columnheader test

test-cases.tink.uk/aria-tables

  yes  
combobox A presentation of a select; usually similar to a textbox where users can type ahead to select an option, or type to enter arbitrary text as a new item in the list. See related listbox.

combobox test

combobox example

  • Move To Next Combo Box C
  • Move to Prior Combo Box SHIFT+C
  • List of Combo boxes CTRL+INSERT+C
yes  
complementary A supporting section of the document, designed to be complementary to the main content at a similar level in the DOM hierarchy, but remains meaningful when separated from the main content.

complementary test

complementary examples

  • Move to Next Region SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) R (JAWS 15+)
  • Move to Previous Region SHIFT+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) SHIFT+R (JAWS 15+)
  • Select a Region INSERT+CTRL+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) INSERT+CTRL+R (JAWS 15+)
yes  
contentinfo A large perceivable region that contains information about the parent document.

contentinfo test

contentinfo example

  • Move to Next Region SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) R (JAWS 15+)
  • Move to Previous Region SHIFT+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) SHIFT+R (JAWS 15+)
  • Select a Region INSERT+CTRL+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) INSERT+CTRL+R (JAWS 15+)
yes  
definition A definition of a term or concept. definition test   no  
dialog A dialog is an application window that is designed to interrupt the current processing of an application in order to prompt the user to enter information or require a response. See related alerTDialog.

dialog test

dialog example

  yes

Note (Aug 31, 2017): When tested with JAWS 18 & IE 11, dialog not announced when opened. Additionally, field names/labels shared across all input fields. JAWS 18 & FF 55 worked as expected.

This role will be announced only when a child of the dialog gets focus, and will not appear in the virtual buffer.

directory A list of references to members of a group, such as a static table of contents.

directory test

directory example

See Table of Contents

  no Note (Sept 19, 2017): tested with JAWS 18 and FF, expected list commands to navigate to role=directory, does not occur.
document A region containing related information that is declared as document content, as opposed to a web application. document test   yes

This role may not be explicitly announced by JAWS, but it indicates that the area it occupies is meant to be read as a Web page. This is the default role of the topmost object in a Web page (i.e., the body element).

feed A scrollable list of articles where scrolling may cause articles to be added to or removed from either end of the list. feed test   no  
figure A perceivable section of content that typically contains a graphical document, images, code snippets, or example text. figure test   no  
form A landmark region that contains a collection of items and objects that, as a whole, combine to create a form. See related search.

form test

form example

  • Move to Next Region SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) R (JAWS 15)
  • Move to Previous Region SHIFT+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) SHIFT+R (JAWS 15)
  • Select a Region INSERT+CTRL+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) INSERT+CTRL+R (JAWS 15)
yes Need to check whether it needs an accessible name to be announced/navigable
grid A grid is an interactive control which contains cells of tabular data arranged in rows and columns, like a table.

grid test

grid example

  yes  
gridcell A cell in a grid or treegrid.

gridcell test

grid example

  yes  
group A set of user interface objects which are not intended to be included in a page summary or table of contents by assistive technologies.

group test

group example

  ?

Like document, this role may not be explicitly announced by JAWS. However, when it surrounds a group of form controls, JAWS should announce its name and description when entering the group.

heading A heading for a section of the page.

heading test

heading example

  • List Headings INSERT+F6
  • Next Heading H
  • Prior Heading SHIFT+H
  • First Heading ALT+INSERT+HOME
  • Last Heading ALT+INSERT+END
  • Next Heading at Level - number keys 1 through 6
  • Prior Heading at Level SHIFT+1 through 6
  • First Heading at Level ALT+CTRL+INSERT+1 through 6
  • Last Heading at Level ALT+CTRL+INSERT+ SHIFT+1 through 6
yes Requires aria-level attribute with a valid value to announce level.
img A container for a collection of elements that form an image. img test
  • List of Graphics CTRL+INSERT+G
  • Next Graphic G
  • Previous Graphic SHIFT+G
yes  
An interactive reference to an internal or external resource that, when activated, causes the user agent to navigate to that resource. See related button.

link test

link example

  • List Links INSERT+F7
  • Next Link TAB
  • Prior Link SHIFT+TAB
  • Next Visited Link V
  • Prior Visited Link SHIFT+V
  • Open Link ENTER
  • Open Link in New Window SHIFT+ENTER
  • Next Non Link Text N
  • Prior Non Link Text SHIFT+N
yes Need to check if visited/unvisited state exposed, expect not as this comes from native link implementation.
list A group of non-interactive list items. See related listbox.

list test

list example

  • List All Ordered, Unordered, and Definition Lists CTRL+INSERT+L
  • Next List L
  • Previous List SHIFT+I
  • Next Item in a List I
  • Previous item in a List SHIFT+I
yes  
listbox A widget that allows the user to select one or more items from a list of choices. See related combobox and list.

listbox test

  yes  
listitem A single item in a list or directory.

listitem test

listitem example

  • Next Item in a List I
  • Previous Item in a List SHIFT+I
yes  
log A type of live region where new information is added in meaningful order and old information may disappear. See related marquee. log test   yes

Presently, this role is known to work with JAWS in Firefox only, and it functions as a type of live region.  JAWS inserts start and end strings into the virtual buffer to indicate the log.

main The main content of a document.

main test

main example

  • Move to Main Region Q
  • Move to Next Region SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) R (JAWS 15+)
  • Move to Previous Region SHIFT+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) SHIFT+R (JAWS 15+)
  • Select a Region INSERT+CTRL+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) INSERT+CTRL+R (JAWS 15+)
yes  
marquee A type of live region where non-essential information changes frequently. See related log.

marquee test

marquee example

  ?  
math Content that represents a mathematical expression.

math test

math example

  ?  
menu A type of widget that offers a list of choices to the user.

menu test

menu example (see sub-menu in example)

  yes  
menubar A presentation of menu that usually remains visible and is usually presented horizontally.

menubar test

menubar example

  yes  
menuitem An option in a group of choices contained by a menu or menubar.

menuitem test

menuitem example (included in menubar example)

  yes  
menuitemcheckbox A checkable menuitem that has three possible values: true, false, or mixed.

menuitemcheckbox test

menuitemcheckbox example

  ?  
menuitemradio A checkable menuitem in a group of menuitemradio roles, only one of which can be checked at a time.

menuitemradio test

menuitemradio example

  ?  
navigation A collection of navigational elements (usually links) for navigating the document or related documents.

navigation test

navigation example

  • Move to Next Region SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) R (JAWS 15+)
  • Move to Previous Region SHIFT+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) SHIFT+R (JAWS 15+)
  • Select a Region INSERT+CTRL+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) INSERT+CTRL+R (JAWS 15+)
yes  
none An element whose implicit native role semantics will not be mapped to the accessibility API. See synonym presentation.

none test

  ?  
note A section whose content is parenthetic or ancillary to the main content of the resource.

note test

note example (the footer of the blockquote)

  yes

JAWS inserts start and end strings into the virtual buffer to indicate notes.

option A selectable item in a select list.

option test

option example

  yes  
presentation An element whose implicit native role semantics will not be mapped to the accessibility API. presentation test   yes  
progressbar An element that displays the progress status for tasks that take a long time.

progressbar test

progressbar example

  yes  
radio A checkable input in a group of radio roles, only one of which can be checked at a time.

radio test

radio example

"radio button checked/not checked" label content "x of y" where x = position in radio group, y = number of radio buttons in group.

  • List Radio Buttons CTRL+INSERT+R (JAWS <15) CTRL+INSERT+A (JAWS 15+)
  • Move To Next Radio Button R (JAWS <15) A (JAWS 15+)
  • Move to Prior Radio Button SHIFT+R (JAWS <15) SHIFT+A (JAWS 15+)
yes  
radiogroup A group of radio buttons.

radiogroup test

radiogroup example

  ?  
region A large perceivable section of a web page or document, that the author feels is important enough to be included in a page summary or table of contents, for example, an area of the page containing live sporting event statistics.

region test

region example

If the region has an accessible name then:

  • Move to Next Region SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) R (JAWS 15+)
  • Move to Previous Region SHIFT+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) SHIFT+R (JAWS 15+)
  • Select a Region INSERT+CTRL+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) INSERT+CTRL+R (JAWS 15+)
yes  
row A row of cells in a tabular container.

row test

row example

  • Read Next Row WINDOWS Key+ALT+DOWN ARROW
  • Read Prior Row WINDOWS Key+ALT+UP ARROW
  • Read Current Row ALT+WINDOWS Key+COMMA
  • Read from Beginning of Row to Current Cell INSERT+SHIFT+HOME
  • Read from Current Cell to End of Row INSERT+SHIFT+PAGE UP
yes  
rowgroup A group containing one or more row elements in a grid. rowgroup test   no Need to test with rowgroup+accessible name
rowheader A cell containing header information for a row in a grid.

rowheader test

rowheader example

  yes  
scrollbar A graphical object that controls the scrolling of content within a viewing area, regardless of whether the content is fully displayed within the viewing area. scrollbar test   ?  
A landmark region that contains a collection of items and objects that, as a whole, combine to create a search facility. See related form .

search test

search example

  • Move to Next Region SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) R (JAWS 15)
  • Move to Previous Region SHIFT+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) SHIFT+R (JAWS 15)
  • Select a Region INSERT+CTRL+SEMICOLON (JAWS 14) INSERT+CTRL+R (JAWS 15)
yes  
A type of textbox intended for specifying search criteria. searchbox test
  • List Edit Boxes CTRL+INSERT+E
  • Move To Next Edit Box E
  • Move to Prior Edit Box SHIFT+E
   
separator A divider that separates and distinguishes sections of content or groups of menuitems.

separator test

separator (accordion) example

(When using JAWS, start at heading "Example," then read down)

  • Move to Next Separator DASH
  • Move to Prior Separator SHIFT+DASH
yes  
slider A user input where the user selects a value from within a given range.

slider test

single slider example

multi slider example

If the slider has the appropriate scripted event handlers:

  • RIGHT ARROW and UP ARROW increase the value of the slider.
  • LEFT ARROW and DOWN ARROW decrease the value of the slider.
  • HOME and END move to the minimum and maximum values of the slider.
  • PAGE UP and PAGE DOWN increment or decrement the slider by a given amount.
yes  
spinbutton A form of range that expects the user to select from among discrete choices.

spinbutton test

spinbutton example

If the spinbutton has the appropriate scripted event handlers:
  • List Edit Boxes CTRL+INSERT+E
  • Move To Next Edit Box E
  • Move to Prior Edit Box SHIFT+E
  • Increase value UP ARROW
  • Decrease value DOWN ARROW
yes

JAWS announces this role as a “spin box”.

status A container whose content is advisory information for the user but is not important enough to justify an alert, often but not necessarily presented as a status bar. See related alert.

status test

status example

  ?  
switch A type of checkbox that represents on/off values, as opposed to checked/unchecked values.

switch test

switch button example

  • List Check Boxes CTRL+INSERT+X
  • Move To Next Check Box X
  • Move to Prior Check Box SHIFT+X
?  
tab A grouping label providing a mechanism for selecting the tab content that is to be rendered to the user.

tab test

tab example

  yes  
table A section containing data arranged in rows and columns. The table role is intended for tabular containers which are not interactive.

table test

table example

  • List Tables CTRL+INSERT+T
  • Next Table T
  • Previous Table SHIFT+T
  • Select Table use F8. To select an entire table, move to the line that reads, "Table with x columns and y rows," and press F8.
yes  
tablist A list of tab elements, which are references to tabpanel elements.

tablist test

tablist example

  ?  
tabpanel A container for the resources associated with a tab, where each tab is contained in a tablist.

tabpanel test

tabpanel example

  ?  
term A word or phrase with a corresponding definition. See related definition. term test   no  
textbox Input that allows free-form text as its value. textbox test
  • List Edit Boxes CTRL+INSERT+E
  • Move To Next Edit Box E
  • Move to Prior Edit Box SHIFT+E
yes  
timer A type of live region containing a numerical counter which indicates an amount of elapsed time from a start point, or the time remaining until an end point.

timer test

timer example

  ?  
toolbar A collection of commonly used function buttons represented in compact visual form.

toolbar test

toolbar example

  yes

This role is indicated in the virtual buffer by start and end messages.

tooltip A contextual popup that displays a description for an element.

tooltip test

tooltip example

  yes

This role is not shown by JAWS in the virtual buffer or in Forms Mode, but its contents are spoken when it becomes visible.

tree A type of list that may contain sub-level nested groups that can be collapsed and expanded.

tree test

treeitem example

  yes

When in the virtual buffer, JAWS may show only one item of a tree control. This allows the user to navigate past the tree quickly.

treegrid A grid whose rows can be expanded and collapsed in the same manner as for a tree.

treegrid test

treegrid example

  ?  
treeitem An option item of a tree. This is an element within a tree that may be expanded or collapsed if it contains a sub-level group of treeitems.

treeitem test

treeitem example

  yes  

ARIA States

ARIA States
State Description Test case Interaction Supported Notes
aria-busy Indicates an element is being modified      ?

In Firefox, an element marked as aria-busy is omitted from the accessibility tree for the page.

aria-checked Indicates the checked state of an element      yes  
aria-current Indicates an element is the current item in a collection test-cases.tink.uk/aria-current   yes All tokens supported in Chrome, Firefox, and IE
aria-disabled Indicates an element is perceivable but disabled test-cases.tink.uk/aria-disabled   yes

Element reported as "unavailable" in Chrome, Firefox, and IE

JAWS announces this state for form controls.

aria-expanded Indicates the current expansion state of an element test-cases.tink.uk/aria-expanded   yes Element reported as "expanded" or "collapsed" in Chrome and Firefox, but not IE
aria-grabbed Indicates an element's grabbed state in a drag and drop operation       Deprecated in ARIA 1.1
aria-hidden Indicates whether an element is exposed to the accessibility API test-cases.tink.uk/aria-hidden   yes Element hidden in Chrome, Firefox, and IE
Note: this Firefox bug
aria-invalid Indicates the entered data does not conform to the expected format      yes  
aria-pressed Indicates the current pressed state of an element   yes Element announced as "pressed" in Firefox, but not IE. Also triggers forms mode under ceratin circumstances. Refer to issue: Use of aria-pressed triggers manual forms mode
aria-selected Indicates the current selected state of an element      yes Works on certain roles and elements, needs thorough testing to document support.
State          

ARIA Properties

ARIA Properties
Propertey Description Test case Interaction Supported Notes
aria-activedescendant Identifies the currently active element when DOM focus is on a composite widdget, textbox, group, or application     yes

JAWS uses this state to locate the focused items in tree views, list boxes, and other such controls that manage multiple, focusable children.

aria-atomic Indicates whether ATs will present all or part of changes in a live region      yes Works on certain roles and elements, needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-autocomplete Indicates whether the element has autocomplete capability      ?  
aria-colcount Defines the total number of columns in a table      ?  
aria-colindex Defines an element's column index, or position with respect to the total columns in a table      ?  
aria-colspan Defines the number of columns spanneed by a cell or gridcell within a table      ?  
aria-controls Identifies the element (or elements) controlled by the current element      yes

JAWS will announce that an element has the “controls” relationship to another element on the page. The user can move to the controlled element using INSERT+ALT+M.

aria-describedby Identifies the element (or elements) that describes the current element     yes

JAWS announces this state for form controls. The user can read the describedby text using INSERT+ALT+R.

aria-details Identifies the element that provides a detailed description of the current element      ?  
aria-dropeffect Indicates what actions can be performed when a dragged element is released on a drop target       Deprecated in ARIA 1.1
aria-errormessage Identifies the element that provides an error message for the current element      ?  
aria-flowto Identifies the next element (or elements) in an alternative reading order     yes

When the author defines these relationships on elements in a Web page, JAWS will announce that the element has a “flows from” or “flows to” relationship. The user can move to “flows to” elements using the EQUALS Navigation Quick Key and to “flows from” using the SHIFT+EQUALS Navigation Quick Key.

aria-haspopup Indicates the availability and type of a popup menu or dialog aria-haspup tests    yes Works on certain roles and elements, needs thorough testing to document support. bug filed on JAWS to support the new aria-haspopup values from ARIA 1.1
aria-kshortcuts Indicates keyboard shortcuts provided by the author      ?  
aria-label Defines a string value that labels the current element      yes Works on certain roles and elements, needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-labelledby Identifies the element that provides a label for the current element      yes Works on certain roles and elements, needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-level Defines the hierarchical level of an element within a structure       yes Works on certain roles and elements, needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-live Indicates that an element will be updated, and describes the types of updates       yes Works on certain roles and elements, needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-modal Indicates whether an element is modal when displayed      ?  
aria-multiline Indicates whether a textbox accepts multiple lines of input, or only a single line      ?  
aria-multi-selectable Indicates that more than one item may be selected from the currently selectable descendants      ?  
aria-orientation Indicates whether the element's orientation is horizontal, vertical, or undefined      ?  
aria-owns Identifies an element (or elements) in order to define a parent/child relationship test-cases.tink.uk/aria-owns     yes Works on certain roles and elements, needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-placeholder Defines a short word or hint intended to aid data entry      ?  
aria-posinset Defines an element's position in a current set of listitems or treeitems       yes Needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-readonly Indicates an element is not editable, but is otherwise operable       yes Works on certain roles and elements, needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-relevant Indicates what notifications the UA will trigger when the accessibility tree is modified       yes Needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-required Indicates that user input is required on the current element      yes Needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-roledescription Defines a human readable, author localised description for the role of an element      ?  
aria-rowcount Defines the total number of rows in a table      ?  
aria-rowindex Defines an element's row index, or position with regard to the total rows in a table      ?  
aria-rowspan Defines the number of rows spanned by a cell or gridcell      ?  
aria-setsize Defines the number of items in a current set of listitems or treeitems       yes Needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-sort Indicates whether the items in a table or grid are sorted in ascending, descending order       yes Needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-valuemax Defines the maximum allowed value for a range       yes Needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-valuemin Defines the minimum allowed value for a range       yes Needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-valuenow Defines the current value for a range       yes Needs thorough testing to document support.
aria-valuetext Defines the human readable text of aria-valuenow       yes Needs thorough testing to document support.
Property          

 

JAWS ARIA Support Notes

Preface

Before discussing JAWS support for ARIA, it is important to understand the relationship between the ARIA markup itself, the browser in which the markup is rendered, and JAWS as it provides spoken or Braille information to users.

First, ARIA markup was designed to insert information useful to assistive technologies into existing HTML code. It exists as a way to label controls and to provide information about their states. But adding ARIA support to a Web page does not change the presentation or behavior of that Web page to sighted users. For example, adding the ARIA role of “checkbox” to a “div” tag within a Web page will produce no visible effect on the page. Instead, if there is a check box on the page which has been rendered without using the “input” tag, the ARIA role of “checkbox” can be added to the code to inform assistive technology users that a check box appears at that point on the page.

Second, the browser plays a big role in interpreting ARIA markup. Most browsers support some type of accessibility API (application programming interface), and assistive technologies use the API to get information about what is presented on the screen. So, ARIA markup is transformed by the browser into information that fits the accessibility API it supports. Then, the information provided by the API is processed by the assistive technology. That means JAWS support of ARIA depends heavily on the browser being used.

Third, JAWS gathers information from the ARIA markup and the browser’s API and presents it in a meaningful way to screen reader users. Because of the above interactions, the quality of JAWS support for ARIA markup is inextricably tied to the careful, thorough application of ARIA markup on a Web page, and comprehensive support provided by the browser in which the markup is rendered.

For best results, Freedom Scientific recommends that Web page authors read the WAI-ARIA 1.1 Authoring Practices carefully before adding ARIA markup to their pages. Also, concepts such as roles, states, landmarks, and so on are defined as part of the ARIA specification, and are therefore not defined in this document. If you are unfamiliar with these concepts please read through the ARIA documentation before continuing.

For the reasons described above, there may be differences in JAWS ARIA support between Internet Explorer and Firefox. Please test any examples in both browsers. And please specify which browser you’re using when reporting problems to Freedom Scientific.

Key Concepts

It is a good idea to have a firm grasp of the following concepts. These items form the basis of many descriptions throughout the documentation.

Virtual Cursor

JAWS presents Web pages using the JAWS Virtual Cursor. This allows users to read and navigate a Web page as though it were a text document. Users press the ARROW keys to read line by line, word by word, character by character, and so on. JAWS also provides Navigation Quick Keys, which are alpha-numeric keys that move the Virtual Cursor to features of the page such as links, headings, and form controls. In addition, users can press the TAB key to move between focusable elements on the page.

Using the ARROW keys or Navigation Quick Keys to change the position of the Virtual Cursor does not change the actual focus point in the application. This means that even if JAWS reads the text of a given link on a Web page for example, that link doesn't necessarily have the keyboard focus.

The keyboard focus is typically represented visually as a highlighted area surrounding a control.
Conversely, pressing the TAB or SHIFT+TAB key to navigate moves the focus point and the Virtual Cursor follows the focus.

Forms Mode

Because JAWS uses the arrow keys and alpha-numeric keys for Virtual Cursor navigation, these keyboard commands are not passed through to interactive controls (form fields) on the page. This approach has the added benefit of protecting users from inadvertently changing form field values or activating controls on the page while simply reviewing the content.

Forms Mode is when JAWS turns over processing of the above keys to form controls so that users can interact with them. For example, when using the Virtual Cursor, pressing the letter F moves the Virtual Cursor to the next form field on the Web page, while in Forms Mode, pressing the letter F types the character "f".

Auto Forms Mode

Before JAWS 10, JAWS users had to enter and exit Forms Mode manually. Users navigated to a given control using the Virtual Cursor, and would then press the ENTER key to activate Forms Mode. Pressing NUM PAD PLUS (PC Cursor) caused JAWS to exit forms mode.

When Forms Mode is manually activated on a given form control, focus is set to that control.

Auto Forms Mode is a feature that tells JAWS to be smart about when to enter and exit Forms Mode. This is a setting which is on by default. This approach provides a seamless experience for JAWS users when both reading and interacting with a Web page.

The behavior of Auto Forms Mode depends on the type of form field in question and the keyboard command used to navigate to it. The following is a description of the keyboard commands and how they affect Web page form fields:

ARROW Keys

When the Virtual Cursor is active, JAWS enters Forms Mode upon encountering an edit field. Focus is moved to the edit control, and users can begin typing.

In Forms Mode, the ARROW keys move the caret within the edit field. If an ARROW key is pressed and the caret has already reached the boundary of the edit field, JAWS exits forms mode and resumes using the Virtual Cursor. Pressing ESC or NUM PAD PLUS will cause JAWS to exit Forms Mode.

Edit fields are the only controls for which JAWS enters or exits Forms Mode automatically based on the ARROW keys. For other controls, if JAWS is using the Virtual Cursor, it will continue to use the Virtual Cursor. This is so that users don't accidentally change the value of a control while attempting simply to navigate past it. If JAWS is already in Forms Mode, ARROW keys will not cause JAWS to leave Forms Mode. This is so that users won't unintentionally leave Forms Mode while interacting with a control. When ARROW keys are used to navigate to non-edit controls, users must activate Forms Mode manually by pressing ENTER.

TAB Key

Using the TAB key always causes the focus point to move. When focus changes to a given form control, JAWS activates Forms Mode automatically based on the type of control in question.

For edit fields, combo boxes, spin controls, list controls, tab controls, menu bars, tree views, and grid cells, JAWS enters Forms Mode automatically.

For buttons and check boxes, JAWS exits Forms Mode.

Pressing ESC or NUM PAD PLUS will cause JAWS to exit Forms Mode if it is active.

It is possible to move to a form field by using TAB and to move away from that form field using the ARROW keys, and vice versa.

Different Control Types

In terms of Forms Mode, there are two groups of controls: those that require Forms Mode to interact with them, and those controls that never require Forms Mode to interact with them.

Forms Mode is required for edit fields, combo boxes, spin controls, list controls, tab controls, menu bars, tree views, and grid cells. For these controls, press ENTER or SPACEBAR to enter Forms Mode, and ESC or NUM PAD PLUS to exit Forms Mode.

For buttons and check boxes, use ENTER or SPACEBAR to activate the control at the location of the Virtual Cursor. Users interact with these controls simply by pressing ENTER or SPACEBAR; so forms mode is unnecessary. Auto Forms Mode causes JAWS to leave Forms Mode when it encounters these control types because they are just as usable without Forms Mode.

For combo boxes only, ALT+DOWN ARROW causes JAWS to enter Forms Mode and drop down the list of combo box items. ALT+UP ARROW closes the list of combo box items and causes JAWS to exit Forms Mode.

Finally, JAWS Auto Forms Mode behavior for radio buttons is a little different from its behavior with other types of controls. This is because unlike other controls, it is possible to interact with radio buttons in both Forms Mode and with the Virtual Cursor. When navigating with the TAB key, JAWS will stay in Forms Mode if it is already on, and it will not enter Forms Mode if it is off. Users can press SPACEBAR to choose a specific radio button when using the Virtual Cursor, and pressing the ARROW keys will not change the value of the radio button group. Users can also press ENTER to activate Forms Mode, and subsequent presses of the UP and DOWN ARROW keys will change the value of the radio button group. The following table contains the expected behavior for radio buttons with Auto Forms Mode.