Difficulty recognizing pre-existing text in an input box

Help-Seeking Situation: Difficulty recognizing pre-existing text in an input box


Relative Importance:


Definition: It is a physical situation related to an inability to recognize text in a DL input box, such as a search box, typically during the query formulation or reformulation process, when new terms are combined with older terms without realization from the user.


Factor(s): Lack of Feedback


Guideline or Design Recommendation

  1. Provide a system support/indicator which informs the status of pre-existing text in the DL input field (e.g., search box) as a form of sound or text.
  2. Provide an interaction way showing the status of DL input text or suggestions.

Rationale and Objective: The situation is closely related to DL interface design. Since BVI users are not able to view what is in the input box but rely on auditory cues, they may experience difficulties in recognizing pre-existing text if no cues are provided. In situations where there is text remaining from the previous search, BVI users assume that the search box is clear. In addition, DL features that include New Search/Within Search components associated with the search field cause confusion for BVI users who interpret the first as a link to generate a new, empty search field, rather than an associated filtering feature accompanying keyword search.


Techniques, Methods, and Features


Techniques and Methods

  • Create focus at the start of the input field, upon entry of the field. This focus should alert BVI to the presence of pre-existing text in the input field by giving the screen reader access to the item, interface object, and associated text.
  • As an alternative, inclusion of search tips or instruction may be useful for BVI users to verify how to check whether there is pre-existing text in the search box, so that the users can check if there is existing text before inputting search terms.
  • Add associated feature with clear label/alt text designating the ability to clear search terms or text in the input box.
  • Provide a way in a textual form for the interaction regarding the search box inputting.


  • System indicator
  • Search tip/instruction
  • Placeholder text (e.g., “Search DPLA” or “Search LOC”)


  • When the focus moves on the search box with pre-existing text, a screen-reader may read the pre-existing text.
  • Add link or button labeled “Clear search terms” or “Clear search box” associated with input field.
  • Interaction in the search box: Add text showing whether there is pre-existing text or not.

Related Resources:

Xie, I., Babu, R., Joo, S., & Fuller, P. (2015). Using digital libraries non-visually: understanding the help-seeking situations of blind users. Information Research: An International Electronic Journal, 20(2), n2.


WCAG 2.0 Guideline 3.1.2 Language of Parts



WCAG 2.0 Guideline 3.1.6 Pronunciation https://www.w3.org/TR/UNDERSTANDING-WCAG20/meaning-pronunciation.html


Accessibility Basics: Designing for Visual Impairment https://webdesign.tutsplus.com/articles/accessibility-basics-designing-for-visual-impairment–cms-27634
See Also: Help-seeking Situations > Difficulty accessing information > Factors > System design > Lack of Feedback

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.