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Q&A

Accessibility standard/s for multilined <input type="text"> fields

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I have a simple HTML contact form and I wish to create a text area in it with <input type="text"> but without a <textarea> tag.

The end product should be an <input type="text"> field which by the help of CSS, be styled pretty much with the same default style of a <textarea> element.

Are there any accessibility standards (such as minimum height or minimal character allowance, etc.) for such a field?

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I don't really understand your question. What is "_minimum_ character allowance_"? Is that the requir... (3 comments)

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The standard for multi-line text input is to use a textarea. Don't use input type="text", it won't work. I'm not sure why you don't want to use a textarea, but after reading this answer, I hope you'll understand why an input is not the correct solution.


Definitions

MDN defines input text as:

<input> elements of type text create basic single-line text fields.

And WHATWG defines it as:

The input element represents a one line plain text edit control for the element's value.

In the same link, we can also find this:

User agents must not allow users to insert U+000A LINE FEED (LF) or U+000D CARRIAGE RETURN (CR) characters into the element's value.

Which means that you can't type newlines (aka ENTER to create a new line). We'll see more about that in the tests below, but anyway, this means that an input type="text" field can't have more than one line of text.


A textarea, on the other hand, is defined by MDN as:

The <textarea> HTML element represents a multi-line plain-text editing control

And WHATWG defines it as:

The textarea element represents a multiline plain text

So, if you need multiline inputs, use a textarea.


Workarounds (spoiler: they don't work)

You can try as much as you can, but I'm afraid you won't be able to make input type="text" behave exactly like a textarea.

If you search on the web, you'll find some "solutions" like the CSS below, which sets the input dimensions (so it looks like a textarea) and the word-break property to make the words, well, break just like they would in a textarea:

input {
  height: 50px;
  width: 200px;
  word-break: break-word;
}

This used to work in the past, but it seems that it doesn't anymore. I've tested in Chrome 91 and Firefox 89, and it's displayed as this:

text centered, no newlines

Note that the text is vertically centered. Maybe we could "fix" it by making some "smart" CSS hack, such as:

input {
  height: 30px;
  width: 200px;
  word-break: break-word;
  padding-bottom: 80px;
}

Which results in this:

text top-aligned

But still, the words don't wrap if I type a line longer than the width.

And the more important detail: I can't type newlines (pressing ENTER does nothing, it's ignored by the browser). I also tried to copy and paste a multiline text, but after pasting, the newlines were replaced by spaces.


Conclusion

Although you can adjust the CSS, so the input text looks like a textarea, you can't make the input accept multiline text.

Maybe there might be some hacky/tricky way to do it with some (or tons of) JavaScript, but I guess this would deviate too much from any accessibility standard. Actually, using any HTML element for something it's not intended to is a bad thing (in a more general way, using a tool to solve a task it wasn't designed to is usually a bad idea, specially when there's another tool that does the job).

Therefore, unless you have a very good reason (and I honestly can't see nor imagine one) to not use a textarea, you should definitely go with it. Don't complicate what can be kept simple.


Minimal Character Allowance

Regarding "minimal character allowance", both input and textarea have a minlength attribute, so you can define the minimum number of characters that must be entered.

Just reminding that MDN says:

The minimum number of characters (as UTF-16 code units) the user can enter into the text input.

To not deviate too much from the question, a tl;dr explanation: some characters (such as emojis, which are very common nowadays) are represented as two UTF-16 code units.

So, an input like this:

<input type="text" minlength="4" required>

It will require 4 characters (such as "abcd") to be submited, but if you type 💩💩 it'll also be valid as well, because each 💩 requires two UTF-16 code units, hence 💩💩 has the minimum length required.


Are there any accessibility standards (such as minimum height or minimal character allowance, etc.) for such a field?

The exact values depends on what you need, there's no such thing as "Standard ISO-whatever says that you should accept at least N characters" (at least I've never seen anything like that). Different systems will have different requirements regarding minimum/maximum size for input fields. YMMV.

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