"The FIELDSET element allows authors to group thematically related
controls and labels. Grouping controls makes it easier for users to
understand their purpose while simultaneously facilitating tabbing
navigation for visual user agents and speech navigation for
speech-oriented user agents. The proper use of this element makes
documents more accessible."

I think the first and last sentence make it clear that the intention
is for fieldset to be used in forms. Although it does not explicitly
say "...and nowhere else" it's pretty clear where the writers *did*
mean it to be used.

For a comparison, the w3schools site defines fieldset as "The fieldset
element draws a box around its containing elements." And that's the
complete sentence. Note no mention of form controls.

A third party's description of the spec is not the spec; in
discussions about the spec we have to go to the real source, not an
interpretation of the original.

I realise that many of the people here take pleasure in the pedantic
application of standards, and I'll state for the record that I agree
with the concept of the semantic web.

It's interesting to see where standards advocates call each other
"pedantic". Meanwhile the rest of the industry would consider pretty
much everyone on this list to be pedants of the first degree because
they care about standards at all.

So realistically, application of standards has to be "pedantic"
otherwise it's not application of standards at all - it's picking and
choosing.

Still, it cannot be denied that we get awfully bogged down in the
minutiae sometimes :)

But I am a pragmatic coder and if
I wish to group thematically related elements (*not* necessarily form
controls), then I'm free to use the fieldset if I wish to.

My opinion is that you are not free to do so. Fieldsets were clearly
intended to be used in forms and the spec does not suggest using them
anywhere else. You're using the absence of an explicit prohibition as
permission.

Sure a DIV
would work. But a DIV is void of semantic. It's the refuge of the
unimaginative who want to wrap everything in excess tags with no
semantic meaning just to hang CSS off. To me, a fieldset is obviously
the correct semantic here.

Well it has already been pointed out that DIV does have semantic
significance - it adds structure by containing parts of the page. It's
just used so heavily that we tend to forget it has a real, live
meaning :) The only major difference between DIV and FIELDSET the way
you propose is that FIELDSET renders a box by default.

A key point that doesn't seem to have come up is that in the real
world screen readers make use of fieldsets in a way which assumes
they're in a form. The legend can be vocalised together with labels to
provide full context.

Unfortunately I don't have a screen reader handy to test what it does
with a fieldset that's not in a form; but I would be concerned that it
could get really confusing for form elements to crop up in the middle
of general content.

I won't speculate any further, but if anyone has a screen reader
handy, perhaps they could shed some light on this?

cheers,

Ben

--
--- <http://weblog.200ok.com.au/>
--- The future has arrived; it's just not
--- evenly distributed. - William Gibson


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