Do you usually use a read-only and / or a disabled form control field to display plain text in a form? Both certainly have their usage but what’s the best way to handle that for accessibility and usability?

After some investigation, trial and error, we came up with two solutions for a better User Experience.
In our opinion, if you want to use a read-only field, you should style it since the look is kind of confusing. A disabled field does usually invoke the meaning that it can be disabled by a function or workflow part of the same page task.

Both do have different behaviors but in the end if you’re looking to display as a plain text, you should style it as a label while making sure accessibility and usability are considered. The only downside is if the field is empty, it might look a bit weird.

In summary, the reasons to style the read-only and/or disabled fields:

  • Avoid confusion of why it is not editable
  • As opposed to only display them as plain text because in form mode those are skipped by screen readers
  • Aesthetically looks better
  • Cross browser style consistency


Here we keep the input text control with the read-only attribute but use CSS to style the look as a plain text. The disadvantage is if we have longer text, it will be cut in the display.

(See read-only jsfiddle code)

Plain text

Using just a plain text with a textbox role and focus z-index mimics the behavior of an input text control but with the look of a plain text

(See label jsfiddle code)


(See result jsfiddle code)

We understand that these are potential solutions but it is up to you to decide if it is applicable to your particular context.