What is the difference between disabled = & ldquo; Disabled & rdquo; And just read = & ldquo; Readonly & rdquo; For HTML form input fields?

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I have read a bit on this, but I can't seem to find anything solid about how different browsers treat things. I'm building an app that has to be Section 508-compliant (screen-reader accessible) and work clear back to IE 6.


A readonly element is just not editable, but gets sent when the according form submits. a disabled element isn't editable and isn't sent on submit. Another difference is that readonly elements can be focused (and getting focused when "tabbing" through a form) while disabled elements can't.

Read more about this in this great article or the definition by w3c. To quote the important part:

Key Differences

The Disabled attribute

  • Values for disabled form elements are not passed to the processor method. The W3C calls this a successful element.(This works similar to form check boxes that are not checked.)
  • Some browsers may override or provide default styling for disabled form elements. (Gray out or emboss text) Internet Explorer 5.5 is particularly nasty about this.
  • Disabled form elements do not receive focus.
  • Disabled form elements are skipped in tabbing navigation.

The Read Only Attribute

  • Not all form elements have a readonly attribute. Most notable, the <SELECT> , <OPTION> , and <BUTTON> elements do not have readonly attributes (although thy both have disabled attributes)
  • Browsers provide no default overridden visual feedback that the form element is read only. (This can be a problem… see below.)
  • Form elements with the readonly attribute set will get passed to the form processor.
  • Read only form elements can receive the focus
  • Read only form elements are included in tabbed navigation.