Jan 12, 2018

Disabled Inputs

#programming #frontend

Today, I learned that an <input> element (or any other form control) can be disabled by wrapping in a fieldset element and disabling the fieldset. For example:

<fieldset disabled="true">
<input />

The markup above will display an text input element that cannot be interacted with. However, there are some intricacies to this, that are perhaps surprising.

  1. The disabled content attribute on the input does not get set.

    //=> null
  2. The input element node does not set its .disabled IDL attribute1.

    // false
  3. The input element is selectable by the :disabled pseudo selector.

    //=> <input>

I discovered this while trying to write a test that asserted that an input element was, in fact, disabled. When I queried for the input and checked the .disabled property, it returned false when I could clearly see in the rendered markup that it looked disabled.

Digging a little deeper, it turns out that "disabled behavior" of a form control can be broken down into 3 things:

  • the state, which determines if the user can interact with the element
  • the content attribute, which would show up in the HTML
  • the IDL attribute, which is the javascript property on the DOM node

The spec says that the IDL attribute should always reflect the content attribute, but it does not say anything (that I could find, at least) about how to synchronize with the state.

I would normally consider this a bug, but bugs are not errant behavior, bugs are deviations from the spec. In this case, since the spec doesn't define correct behavior, it is likely that this is not a bug and is up to browser vendors to implement.

Further reading:

  1. Input Element MDN Docs
  2. Disabled spec
  3. Disabled pseudo selector spec


  1. "Properties" on a DOM node are called "IDL attributes". I learned so much stuff today!

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