Looking at the documentation for #disabled in the form API documentation, one finds this:

Setting #disabled to TRUE results in user input being ignored, regardless of how the element is themed or whether JavaScript is used to change the control's attributes.

If I'm reading this correctly, this seems to indicate that this is different from the HTML disabled property.

If I want to make an element disabled, to later enable it via javascript, and have its value come through in $form_state['values'], I should not use this?

2 Answers 2


Yes it's different, as well as rendering the attribute the form API also ensures server-side validation is taken care of.

As with all Drupal form manipulation, the right way to remove the disabled attribute is with the Ajax API, not by manipulating the input directly with JavaScript.

Once you use that method, you'll be able to get values for the input(s) in the form state as normal.

  • Say I have checkboxes that toggle different sets of inputs. The Drupal Way would be to trigger the ajax callback on those elements?
    – user1359
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 19:36
  • Correct, as the docs say: As a developer you don't use or touch any JavaScript to create an Ajax-enabled form. Drupal does all the work for you. You only need to write php for what you want, and the form API should have you covered for most eventualities
    – Clive
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 19:39
  • I don't want an ajax enabled form. I just want a checkbox to toggle a set of fields. I don't want Drupal doing four form submits, each with a drupal_bootstrap, just to enable four text fields.
    – user1359
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 19:41
  • If you want to change a sensitive attribute on a form built with the form API, it can only be done via Ajax. It's just how the thing was built
    – Clive
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 19:43
  • So there's no getting around a full bootstrap to enable a field?
    – user1359
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 19:44

For anyone else in a situation similar to mine, the #states FAPI key can do a lot of what you want, without AJAX callbacks.

Any form element that is disabled in JavaScript should be validated by the back end

  • 1
    You should mention in your answer that any form element that is disabled in JavaScript should be validated by the back end.
    – mradcliffe
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 20:11

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