businesswoman using a keyboard

Principles of Keyboard Accessibility

This column explores the wide range of issues with digital accessibility, from the business case for implementation to the technical discussions showing how to address common issues.

What Does Keyboard Accessibility Mean?

You probably expect that your customers use a mouse to navigate your site, which is true for the most part when they are at a desktop computer. However, many people cannot use a mouse due to motor skill disability, cognitive impairment or visual impairment. These users all use the keyboard to navigate and access a site’s content, sometimes with assistance from another tool like a screen reader.

One of the most important facets of disability access is keyboard navigation, so it’s important to know what to look for when evaluating your website for keyboard-friendliness.

Keyboard Accessibility Principles

  • Do not use keyboard traps. This happens when a keyboard user enters into an area with a keyboard and is unable to exit without the use of a mouse. A classic example is a form that adds new input rows when users tab out of the input field they’re typing into.
  • Make sure that users can access all content on the site with the keyboard alone. Can the user access drop-down menus in the main navigation without use of a mouse? Can the user navigate through the page in the logical order that it appears?
  • Make sure that a link or button has a clear focus indicator. A link or button should be clearly marked when it receives focus. Furthermore, if the item changes appearance when a mouse is hovering over the item, then it should change to that same appearance when it receives focus from keyboard navigation. See this video clip of a user navigating our site using a keyboard. Notice the visual focus that each link receives, even with no mouse interaction:
  • Test your site. Visit your site and take your hand off of your mouse. Use the tab key to start navigating the page along with the arrow keys and the enter key to activate links. Are you able to navigate the site? Are you able to clearly see the focus indicator as you go? Did you find content that you could interact with or access?  

Contact Us If You Need Help

If you find accessibility or usability issues with your site, get in touch with us today. We’re happy to help you with an accessibility audit and start a plan to remediate any issues.

Further Reading

Web Accessibility Criteria – Keyboard Accessibility