Keyboard Access

Enabling keyboard access to areas on the web not only supports those using screen readers to read content and navigation features but also those computer users trying to avoid strain injuries  due to excessive mouse use.

Keyboard access can also help those with certain dexterity and mobility difficulties and on many occasions can provide speedier input to forms etc for all users.

All the browsers have different keyboard shortcuts but on the whole the tab key, arrow keys and the Enter or Return key are the most commonly used keys. The tab key tends to be used for going through the links on a page – shift + tab allows you to go back up.

YouTube Video link on keyboard access - Craig from the JISC Regional Support Centre NE Scotland demonstrates how the Intellikeys keyboard can be adapted to access the web along with a trackball and switch access.

If you are unsure about how a screen reader works, Neal Ewers from the Trace Research & Development Center, UW-Madison provides a very good introduction.


Turn your mouse on its back or avoid all use - manual testing is the only option.
You should see the links highlighted as you move through the pages or the cursor flashing when you reach an input box. The enter key should submit or result in a change of status.

Nomensa guide to keyboard access.

Webaim Wave offers a view of the structure and order of items on a web page. Navigation order and the use of the skip navigation link are important where there are several links etc.

WCAG 2.0: Guideline 2.4.3 Focus Order: If a Web page can be navigated sequentially and the navigation sequences affect meaning or operation, focusable components receive focus in an order that preserves meaning and operability. (Level A) How to Meet 2.4.3 | Understanding 2.4.3


There is much advice on the web as to why keyboard access is so important – here are just a few links for further information:

Browser Keyboard Shortcuts


This technique may be used to test the following sections of best practice.

Document Section Heading
WCAG 2.0 2.1.1 Keyboard More Info
WCAG 2.0 2.4.1 Bypass Blocks More Info
WCAG 2.0 2.4.7 Focus Visible More Info

See Also

WCAG 2.0: Guideline 2.1 Make all functionality available from a keyboard. (Level A) How to Meet 2.1.1 | Understanding 2.1.1

2.4.1 Bypass Blocks: A mechanism is available to bypass blocks of content that are repeated on multiple Web pages. (Level A) How to Meet 2.4.1 | Understanding 2.4.1

2.4.7 Focus Visible: Any keyboard operable user interface has a mode of operation where the keyboard focus indicator is visible. (Level AA)
How to Meet 2.4.7 | Understanding 2.4.7